Sports columnist T.J. Simers' rebirth with the Orange County Register lasted less than a year. He writes in Sunday's column that on Monday he will submit his paperwork for the "voluntary separation package" — that's Register-speak for the buyout that will decimate the newsroom as soon as this month — before he sees if his name lands on the promised layoff list. "So I am done, although my apologies, I still have about two weeks of columns left to write before never again getting the chance to question the Dodgers on why they are such underachievers. No one is to blame here, and quite the contrary."
In the column Simers revisits, somewhat poignantly it sounds to me, last summer's sloppy end of his multiple decades at the Los Angeles Times. Remember, he fell ill covering the Dodgers in spring training, then was out of the paper for several months — without any public explanation from the editors — after a dispute over a column involving Dwight Howard. Simers said at the time that the Times eventually offered to keep him on, but that he chose to accept the Register gig and remain a sports columnist. The Register announced his arrival with great glee (the Times broke the news a bit more tersely) and gave Simers big play.
I took a punch to the gut in the final months with the Los Angeles Times. I got the impression the newspaper was offended that I had gotten older and had to be taken to the hospital after seeing what the Angels had to offer in spring training.
The editors couldn’t come right out and say I looked almost dead, so they tried to find some other reason to get rid of me. I still don’t understand why they just didn’t assign me to a hockey game and then fired me for refusing to do so.
They conducted an investigation, and apparently found no wrongdoing because who offers someone an unprecedented guaranteed contract to remain as Page 2 columnist if they’ve done something wrong?
Instead, I opted to leave, admittedly a beaten man.
But then I was given the electrifying chance to join the Register and more than 100 new fresh, young, energetic faces hired by two idealistic owners who were convinced people would still read newspapers....These guys tried something extraordinary, and I will be forever thankful for a chance to feel alive again after leaving the Times.
Ah, that. The Register's owners have tried to spin that all is OK, but the buyout Simers is accepting was offered to most of the newsroom with the hopes that about a third of the journalists would go away quietly. "Yes, unfortunately some of that wonderful talent will have to find their success elsewhere," owner Aaron Kushner told Larry Mantle on KPCC last week. Others will be looking to leave on their own after Kushner ordered that everybody on the staff take two weeks of unpaid vacation in June or July, raising fears that the Register is running out of cash.