Bloodbath at the Baltimore Sun
It’s the slogan — manifesto, if you will — that accents the masthead of the Baltimore Sun. The paper that gave rise to some of America’s finest journalists, from H.L. Mencken to David Simon (among others). The paper that has, at many moments, served as a source of pride for this city and this region. The paper that was once a jewel.
As of today, it is officially a shell of its former self.
Over the past two days, management has laid off roughly 60 staffers including several senior-level editors.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with sports, Rick Maese and David Steele are among the cuts. What’s more, a source tells me that both Maese and Steele were informed of the layoffs while working in the press box at Camden Yards.
Let’s put a big red circle around that: two of the Sun’s most respected and visible sportswriters were informed by phone that they no longer had jobs — while they were working in the field.
It’s unconscionable and inexcusable. No explanation could make that OK. Period.
I’m as sensitive as anyone to the changing nature of the media landscape. I’ve invested countless hours in wrapping my head around it, and I’ve been paid once or twice to help other people figure it out. I consider myself well-versed on the issue, and I don’t make these critiques lightly.
The problem isn’t that the Sun felt the need to make cuts. The problem is the way they made them and who and what they cut.
It’s a classic case of business decisions being made on numbers rather than on-the-ground reality. Good strategy in tough times means doubling down on what you do well and cutting the things that don’t add value. The Sun eschewed that in favor of something that approximates a scorched-earth policy. Get rid of “salaries” with no regard to the individuals who make them and the work they do.
Call that simple opinion if you will, but consider this: Sun editor Monty Cook recently gave a speech declaring the need for the Sun to stop being a newspaper and become “a digital media company.”.
Tuesday’s layoffs included reporter Andy Ratner. His beat was blogging and digital media.
Nobody wins. The Sun has saved some money but is a weaker paper for it. The people who depend on the once venerable institution now receive a product that is far less trustworthy than it was just a few days ago.
I honestly don’t know where all of this leaves us or where we’re headed next. Something resembling stability will eventually emerge, but in the meantime we’re bearing witness to some truly dark times.