When businesses, such as newspapers, try to save themselves by throwing their employees over the side, feelings run high. But remember — today’s lucky survivor might be tomorrow’s fish bait.

In November 31 jobs were lost as the Sun-Times Media Group merged its Daily Southtown and biweekly Star papers into one SouthTown Star. But both publishers survived. A leaker e-mailed me bitterly: “31 folks canned and they’re bulking up the top.”

The announcement to the surviving staff began: “In order to successfully launch the SouthtownStar and ensure the proper execution of our editorial mission, Frank Shuftan and Mike Waters will serve as co-publisher/editors. Frank and Mike have done tremendously valuable work over the past several months to maintain the quality of their respective papers while engaging in, and in many ways leading, the process that is creating our new paper. It has been a difficult and challenging exercise, executed within a very short time. We thank them for their dedication and vision, and look forward to more of it.” 

Yeah, right. Yesterday the same leaker wrote back to report, “Both publishers got the axe today. leaving tomorrow.” Shuftan and Waters issued a joint statement saying their good-byes:

“Dear colleagues,

“Friday will be our last day at the SouthtownStar. We were both informed during the past few days that our positions were being eliminated as part of the company’s reorganization. This memo to all seems an easier way to get the word out than some mass gathering in the middle of the room. You can imagine we are experiencing a range of emotions.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have worked with all of you. In Mike’s case, he has known some of you for 20 years. In Frank’s case, he counts 30 years with some who still populate the newsroom. It is not easy to walk away from such associations.The Daily Southtown has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to producing great journalism for residents of the Southland. The list of stories and campaigns that have made a difference in people’s lives is too long to list. The Star was an important piece in the fabric of south suburban life from the beginning of the 20th century on, in many ways the newspaper of record for this region.

“The SouthtownStar has the opportunity to combine these strengths. Despite the obvious challenges that exist in today’s publishing environment, it is up to all of you to see to it that accomplishment and excellence remain the standard. You have the rare opportunity to invent a newspaper, one that honors its past but is not bound by it. Our last directive to all of you: Do it.” 

The merger of the two papers is expected to save the Sun-Times Media Group about $3 million. The goal is $50 million.