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.]
I think it was a money thing, which doesn’t make it not ageist. He was making $88k a year, and then they cut him to $30k, and then they
firedfailed to renew his contract for “budget reasons” .
As a Baltimore Sun subscriber, I gave my take at my blog.
Why would anyone want to buy a big city newspaper?
In my “hometown” there are a handful writers at the Globe that make an occasional glimpse worthwhile but their newest section Sidekick, in the face of a miniscule book section (that to be fair, has Gail Caldwell and Kate Powers)is bad bad silly worthless idea
Here’s what these people can’t figure out, The kids they are trying to apeal to with this shit are fickle, transient. The people who are habituated to newspapers, that is readers—people who read, who care about content, could care less about the fluffy detritus.
That’s hard to understand huh?