By: Joe Strupp
Although Cincinnati Post staffers were expecting today’s announcement that the paper would cease publication at the end of the year, several newsroom employees admitted the final blow is not easy to take.
Members of the 52-person news staff said they were not surprised at the decision by E.W. Scripps Company to fold the paper when the joint operating agreement with Gannett Co. Inc., owner of the rival Cincinnati Enquirer, expires Dec. 31. The JOA’s demise had been decided three years ago when Gannett exercised an option to pull out.
“We were surprised it took this long to announce an official date,” said Peggy Kreimer, a 34-year veteran reporter. “It is nice to know that at least we will not get closed down in August or October. I think it is a money-making decision. We would like to think decisions are made by the heart and not the pocketbook. But I don’t think the Post can go it alone.”
Tom O’Neill, a three-year employee and current education reporter, agreed: “No one is surprised at all, but still for some people the finality of it is hard. “
Editor Mike Philipps, who started as a Post reporter 30 years ago, credited Scripps with seeking numerous options in the past several years since word of the JOA demise was announced. He said the paper might have been able to go it alone in northern Kentucky, where it publishes an edition, but the economics were not right. “It would have been difficult,” he said. “Everybody went into it with the attitude, ‘let’s see what makes sense’.”
But Philipps said the financial restrictions were too cumbersome. “The reaction in the newsroom is sort of, ‘we knew this was coming’,” he said. “I think most of the people here have planned their lives under the assumption that they are going to leave.”
One of those is Luke Saladin, a six-year Post reporter and president of the Cincinnati Newspaper Guild. He said he will seek an engineering degree and already has plans to attend the University of Maryland. “I have kind of had it with the business,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in it.”
Saladin said the guild contract, which stipulates the severance agreement giving each employee two weeks’ salary for each year at the paper, has made the decision a bit easier to take. But he says more could have been done to keep the paper going, or at least attempt to save it.
“Do I think they did everything they could to try to save it? No,” he said. “But I don’t think they had any intention to try to keep it going.”
Several staffers said more pressure could have been put on Gannett, which handled the business operation of the JOA that included advertising, production and circulation, to ensure the Post was given equal treatment. Some cited instances of the Post allegedly not being distributed as equally as the Enquirer, noting routine calls from customers complaining that Post news racks were often empty when Enquirer boxes were filled. “We were powerless to do anything about it,” Saladin said.
Sports Editor Keith Herrell, who has held several editing posts in his 24 years at the paper, had no complaints about how Scripps handled the closure. “This is the way the industry is going,” he said. “It is something we have expected for some time. There is some relief that we will at least be open until the end of the year. There have been rumors we might close earlier.”