Staffers at New York paper concerned about high-level departures p. 19

By: Dorothy Giobbe Officials downplay the situation at Ottaway chain's Middletown Times Herald-Record sp.

A SERIES OF high-level departures at the Middletown, N.Y., Times Herald-Record has staffers worrying about what's next for the flagship newspaper of the Ottaway chain.
In mid-August, five management-level employees left the newspaper. They are: publisher John Szefc, advertising director Dan Stewart, production director Christine Taylor, retail ad manager Christine Zovistoski, and sales manager Christine Corsette.
More recently, executive editor Gary Grossman, and city editor June Peoples left the newspaper.
Until a new publisher is hired, Beverly Jackson, vice president for newspaper operations at Ottaway Newspapers, has been called in to serve as interim publisher.
Employees claim that the departures were forced, but Jackson refused to confirm that. "I'm not prepared to discuss it," she said. "It is a private matter, having to do with the individual situations."
"The best way to put it is that these people have separated from the company," Jackson added.
With a weekday circulation of 87,642, and a staff of about 500, the Times Herald-Record is the largest newspaper in the Ottaway chain. Ot-taway is the community newspaper subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co. In 1994 Dow Jones' community newspapers had revenues of $252 million.
Dick Myers, president and CEO of Ottaway Newspapers said the changes represented a "fundamental" change in management strategy at the news-
"We're basically restructuring the management structure for a variety of reasons," he said. One is that "we were not satisfied with the direction of the newspaper."
Jackson added that the changes are "aimed at improving the newspaper. We are healthy and successful and will continue to be."
Some employees at the newspaper believe that the departures are an effort to remove an old management team ? largely put into place by the former publisher ? and replace it with a team handpicked by executives from Ottaway corporate.
On Sept. 2, an article published in the newspaper ? perhaps intended to reassure the staff ? proclaimed that the "sweeping changes" in management largely were finished.
In the article, Jackson was quoted as saying, however, that "We will continue to have movement as we redirect the operation and build a new organization."
Myers confirmed that while significant personnel changes had been made, there could be more to come. However, "there haven't been any more departures that I'm aware of, unless they were voluntary."
A consulting firm, Currow and deMontmollin, is assiting in the search for a publisher and marketing director. Jim Currow, an executive with the firm, most recently was the president of Journal/Sentinel Inc., which published the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel. Sources at the Times Herald-Record contend that Currow effectively is running the ad department.
Until the positions are permanently filled, managing editor Jeff Storey has assumed responsibility for the news department's day-to-day operations. Larry Hoffman, vice president of production for Ottaway Newspapers, is working with the systems and production staffs.


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