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Kurtz: Post Layoffs “Painful To Watch From The Inside.”

From Howard Kurtz‘s Monday piece in the Washington Post about the recent round of layoffs:

    No one need shed any tears for the people leaving this building. The more than 100 journalists who have just taken early-retirement packages are voluntarily accepting a generous offer as the company trims its payroll — a situation far better than at newspapers that have resorted to layoffs.

    But it is painful to watch from the inside. The talented reporters, editors and photographers walking out the door are part of the heart and soul of a living, breathing organism. How do you replace a Tom Ricks, one of the best Pentagon reporters ever? Or a Sue Schmidt, the investigative reporter who revealed Jack Abramoff‘s dirty dealings? Or Robin Wright, who’s covered the Middle East for a quarter-century? What about battle-scarred editors with deep knowledge and a light touch?

    I know, I know. The future is digital. The Web is a cornucopia of fast-moving video and blogs and bulletins and gossip, while newspapers are old, slow and less than hip. That’s why The Post (and every other paper on the planet) is beefing up its online presence and why I write a daily blog for the Web site.

    But — and stop me if you’ve heard this one — newspapers matter. There isn’t a Web site around that can produce the probing work, such as the expose of shoddy conditions at the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center, that won The Post six Pulitzer Prizes this year. The economics of the Web, for now, won’t support a staff that can hold public officials accountable across the region and still cover every Nationals game. So I cling to an old-fashioned, almost mystical belief in the power of ink on paper. …

    What makes this a particularly unsettling time are the high-level vacancies. Deb Heard, the veteran editor who runs Style, is taking the buyout, leaving at year’s end. The job of running the national staff has been open since Susan Glasser was ousted last month amid complaints about her management style (prompting the resignation of her husband, the superb White House correspondent Peter Baker, who joined the New York Times Magazine). My dogged editor, Peter Kaufman, will be leaving, too. And barely an hour goes by without an unsubstantiated blog post that Len Downie, the executive editor for the past 17 years, is about to retire any second. But this much is true: The new publisher, Katharine Weymouth, 41, has begun to search for a successor. …

    The Post has proven to be an awfully resilient place over the years. And if we have to do more with less, well, welcome to the global economy. After pondering the offer, I decided: I’ll badly miss the people who are leaving, but I’m staying put.

Marc Fisher discusses the buyouts with Erik Wemple and Jack Shafer.

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