Post-Dispatch Lays Off Seventeen, Including its Primary Crime Reporter
Correction Appended: The original story stated that eighteen staff members had been laid off. We regret the error.
An editor and two reporters are among the seventeen people laid off today at the Post-Dispatch. The city’s only daily let go Ed Kohn, a business editor, Christine Byers, a reporter in the Jefferson County bureau, and Patrick M. O'Connell, the newspaper's primary crime reporter.
(This is an update to an earlier story.)
According to a St. Louis Newspaper Guild member, the reporters were told they have two weeks left on the payroll, and that if somebody retires or leaves during the next two weeks, they may be able to keep their jobs.
In a city where crime is a big story, O’Connell covered both city and county crime. Just last week he wrote about the Boonie Hat bandit’s capture. As for Byers, some readers might remember her July 27 story about the Maplewood firefighter, Ryan Hummert, who was shot and killed on duty during a stand-off; Byers was later praised for the story by editor Steve Parker on The Editors’ Desk blog.
According to another Guild member, the Post today also let go all of its news clerks (some of whom had logged more than 30 years at the paper), as well as a marketing employee and a mail room staffer. In sum, seventeen people were laid off.
The Guild had entered early negotiations with parent company Lee Enterprises on September 15 -- long before the current contract expires on June 6, 2009. But the talks broke down yesterday.
The Post laid off eighteen people at the end of August, and by going into early bargaining the Guild was hoping to stave off more job losses and retain benefits. Both sides will have to go back to negotiating next spring.
"There’s nobody in the newsroom," says a Post reporter. "It’s like a morgue. Nobody wants to be here."
In 2006, the Post-Dispatch news department employed about 340 people. After the first round of layoffs last month, the number was between 230-240 people. That number is now estimated to be about 215 people.