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The Gazette: Getting it wrong



Considering its fundamental asset is credibility, it's inexplicable why a daily newspaper would deliberately mislead its customers.

But that's what happened last week when the Gazette ran a story about a "reorganization" but didn't mention that interim publisher Mike Burns canned a dozen or so employees. The "content generators" (to borrow from Gazette lingo) that the Indy has confirmed were released include news desk editor Mike Eiler, photo director Stuart Wong and county reporter Debbie Kelley (for the fourth time). Creative director Carleen Clearwater was also laid off.

In addition, changes at indicate that local news editor Joel Millman, Colorado College hockey reporter Joe Paisley and longtime vice president of operations Jerry Buck were let go.

The Gazette story did note that the newspaper wants to "deliver relevant information that serves the needs of readers on any platform." Translation: Don't expect a paper to land in your driveway every day for much longer.

Though it ignored layoffs, the story did mention that editor Jeff Thomas "resigned" to make way for Carmen Boles, senior director of interactive content and audience development, who was named "director of content." What makes Thomas' departure odd is that he long embraced the cyberworld; a few years ago, he handed out books to every staffer about social media's supremacy.

Thomas' name was removed from most parts of the paper's website Dec. 1, but profiles of others let go still remained as of Wednesday.

Kelly McBride, senior faculty member on ethics at Poynter Institute, a journalism education and training center in St. Petersburg, Fla., says by e-mail that newsrooms should be "open and transparent with their audiences. So I think coming clean about layoffs is necessary."

That said, McBride notes it's also important for newsrooms to be financially solvent. "You can't do the community any good at all if you go out of business," she says.

Which raises the question of how bad off the Gazette really is. It's lost more than half its paid home-delivery circulation in the past decade (See "Paper losses," News, Sept. 1), and a steady march of layoffs starting in March 2007 has left the newsroom body count at about half its peak of 137 in the late 1990s, based on layoff numbers provided by staffers through the years.

Last summer, insiders whispered that revenue was down 30 percent in the first half of 2011. That would explain why Gazette owner Freedom Communications, run by hedge-funders, would slash by year's end.

Others speculate that 19 Denver Post employees accepting buyouts, which happened at the same time as the Gazette's layoff (and was reported in a Nov. 30 Post story), might signal a pending deal between Freedom and the Post's owner, MediaNews. The two had negotiated earlier this year before talks broke down.

But, asked whether talks are ongoing, Post president and CEO Jerry Grilly says, "Absolutely none that I am aware of." He adds that the Post's buyout stemmed from its own business outlook, saying, "There's all kinds of companies contracting and right-sizing." Since 2008, according to, 37,513 jobs have been lost.

Still, Grilly's term, "right-sizing," might not resonate well with Post editor Greg Moore. "The full impact is incalculable," Moore says by e-mail. "We lost more than 400 years of experience in one day. Obviously, we will make every effort to continue to serve our readers with quality news and information. But we will miss our colleagues."

No such statement came from Boles, who declined to comment.

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