The Arizona Daily Star watched decades of newspaper experience walk out the door on Friday, Nov. 6, after nine employees accepted the company's hastily crafted buyout deal. That was followed on Tuesday, Nov. 10, by about a half-dozen layoffs.
The buyout list, according to Tucson Weekly sources, included opinion-page editor Ann Brown, eastside editor Margo Hernandez, senior reporter Enric Volante, assistant copy-desk director Bill Betterton, photojournalist Jim Davis, copy editors Mary Cooney and Mark Stewart, slot editor Nick Pintozzi and receptionist Rutha Grigsby.
Staffers were notified of the employee buyout option through a memo from publisher John Humenik in late October. Humenik's memo suggested if there weren't enough employees who took advantage of the voluntary package, layoffs might be the next step—and that next step came on Tuesday, when much of the Star's library staff was let go, along with an online employee. Metro team leader Ignacio Ibarra also reportedly agreed to take a late buyout.
The Star recently took a financial hit after losing some grocery-store inserts to a direct-mail outfit.
If the economy is turning around, it isn't apparent in the newspaper business. Up the road in Mesa, the East Valley Tribune last week announced it is ending operations on Dec. 31.
In recent years, parent company Freedom Communications instituted layoffs and cut the once-daily paper down to a three-day-per-week publication cycle. One of the layoffs included a reporter who helped the paper win a Pulitzer Prize.
Freedom is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and efforts to sell the Tribune didn't meet the requirements of the parent company.
"We have received a number of inquiries, but none at a level we would remotely consider," said Freedom interim chief executive Burl Osborne, as quoted in a Tribune story.
In related news: It was revealed last week that despite the layoffs and the bankruptcy, Freedom executives had awarded themselves with $3.7 million in bonuses within the last year.
The UA Police Department and the university's Greek system have both decided not to pursue the Arizona Daily Wildcat's allegations that the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was involved in the thefts of the Oct. 8 edition of the campus newspaper.
The Daily Wildcat, which estimated the cost of the theft at $8,500, reported 10,000 issues were stolen. Copies were later discovered on the westside—accompanied by pieces of homework from members of Phi Kappa Psi. That edition's "Police Beat" reported that a co-ed might have been drugged at a Phi Kappa Psi event.
UAPD and the Greek Standards Board cited a lack of evidence.