Monday, Jan. 7, 2008 | Twenty-nine newsroom employees at The San Diego Union-Tribune have taken the company’s buyout offer, further cementing cutbacks that have trimmed the paper’s news staff at least 10 percent in the last year.
In total, 76 company employees took the offer, which provides a maximum year’s salary and six months of health insurance. Most worked their last day Dec. 28.
Eleven news reporters took the buyout, including some of the paper’s best known writers. Two arts critics accepted the offer, as did four editors, two photographers, two food writers and a travel writer. A newsroom source who accepted the buyout provided the list to voiceofsandiego.org. A company spokesman refused to confirm its accuracy.
The cuts leave the Union-Tribune with two reporters covering immigration issues as well as Tijuana — down from five. Gone are border reporter Anna Cearley and Mexico business reporter Diane Lindquist. Lynne Walker, a Copley News Service reporter based in Mexico City, has also left.
Two years ago, the Union-Tribune was the flagship paper of the Copley Press, the largest of nine newspapers owned by David Copley. Today, it is Copley’s sole daily newspaper, and its staff has steadily shrunk. Buyouts in late 2006 eliminated 19 of the newspaper’s most senior journalists. Copley’s 10-member Washington, D.C. office has been cut in half, losing reporter Marcus Stern, who broke news of the scandal that led to the resignation and jailing of disgraced Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham. That coverage won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 2006.
Taken in totality, the cuts are a “huge loss,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University.