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Monday, August 22, 2011

Laid-Off Guardian Staffers Didn't See It Coming

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 12:20 PM


Late last month, citing tight financial times, the Guardian sent a quarter of its editorial staff packing. Despite the acrimonious relationship between our newspapers, there is no joy in watching colleagues hurled overboard to keep the sinking ship of journalism afloat.

SF Weekly caught up with a couple of the departed newspaper staffers. We were told that none of the four -- longtime reporter Sarah Phelan, copy chief Diane Sussman, associate art director Ben Hopfer, and associate calendar editor/assistant to the publisher Jackie Andrews -- anticipated the axe.

"I had every reason to think things were getting better or at least stabilizing," said Sussman.

She, like her colleagues, was confused by financially driven layoffs coming on the heels of the Guardian besting SF Weekly in court and accepting a sizable settlement. The terms of that settlement have not been shared with newsroom employees of either paper. That being said, Guardian staff, intuitively, did not foresee cutbacks following a hefty payout.

"We don't understand -- you wrote them a check with lots of zeroes," Sussman told SF Weekly. "You really do have to wonder. We were kept in the dark about all these things -- including our own layoffs. We were under the assumption that things would get better -- why wouldn't we be?

"With the settlement, we thought things would turn around. I don't think there's a paper you can point to that hasn't been financially affected," she continued. "But there was more optimisim if not for newspapers in general, at least for the Guardian. I was completely blindsided."

Tim Redmond, the Guardian's executive editor, has consistently limited his statements on matters even peripherally relating to the papers' litigation to "I cannot comment on anything having to do with any settlement. All I can say is the two parties settled on terms acceptable to both sides."

He confirmed the aforementioned four were all laid off; not all of them have been or will be replaced.

Redmond last month explained the newsroom cutbacks as a fiscally induced changeup: "Like a lot of newspapers and media companies, we've had to do some cutbacks. We're facing challenges and have to make sure our revenue and expenses are in line. We're looking forward to a future with, you know, changes in the publishing model. We're looking to make sure our future is secure."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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