Everyone I talked with agrees. And the actual layoffs won't be announced until Friday. Editor Ron Kaye gathered everybody around this afternoon, said he was sorry, and confirmed that 22 editorial staffers will be gone, taking the newsroom to an even 100. Kaye broke down as he tried to assure reporters, editors and others that the little paper in the Valley will plug along as an alternative to the Times and put out the best paper they can. But it sounds as if the room felt that today was the end of an era and the beginning of something much different. Kaye said he would remain editor, answering one major question. He also said owner Dean Singleton had been persuaded to save another ten reporters that the suits wanted to axe.
There is a secret list of staffers who are gone. Reporter Brent Hopkins, on his union blog, asks tonight that volunteers who plan to leave anyway step forward to save someone else's job. I don't know Hopkins personally, but he has always seemed an unjustified optimist as the Daily News shriveled through round after round after round of previous trims. Not any more.
This is the worst day I've ever seen here at the paper and I'm sure Friday will be even worse. There is nothing I can say that will make it OK or even make it make sense. These are disastrous cuts that will seriously hamper our ability to produce the paper and Web content at the level our readers expect. It risks erasing all the great leaps forward we've made online and in print.
The next few months will be intensely painful, both for the people who lose their jobs and those who stay behind. As I've said to many of you, the real losers are the people who rely on this newspaper -- they won't be able to find the information they need anymore. Their events won't get covered. Their sense of community will get a little shakier. Once the dedicated journalists who've made this place what it is leave, their expertise will never be replaced. Maybe people won't notice it right away, but in a year, maybe two, maybe more, they'll realize there's a gaping hole left behind that can never be filled-in.
This is particularly heartbreaking to me because you guys have given this place everything and asked for little in return. You've sacrificed yourselves for love of the craft and love of the community and the work you've done is amazing. The paper's thinner and our coverage isn't as expansive as it once was, but the stories, photos, layouts, headlines-- everything-- has been fantastic. I'm so proud to see the work you do on a daily basis and honored to be a part of it. I'm heartsick to see such a great operation so callously dismantled.
Many on the staff love Kaye, something you don't hear about the editor in chief at other papers in town. More Hopkins:
I'll close with some words from Ron, who's been under tremendous stress trying to manage this in recent weeks. When he broke down in the middle of his speech, it was one of the rawest, most genuine moments of emotion I've seen in this newsroom in my career. While I'm sure he's wrecked his health over this and taken on a godawful amount of stress, I'm glad that if we had to hear this from someone, it came from a true leader with character.
"I'm not going to defend the past," he said. "I can only hope and pray that the future's better. You all are great and I'm sorry."
I'm told the newsroom sat in silence when he finished, and more than a few tears were flowing. A petition will be delivered to the publisher, presumably meaning president and CEO Edward Moss, in the morning asking that he meet with the newsroom — they've heard nothing from him through all this — "the least he can do is tell us his plan to get us out of this mess," Hopkins writes.