First cut

Buyouts shrink the Globe newsroom — but not enough
By ADAM REILLY  |  March 25, 2009

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Given the bleak state of the economy and the nonstop torrent of grim newspaper announcements — e.g., the imminent closing of the Ann Arbor News and the Tucson Citizen's ongoing dalliance with oblivion — it would have been unsurprising if the Boston Globe's latest buyout offer, which is limited to newsroom employees, found almost no takers. To state the obvious, this isn't a great time to be out of a job.

So credit the Globe's top brass for making a pro-buyout sales pitch that worked, at least to a degree. According to multiple sources, when the buyout deadline arrived this past Friday, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 employees had thrown their names into the mix. That won't be enough to reach management's goal of 50 fewer positions and stave off the paper's first-ever round of newsroom layoffs. But it will be enough to keep those layoffs from being quite as ugly as they might have been.

Still, once the buyouts are finalized, they'll claim both one of the paper's best-known writers and one of its most powerful administrators. The writer in question is Gail Caldwell, the Globe's chief book critic (and a onetime Phoenix contributor). At the Globe, Caldwell won a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, which makes her the third Pulitzer winner to leave the paper in the past two years, following columnist Eileen McNamara and legal-affairs reporter Charles Savage.

The administrator, meanwhile, is Mary Jane Wilkinson, the paper's managing editor for news administration and one of editor Marty Baron's top two lieutenants (along with managing editor for news Caleb Solomon). "It was a very difficult decision — I've been here 26 years, and the Globe means a lot to me," says Wilkinson. "But I'd been thinking for some time about early retirement, so when the buyout came along, it made sense for me to consider it."

The buyout applicants who spoke with the Phoenix had varying plans for their futures. Wilkinson says she'll travel with her husband and spend time with her grandchildren; education-editor-turned-reporter Linda K. Wertheimer plans to finish a memoir on grief and faith; health-care reporter Jeffrey Krasner is launching his own consulting firm. But all of them are leaving the Globe with a measure of volition. When the layoffs begin — possibly as early as this week — their pink-slipped successors won't be so fortunate.

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  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Eileen McNamara, Business, Jobs and Labor,  More more >
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