Columnist Susan Reimer and feature writer Julie Scharper are taking voluntary buyouts from The Sun, and more journalists from the Baltimore daily may soon be joining them.
The news comes on the heels of a report that the Chicago Tribune, the daily owned by Tribune Publishing, which also owns The Sun and City Paper, will be eliminating nearly two dozen positions, including 10 newsroom jobs. But it's also more than a month after the publisher—itself the result of a 2014 spinoff in which Tribune Co. separated its print products and more lucrative television businesses—purchased U-T San Diego for $85 million.
Earlier this month guild rep Alison Knezevich wrote an email, acquired by City Paper, to the staff about the possiblity. It reads:
Dear newsroom Guild members,
You have probably heard the news about layoffs at the Chicago Tribune, where 24 people were laid off yesterday, including 10 in the newsroom.
The Guild has not been given notice of any layoffs here at the Sun. However, in light of declining ad revenues across Tribune Publishing, the company told us today they may consider some buyouts for people who want to leave.
Our position is that buyouts benefit both our members and the company. It's an opportunity for people who already want to leave to do so with a nice severance.
Please see page 29 of your blue contract book for a table of severance pay, which is calculated based on your years of service. As an example, a 5-year employee would get 11 weeks of pay; a 10-year employee would get 21 weeks of pay; and a 25-year employee would get 44 weeks of pay. A buyout would not include benefits.
Approving a buyout is solely up to the company, and it depends on whether they think they can eliminate the position.
Management has told us they're serious about considering volunteers for buyouts, but would need to know very soon whether people are interested.
If you are interested, please contact me or Scott Dance. Also, please only give us your name if you are serious about wanting a buyout. This is an opportunity for people who want to leave the company this summer.
This afternoon Reimer and Scharper announced their departures on Twitter. It's not immediately clear who else, if anyone, submitted their name to management, or if any additional buyouts will be approved in the coming days.
Cet Parks, executive director of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, the union representing The Sun, emphasized in a telephone interview that Baltimore wouldn't necessarily meet the same fate as Chicago.
"Just because The Sun is offering buyouts, it doesn't necessarily mean layoffs are coming," he said.
Scharper (City Paper's Best Journalist in 2014), who just marked her ninth anniversary at the paper and previously covered beats in Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, higher education, and City Hall, said in an interview that she had been thinking about exiting before the offer came along.
"I'd been considering leaving after the birth of our second child in the coming fall," she said. "The buyout was an incentive. I still plan on writing and working on a freelance career."
Reached by email, Reimer, who tweeted that she had been with the paper for "36 years, 22 as a columnist," wrote she also wishes to continue writing.
"It is absolutely the truth that I would like to spend more time with family! I am indebted to The Sun for what I consider to have been a rich and rewarding career," she wrote. "I hope to continue to write on a social media platform of some kind."
City Paper reached out to Sun spokesperson Renee Mutchnik for comment. We'll update this post when we hear back from her.
J.M. Giordano contributed to this report.