Mark Friesen, who runs the blog Newsdesigner.com, has a sad account of the recent buyouts at the Mercury News. Even before Knight-Ridder put itself in play to be sold, the Mercury News asked for – and received – voluntary retirements to cut costs. I haven’t worked at the Mercury for almost six years (and now I’m glad to have gotten out) so I don’t recognize all of the names of the 52 who are leaving. But I know enough of these reporters to know the Merc will be a lesser paper for their loss. There are many stellar reporters who are leaving, reporters with years of knowledge about Silicon Valley, the intelligence community, the Vietnamese community, and so on.
It wasn’t that the Mercury News didn’t make money. It’s that it didn’t make enough money. Wall Street now expects newspapers to earn 25-30% profits a year, not 15 %. This is capitalism at its worst.
Here are some of the reporters who are leaving:
Dan Stober (an expert on Livermore and Los Alamos labs)
Larry Slonaker (great writer)
John Hubner (one of the paper’s stars. He has a book out, Last Chance in Texas, on the juvenile justice system in Texas)
Leigh Weimers (sort of like Herb Caen leaving)
Pete Carey (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Phillippines)
Betty Barnacle (has worked at the Mercury News for a long time)
Nora Villagran (art and culture writer)
Michael Zielenziger (an expert on Japan whose has a new book, Shutting Out the Sun)
De Tran (editor of the Vietnamese edition of the paper)
Sheila Himmel (restaurant reviewer)
Charles Matthews (feature writer and book reviewer)
Marcia Gordon (stellar librarian and researcher)
The Los Angeles Times’ new editor, Dean Baquet, announced Monday that he was eliminating the Outside section. (via LA Observed). It was a wonderful section about nature and the wilderness. David Lukas, who leads naturalist hikes every year at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, is one of the section’s main writers. He is co-author of the Sierra Nevada Natural History guide published by UC Press.