Military Call-Ups from Newspapers: Most Papers Unaffected by Number of Reserves Called to Fight in the Persian Gulf War

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, February 16, 1991 | Go to article overview

Military Call-Ups from Newspapers: Most Papers Unaffected by Number of Reserves Called to Fight in the Persian Gulf War


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


Military call-ups from newspapers

Newspapers have been remarkably unaffected by the huge call-ups of armed forces reserves for the Persian Gulf war.

A random, informal survey of newspapers across the country found very few papers that have lost many personnel to active military duty.

"It's funny. In Salt Lake, we've lost a tremendous amount of doctors, nurses, medical people out of the community, but not many at all out of our industry," said Jay A. Carlson, administrative director of human resources for Salt Lake City Newspaper Agency Corp., the joint agency operating business and production operations for the Salt Lake City Tribune and Deseret News.

Carlson estimated that "only a couple" of employees - none of them management - from both papers are reservists who have been called to active duty.

That is a typical story.

Among the 13,000 employees at the Los Angeles Times, for example, just one full-time employee, a production worker, has been called to active duty, said Michael J. Valenti, director of employee relations.

In San Diego, the departure point for many military personnel heading for the Gulf, the San Diego Union and the San Diego Tribune have lost just two people to the war: a mailroom worker and a clerical employee.

Many of the randomly surveyed papers - including the Kansas City Star, Dallas Morning News, Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, Kankakee (Ill.) Daily Journal, Sacramento (Calif.) Bee and Wilmington (Del.) News Journal - reported no affected employees at all.

Often, too, even newspapers that have lost several employees to the military say they have suffered no real inconvenience.

The Miami Herald, for example, has lost perhaps "six or seven" employees, said vice president of human resources John C. Roberts.

"None of them are in really key positions. It really has caused no dislocations because of the small number of people involved," Roberts said.

At the opposite extreme, however, is the experience of the Pioneer Press group of weeklies in Chicago.

Pioneer had just one reservist called to active duty - but he was the group's number two executive.

Drew Davis, Pioneer's vice president of newspapers, is also Lt. Col. Drew Davis, commanding a combat battalion of 1,500 Marines. His unit is now stationed in Okinawa and is awaiting orders to move to duty in the Philippines.

"We're tremendously proud of him, but [his departure] has left a gaping hole in the corporate structure," said Pioneer Press publisher Richard W. Gilbert. "He is a very, very key executive."

Davis directs the entire publishing group of 44 weeklies operating from 11 sites in suburban Chicago. Davis is also responsible for production operations, though a restructuring of those duties had been planned even before he was called up. He also functions as an "ad hoc editor in chief," Gilbert said.

"His leaving presented us with a kind of unique management problem," Gilbert said.

"Normally, when a number one guy leaves an organization, you just get another number one guy but, when your number two guy is gone, it's not so easy just to plug another person in. …

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