The Tribune today laid off 53 members of its newsroom staff.
Editor Gerould Kern said their departure is a “consequence of changing priorities.” A reorganization bringing the news staff down to about 430 “will focus us more clearly on our core mission.”
Here’s Kern’s message to the remaining staff:
Today we begin a reorganization of the Chicago Tribune newsroom that will focus us more clearly on our core mission and prepare us for the economic recovery when it comes.
In designing the new organization, the newsroom leadership team asked this qustion: If we were starting fresh today, what kind of news organization would we create based on what we think the business will support now and tomorrow?
Our thinking was driven by the Tribune’s goal to be the Chicago region’s top destination for news and information and grow especially in the digital space. That means we must concentrate our resources and energies on covering the Chicago area better than anyone else across all of our media.
This process comes with pain: 53 of our friends and colleagues will be leaving the Chicago Tribune as a consequence of changing priorities. No one likes saying goodbye in this way. This is a sad moment for all. We are grateful to our departing colleagues for their contributions to the Chicago Tribune and wish them the best in the future.
But with today’s actions, we are making the leap to a newsroom structure that we believe is sustainable barring further significant declines in advertising revenue. While some are leaving now, others will join the newsroom over time as we invest in new skills necessary to grow in the future. With a staff of about 430, this newsroom will remain one of the largst and most talented in the country.
We are expanding our local news operation and establishing a new watchdog unit to increase our consumer and investigative coverage. Our digital staff has grown rapidly in recent months and is getting bigger as we develop new digital channels. A new production department combining copy editing, page design and photo editing will operate with a smarter, more streamlined process. At the same time, other areas are being restructured to align them with strategic priorities. Jane [Hirt], Joyce [Winnecke], Bill [Adee] and I will meet with you in a series of departmental meetings to explain more.
Let’s remember what is at stake. We are navigating through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We also are weathering a fundamental disruption in the media business model. We will meet these challenges by acting resolutely to win here in Chicago.
Our job is to lead the Chicago Tribune through this difficult passage. Time and again, you have witnessed the difference we make in peoples’ lives and in the community as a whole. With your commitment, this vital work will continue long into the future.
UPDATE: Here’s a partial list of names. I want to begin with my friend Mary Dedinsky, who was once the editor of the Sun-Times, later taught at Medill, and went to work for the Tribune several years ago as a Metro editor because she missed newspapers. She’s as complete a journalist as I know.
Russell Working, General Assignment Reporter/Writer, Oak Brook Bureau
Susan Diesenhouse, Real Estate Feature Writer
Josephine Napolitano, General Assignment Reporter/Writer, Tinley Park Bureau.
Eric Benderoff, Technology Reporter, Financial News
David Trotman-Wilkins, Staff Photographer
Candice Cusic, Staff Photographer
John Smierciak, Staff Photographer
Charles Cherney, Staff Photographer
William Grady, Deputy Bureau Chief, Schaumburg Bureau
Beth Botts, Garden Writer, House & Homes
Robert K. Elder, Reporter, Live
Lou Carlozo, Reporter, Smart
Brenda Butler, Assistant Editor, Chicago Tribune Magazine
Lilah Lohr, Assistant Books Editor
Jessica Reaves, Reporter, Chicago Tribune Magazine
Tom Hundley, Reporter, Chicago Tribune Magazine
Susan Kuczka, General Assignment Reporter/Writer, Vernon Hills Bureau
Storer Rowley, National Editor
James P. Miller, Corporate Strategy and Manufacturing Reporter, Financial News
Carolyn Starks, General Assignment Reporter/Writer, Crystal Lake Bureau
Melissa Isaacson, Specialist Reporter, Sports
Alan Artner, Art Critic, A&E
Bob Sakamoto, High School Sports Reporter
Suzanne Cosgrove, Assistant Editor, House & Homes
Elaine Matsushita, Editor, House & Homes
Bonnie Trafelet, Staff Photographer
John Mullin, Reporter, Sports
Terry Bannon, Illinois Basketball/Football Reporter, Sports
Joshua Boak, Business Reporter
Patrick Reardon, Reporter, Live!