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June 14, 2011

7

Lots of stuff happening over at the paper these days…

by Deena Winter

Wow… it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on over at the Lincoln Journal Star these days.

I’m told eight veteran newsroom workers recently agreed to voluntary buyouts that were less than generous — putting the newsroom on edge about whether that’s enough cutting to stave off layoffs.

The buyout was offered to employees with at least 15 years of experience — and if those positions are left empty, the difference will definitely be felt in a newsroom of about 50 employees. That’s a 16 percent reduction in staffing, if my math serves me. But perhaps they will fill some of those positions with cheap, young workers.

And then today comes news that a new publisher has been named: Julie Bechtel, who worked at the Journal Star as circulation and operations manager before leaving in 2002 to become publisher of the Bismarck Tribune in Bismarck, N.D., and then moving to the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, in 2005.

Yes, I worked for Julie in Bismarck. I found her to be an unorthodox publisher — she is definitely not a boring, stuffy suit. Far from it. I could tell you some stories.

As with most publishers, the bottom line was paramount with Julie. I remember one morning at the daily reporters’ meeting, a reporter was all excited about doing a story about a person who’d found a tiny, live lizard in her head of lettuce bought at the local grocery store. They’d even gotten a produce employee to talk about it, and they’d rather wisely said it’s not that big of a deal when you’re buying lettuce from South America, for example.

I just laughed though, because I knew there was no way in hell that story would get in the paper. Grocery stores, you see, are newspapers’ bread and butter, so to speak.

Sure enough, by day’s end, Julie had spiked the story. She said she’d consulted other Lee publishers before making her decision. Something about how the story lacked news value…

Of course, it was a rarity for Julie to get involved in such a decision. But I love unorthodox managers and found her to be a barrel of fun and fair on other important matters, so it should be interesting to see what she does with Lincoln’s newspaper.

However, with buyouts underway and layoffs looming (?), becoming publisher in Lincoln may not be that fun right now.

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 14 2011

    Can you tell us who is going? Or will we let the paper announce that soon?

    Reply
  2. Jessica Kennedy
    Jun 14 2011

    I’ve heard great things about Julie. This could be exciting for the survivors!
    Who’s leaving???

    Reply
  3. Dave Fall
    Jun 14 2011

    Until the Newspaper decides to become a newspaper again it will not survive. Frankly I remain unconvinced that saving this newspaper is a community priority. Watching it writhe in pain is a bit difficult. I wonder how quickly the University can acquire that property. In its stead I already see a blog and another publication growing from the grassroots. Yep, I sure do. “Stick a fork in it Ma its done”.

    Reply
  4. Jane
    Jun 15 2011

    Is that why we didn’t get a paper this morning??? I’ve tried to call, but just get a busy signal!

    Reply
  5. m.o.
    Jun 15 2011

    Perhaps in your definition of “newsroom” you are only including city desk, copy desk and features. However, with sports, photo and the news online folks, there are about 70 “newsroom” employees.

    Reply
    • Jun 16 2011

      Matt, I counted the employees listed on the old phone list as being in the newsroom, but I didn’t count online, so that’s a few more.

      Reply
  6. Jun 15 2011

    I didn’t get a paper either; I figured it was because my subscription ran out. But online the LJS says they had some printing press problems last night, so “some” people will get their papers late. You’re the second person to ask me about this; the other said he can’t get through to anyone at the paper. Phone lines are tied up. It’s almost 11 and I still don’t have a paper, so I’d say a LOT of people didn’t get their paper today.

    Reply

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