Bill Dwyre first LA Times columnist to say he's going

bill-dwyre-fb.jpgBill Dwyre, the Los Angeles Times sports columnist who was the paper's sports editor for a couple of decades, apparently announced at tonight's National Turf Writers and Broadcasters dinner in Lexington, KY that he will be retiring next month. He was there to accept an award for feature writing and write a column. Dwyre's final horse race will be Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic there in Lexington, according to a tweet by Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form.

The Times covered the award for Dwyre but did not mention his retirement comment. He became a columnist in 2006 after 25 years as the sports editor.

Dwyre's future at the Times has been in the general swirl of speculation about the buyout offer currently on the table for Times newsroom staffers. That's because Dwyre is a veteran columnist, and presumably well paid, and he also has reached retirement age. This is the same status held by Sacramento columnist George Skelton. Those two and columnists Steve Lopez, Patt Morrison, Doyle McManus, Sandy Banks, Michael Hiltzik, David Lazarus, Helene Elliott, Russ Parsons and S. Irene Virbila have been the subject of much conversation, if just because of their positions. In the rumor mill, at least one of the prominent columnists in that group applied for the buyout, was turned down and is now pondering the next move; another reportedly was thought to be all but out the door before being persuaded to stay.

If reports from the newsroom are true, way more than the speculated target of 50 staffers applied for the buyout, perhaps closer to 80 — with editors heavily represented — but the number will likely go down as some decide over the next month to keep their Times jobs and hope for the best. At least two members of the City-County bureau reportedly put in the papers. In order to leave, and receive the offer of up to one year's salary, your request has to be accepted. In the newsroom, it sounds as if everybody is comparing notes about who applied, who was accepted and who is staying.

Those who are physically around, that is. For the past several months, the Times has been forcing staffers to use up their saved vacation time. That would apply to most anyone who has been there any length of time, and a lot of desks are empty. I talked with one reporter today who said that some people have been gone on such long vacations it's as if they are on leaves of absence. The mandate, which began when Austin Beutner was publisher, is to use up your stored vacation by the end of this year. Two pretty obvious motives behind that: banked vacation has to be carried on the books as a financial obligation, and it also has to be paid out in cash when someone leaves the staff (such as through the buyout, layoff or resignation.) Get rid of the banked time, and it's cheaper to say goodbye to the veterans.

Meanwhile: The Times is still hiring. There's an ad currently up for an enterprise editor in the Business section. Again, if the rumors are correct, the Business desk was hit hard by buyout applications. Maybe related?

Also meanwhile: In ex-Times columnist T. J. Simers' lawsuit against the paper for age discrimination, his side rested their case this week. At the trial, Simers' wife Ginny Simers testified that "her husband is a shadow of his former self since he left the Times in 2013 and then quit his next job as a columnist for the Orange County Register," Courthouse News says.

"The stress came from not working at the LA Times," she said. "He's a completely different person. He doesn't have any focus."

She said that sometimes Simers does not shower and said conversations with her husband are "difficult" because he has nothing to talk about now that he no longer writes columns.

"Why wouldn't you get up and take a shower and get going?" she said. "But he doesn't have anything to get going to."

The Times claims that Simers was not forced out of the paper but that editors Marc Duvoisin and Davan Maharaj, who were present in the courtroom, asked him to stay on an extended contract.

The two top editors of the LA Times sitting in the trial all this time — what's that about?

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