There’s two extraordinary stories from Romenensko. The first deals with political commentator Jim Witcover, who at 78, had his column at the Baltimore Sun reduced his frequency, with the sun cutting his salary down to a third of its previous rate. When the year on the contract renewed, the Baltimore Sun then sent a termination notice by overnight mail. Could it have been Witcover’s anti-Iraq stance or the fact that he was older?
The second item concerns this memo from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which offers a retirement package to those “who are 50 ages and above as of November 1, 2005.”
With both of these stories, there seems to be a clear and resounding message here. If you’re a journalist, even a syndicated columnist, getting up in years, don’t expect to be respected. Don’t even expect to be treated with any polite exit procedure. With newspapers already facing possible threats from major advertisers looking for a “younger, lowbrow” demographic, rather than an “older and elitist one,” could it be that newspapers are panicking and taking this attitude too much to heart?
[UPDATE: The Baltimore-based Live by the Foma offers his perspective on Witcover’s career and how it ties into the Baltimore Sun‘s legacy.]
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.