• Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times
  • Among the employees who took buyouts, the guy who took this photograph

Fifteen members of the Chicago Newspaper Guild have taken buyouts from the Sun-Times, and Friday is the last day for most, Monday for a few with projects to wrap up. Before the buyouts, I was told the Sun-Times was down to 73 Guild employees. Jerry Minkkinen, retired executive director of the CNG, recalls that when he took that job in 1976, a time when the Sun-Times was owned by Field Enterprises and its afternoon sister, the Daily News, was still publishing, he represented more than 600 Guild members at the two papers.

Among those leaving are TV critic Lori Rackl, feature writer Mike Thomas, reporters Francine Knowles and Art Golab, who’s chair of the Guild’s Sun-Times unit, sportswriter Seth Gruen, and five photographers. The choice many faced was between the Sun-Times‘s bleak prospects and the unknown. Thomas posted on Facebook, “What’s next? Not sure. But if you know someone who needs a wordslinger, give a shout.”

Beset by chronically slipping revenues, the Sun-Times offered the buyout to save a target number of dollars and told the Guild that 15 volunteers might be enough to reach the target. This remains to be seen. The Guild and paper will be meeting next week to discuss layoffs and whether they can be avoided.

A diminished Sun-Times now faces the need to make an orderly retreat. Entertainment is likely to be deemphasized, as the paper focuses on its perceived strengths: politics, investigations, city news, and sports. And in a few weeks a new design will be introduced that brings the print product into cosmetic harmony with the website.