Life after the Post

By Malone, Roy | St. Louis Journalism Review, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Life after the Post


Malone, Roy, St. Louis Journalism Review


There's been an exit of editorial talent at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, especially since the paper and the rest of Pulitzer Inc. were sold to the Lee Enterprises, a chain of papers in smaller cities.

For more than 100 years the Post was a "destination paper," meaning experienced journalists wanted to get hired and spend their careers there. Now many younger staffers, some just out of college, see it as a place to get experience and move on.

The once-good salaries are being chipped away, and the St. Louis Newspaper Guild is mindful that Lee Enterprises would like to make the Post non-union, like its other papers. At times, the company refuses to follow disciplinary procedures called for in the Guild contract.

The Guild, in a recent newsletter, said employees were being treated unfairly and threatened because of the company's "disdain for and indifference to workers instead of supporting and respecting their employees, they (Post supervisors) seem to want to harass workers," the Guild said.

Jen Wood, an ad executive, allegedly told sales people, "If you don't sell an ad, don't come back.... I could get $10,000 monkeys to do your jobs."

Lee took out big loans to pay a premium for Pulitzer--$1.46 billion--and its stock has since gone down. When Lee management offered a buyout last fall, 41 newsroom staffers took it. Some were in their early 50s. A veteran staffer still at the paper said, "Instead of saying, 'Let's stay and do good journalism,' there was a stampede for the door."

There are still many fine journalists at the Post doing good work. The staff was pleased to hear that editor Arnie Robbins has hired Pam Maples as managing editor. She was in charge of projects and investigations at the Dallas Morning News.

The pressure from Lee executives is to have the Post make more money and to use what works at smaller Lee papers as the model. Often the choice of stories on the front page makes staffers and readers alike wince. It seems the editors have been told to cater to young readers with offbeat stories. Who can forget the front-page feature and picture of man with a gold tooth?

Of the three successive Joseph Pulitzers who ran the paper, all said the editorial page was closest to their hearts. Recently, the new publisher at the Post, Kevin Mowbray, called on the lone editorial writer of Mowbray's former paper, the Lee-owned Times in Munster, Ind., to give advice to the Post's editorial writers.

The advice? Make the editorials and columns shorter, the subject matter more local and do "community outreach." It brought to mind the whispered criticism of Mozart by lesser composers, "Too many notes."

Here is an update on what some people are doing following their departure in the last year or so.

Alexa Aguilar, reporter, went to the Chicago area where she and her husband took jobs with the Northwest News Group, which publishes the Northwest Herald and Kane County Chronicle.

Jerry Berger, former well-read gossip columnist at the Post and the Globe-Democrat before that, is a marketing and branding consultant.

Charlie Bosworth, former veteran Illinois reporter and author of several true crime novels, has completed a public relations stint at Fleishman-Hillard and helps run a comedy club with family members on Laclede's Landing. It's called Laughs On The Landing.

Carolyn Bower, education reporter, is teaching as an intern at Glenridge Elementary School in Clayton while pursuing a master's degree with the aim of becoming a certified reading teacher.

Karen Branch-Brioso, Washington bureau reporter for five years, left for Florida to care for her young son, Daniel. Her husband Cesar is a sports editor for the Tampa Tribune.

Chris Carey, financial news reporter, resigned to be a partner in Sharesleuth.com, a new Web site aimed at exposing stock fraud and corporate misdeeds. It is financed by Mark Cuban, billionaire investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who Carey had pitched the idea to. …

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