As the Providence Journal sharply cut back its once-vaunted statewide network of news bureaus in recent years, the drawdown offered a competitive opportunity to some of the smaller dailies around the state.
 
So it was encouraging when Roland McBride, an executive with Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers (RISN) — which bought the Call of Woonsocket, the Times of Pawtucket, and a number of other smaller papers earlier this year — pledged, “The new company will be driven by a desire to deliver intensely local content, connecting the community through our readers and advertisers.”
 
As it turns out, however, fewer staffers will be on hand to deliver that intensely local content. As part of a cost-cutting move, the Call recently laid off its librarian, bought out three reporters, and transferred an editor to one of RISN’s South County newspapers, according to Tim Schick, administrator of the Providence Newspaper Guild. Staffers at the Woonsocket and Pawtucket papers voted to join the Guild earlier this year.
 
Rumors continue to swirl that layoffs and/or buyouts could take place in the news and sports sections at the Times.
 
Barry Mechanik, who Schick says was put in place by RISN to manage the Call and the Times after the departure of publisher Michael Moses, didn’t return a call seeking comment.
 
The Journal Register Company, which previously owned the Call, the Times, and a number of the other papers bought by Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers, isn’t known as a company that sinks particularly generous resources into its papers, so the recent (and possibly forthcoming) cuts could have a serious impact.
 
While the running down of small dailies by penny-pinching managers isn’t particularly unusual, Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers has a link to a bigger media drama unfolding in US District Court in Chicago.
 
Melanie Radler, one of RISN’s principals, is the daughter of former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler, who this week testified against his ex-partner, press baron Conrad Black, who is accused of swindling Hollinger International out of $84 million. Radler, who has pleaded guilty to a single fraud count, is testifying for the prosecution.
 
For those familiar with David Radler, the cuts at Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers seemed inevitable. As Michael Miner wrote on the Chicago Reader’s news bites blog in January:
 
“A Rhode Island journalist tells me the outgoing owners, the Journal Register Company, ‘bled these newspapers down to a fraction of what they used to be.’ If Melanie Radler inherited any of her dad’s genius — or if dad’s lurking in the background of the deal — she’ll show them. David Radler never saw a turnip that wasn’t a little plumper than it needed to be.”
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