I've received a lot of emails since Friday repeating a sarcastic exchange between former Daily News reporter Val Kuklenski, who left in the newsroom thinning a month ago, and Dave Butler, the ex-Daily News editor who's now editorial chief of Dean Singleton's California newspapers. The subject is last week's putsch of Ron Kaye as DN editor, first reported here at LA Observed. Butler reportedly came to town last Monday, summoned Ron Kaye (his successor and onetime protege) to a Valley restaurant, and told him he was out as DN editor.
In her first email, Kuklenski calls Butler "the worst newsman I've ever known."
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 10:43 AM
To: Butler, Dave
When you took over the San Jose Mercury News, I bemoaned the loss of a great paper to the hands of the worst newsman I've ever known. The one who ran Bush's 2000 convention nomination acceptance speech on page 1 with a Bush byline. The one who thought "Big Brother" was worth round-the-clock coverage just because it was being shot in the Valley.
The one who paid for the most pandering and least probing interview with the president ever published anywhere, with cleaned-up quotes to boot.
The one who was giddy as a schoolgirl over the fact that the Daily News scored a photo op with the president and vice president. Woohoo. This week I can say with certainty that you are also the worst boss I ever have worked for, and with my long and varied career that puts you at the top of a very long list.
I had my differences with Ron [Kaye], but I appreciated that he was trying to make the paper different and more accessible to an ever-changing audience, unlike his predecessor who held an endless number of brown-bag meetings in the zebra lounge that amounted to absolutely nothing. "We need to do something different" was about the most concrete guidance you ever offered.
Making him let go 22 employees, which clearly took an emotional toll, so you could return just four weeks later and do the same to him (I suspect without batting an eye) is very low indeed. I have learned since that the newsroom was informed of the change by laobserved.com because you apparently lack the cojones to face the staff in person and inform them of what you did.
There is some cathartic pleasure for me in being able to be so blunt with you, and I feel certain at least some of my former colleagues share my views. I have nothing to lose by expressing them because I can say with great conviction that I will never again, under any circumstances, work for someone as incompetent, arrogant, self-serving and heartless as you. Life is too short.
Shot over the bow! Butler responds after the jump, then they reload:
Thanks for your insulting and unprofessional note. Think want you want of me I do believe you have forgotten that I recommended Ron to be the editor of the paper and supported his many efforts to do something different, because the paper has and continues to suffer financially.
But get this straight: I do not control the fate of editors. The publisher of each newspaper does. You are making the worst mistake that a reporter can make -- though that's not surprising to me -- in assuming what my role may or may not have been in terms of Ron. You don't have the facts, mam.
Back to Kuklenski:
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 11:59 AM
To: Butler, Dave
My statement that you are the worst newsman I've known is fact in that it is limited to the ones I have worked with. There maybe someone worse out there, God help us, but I haven't come across him or her yet. And my statement is supported by the factual points that follow it.
As for not knowing who controls hiring and firing of editors, are you suggesting you actually fought to keep Ron in the position? Or that you are totally powerless because your move to the Mercury News was a demotion? You used to be over DN editorial. If you had nothing to do with it, why were you the messenger to Ron? Because he would take it better from you? Or because the publisher who ordered the mass slaughter in February didn't have the nerve but you did? And with your personal ties to the DN, why didn't you see to it that the newsroom was informed?
I stand by everything I wrote.
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2008 12:11:56
Stand by anything you want. It may come as a shock - a shock! -- to you, but we all have bosses and we don't always get what we want. You know that I can't comment on the internal goings on. And I understand that as an executive of the company I can be given the responsibility/blame for anything and everything. I accept that. I'm just telling you that your information is not correct and others know that. You don't want to hear that. Fine. Have a good life.
Part of the exchange is posted in this thread at Sportsjournalists.com. The emails I received came from a mix of Daily News insiders and sources outside the paper. I took the weekend off so it's just getting up now.
More Singleton reaction:
Gay DN columnist and blogger Greg Hernandez thanks Kaye
Reporter Kerry Cavanaugh praises Kaye at The Paper Trail
Fired sports columnist Paul Oberjuerge buys an ad in his former paper.