The Baltimore Sun
The city's largest newspaper, around since 1837, the paper of record, the paper of note has cut 30% of it's newsroom staff in the last 48 hours. I'm going to speak to this generally, but it applies to sports reporting in this town just as much as to local politics & human interest stories.
Newspapers are regarded to be nearing the end of their useful lives in current form. I get that. It's an outdated medium. Plus, it's hard to get people to buy your print edition when they can get a lot of the same information - updated regularly - online for free. But, honestly, it didn't have to come to this.
Since Tribune Co. bought The Baltimore Sun in 1999, they have slashed their staff by 60%. That's 300 jobs in Baltimore City gone. That's 300 reporters, photographers, editors, fact checkers, print staff, administrators, and Baltimoreans-by-default NOT talking. They aren't talking about our city, our politicians, our problems, our assets, our celebrities, our sports teams, our opinions. They aren't talking about anyone else's either. The Sun of my youth had award winning writers, dogged investigative reporters, and a sports section that would take you an hour to read. Today's Sun has oversized graphics, the font you'd expect in a Reader's Digest for the elderly, and scant articles written by Sun staff - many are just AP re-prints. No more Washington bureau, no more international stories written from a Baltimore perspective. I imagine it's hard enough to get them to cover even the smallest local stories at this point just due to lack of personnel.
The Examiner folded earlier this year, not surprisingly. While it was an annoyance to those of us who live in the city (unsolicited papers appearing on the doorstep, daily, are not a blessing but rather LITTER!) it was also another point of view. Another voice, another resource. Their Orioles coverage was a breath of fresh air by mere default - these were new observations by new writers. When The Examiner retreated to online status only, we were left with the old standby in The Sun. But now The Sun, too, has abbreviated it's comment.
I'm not going to cite Mencken because it's too obvious. Rather, David Simon:
"If I want to find out what's going on in this city, I've got to go to a f*cking bar and talk to a police lieutenant and take notes on a cocktail napkin."
It can't be more than a few years before I'll be wishing I had even this shadow of The Sun. At the very least, I need an answer to the question: to whom am I going to turn for complete Orioles coverage? MASN? School of Roch?
Here's another kick to this whole diatribe: the management told three reporters & a photographer that they were fired yesterday by phone, while they were on assignment covering the Orioles game. Couldn't have told them before they went down to the ballpark? The company line is going to be that they're streamlining, repositioning, evolving to succeed in the new market. But, as moves like this suggest, they're really cutting down to bare bones with no room for sentiment, class, or enough know-how to fire people with tact.
There is a local group organizing that wants to re-take the city paper for the city. From my keyboard to God's ears: sell, Tribune, sell.