‘Merc News’ Designer Who Illustrated Layoffs Now Joins Them

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By: Joe Strupp

You could file it under “Ultimate Irony,” or just “More of the Same.”

But the announcement this week that the San Jose Mercury News would layoff nine employees today took on an extra feeling when word came down that one of those ousted would be Martin Gee.

Gee, a veteran designer and illustrator, drew industry-wide attention this spring when he created a poignant photo display of images from the Mercury News that represented the emptiness of the paper following recent cutbacks. He posted them on his Flickr page, which was eventually linked to by numerous other Web sites.

E&P reprinted many of the images in the June issue, with a story by Editor Greg Mitchell in which Gee stated: “I love this paper,” adding, “it’s the one I grew up with.” Gee told Mitchell at the time that he was not reprimanded for the display, but “our editor wrote a memo saying we should not dwell on the past.”

He also said in that piece: “I am probably on the top of the list for the next round of layoffs.” Gee could not be reached for comment Friday, but several sources confirmed his layoff, which also was reported on a number of Web sites.

In its announcement of the layoffs earlier this week, the Mercury News stated: “Mac Tully, the paper’s publisher, announced the layoffs in a somber meeting of the newsroom staff. ‘We have had a very challenging 2008,’ Tully said. The layoff is ‘no reflection on the people who are in these jobs,’ added David Butler, the paper’s editor. ‘It’s totally an economic matter.'”

In the same story, the paper reported that “The San Jose Newspaper Guild said 17 of its members will lose their jobs – the nine from the newsroom, six from advertising support and two from marketing. The number of non-Guild employees being laid off was not available.”

The story did not specify which employees would be let go.

A report on Gee’s layoff at www.visualeditor.com also said that Gee’s father had died earlier this month after a battle with cancer and, to top it off, Saturday is his birthday.

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