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Invisible Men and Women

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 12/7/2005

When she announced last month the latest round of staff reductions at The Sun, publisher Denise Palmer wrote in a staff memo that her goal was to make the “streamlining” as invisible to readers and advertisers as possible.

Indeed, most readers will not likely note the absence of Sara Glik, who is one of 70 Sun employees who have accepted a voluntary buyout and allowed the newspaper to avoid layoffs, at least in the near term. For five years, Glik was a part-time commercial photographer in the newspaper’s marketing and advertising department, contributing primarily to special advertising sections such as the Wednesday Welcome Home section.

The 45-year-old Pikesville resident and single mother of a teenage boy says her position was being “phased out,” and she chose the buyout rather than take a lower-paying nonphotographic position in the paper’s business department.

“I’d thought I’d be there for at least five or 10 more years,” Glik says. “My goal was to get my son into college and develop some kind of strong savings and so forth, so I would feel comfortable when he went to college.”

Instead, Glik will likely return to full-time freelancing, juggling corporate clients and editorial assignments from smaller local publications, such as the Jewish Times. In taking the buyout, she joins many other non-newsroom employees who constitute the bulk of the perennially downsizing daily’s latest belt-tightening move.

Of the 17 of the paper’s roughly 350 newsroom employees who did take a buyout, five worked in the library, Newspaper Guild unit chair Michael Hill says, and made frequent research contributions to stories. “There’s still going to be an impact to readers because these are people who support every story in the paper,” Hill says.

Reporters taking the buyout include veterans Tom Horton, Joe Nawroski, and Ted Shelsby. The opinion section will lose three positions: cartoonist Kevin P. “KAL” Kallaugher, an editorial writer, and a designer.

Though she expresses sadness about losing her 32-hour-a-week position—especially the health benefits that came along with it—Glik reserves her anger for the paper’s decision to take a buyout from its last remaining editorial cartoonist.

“That’s so awful,” she says of Kallaugher’s departure, noting that her 13-year-old son became interested in cartooning after Kallaugher’s work was used as a teaching tool in a world cultures class at Pikesville Middle School. “That’s the real impact. My work may not have the same impact. That’s really upsetting.”

The Sun’s business section reported last Friday that it would not likely replace the award-winning Kallaugher, who has worked at the paper since 1988 and is also a cartoonist for The Economist magazine. Kallaugher told Editor and Publisher magazine last month that he didn’t want to leave the Baltimore paper.

The apparent elimination of the editorial cartoonist position continues a trend at Tribune Co.-owned newspapers. The Chicago Tribune hasn’t employed an editorial cartoonist since 2000, and the Los Angeles Times announced two weeks ago that it would lay off its sole cartoonist, Michael Ramirez, and eliminate the position.

Another prominent loss to the paper in this round of buyouts is part-time environmental reporter Tom Horton, 60, who has written the Chesapeake-focused On the Bay column since the early 1990s. Horton was the Sun’s first full-time environment-beat reporter, from the early 1970s until ’87.

“The truth is, I was just too comfortable there,” says Horton, who says his editors urged him to stay. “I could have easily done the column for another year or two, or four or five. It’s a damn good deal, but I’ve been meaning to do some book projects, try some other things, maybe some radio, maybe some kayak guiding, and I just realized I was never going to do those things as long as I had the column. I think the main motivation was to make myself a little less comfortable and just kind of jump off the edge.”

Born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Horton is perhaps best known for his 1997 book An Island Out of Time, which chronicles the three years he spent with his family on the Eastern Shore’s Smith Island, from 1987 to ’90. His next book will be a different kind of homecoming.

“Believe it or not, my agent has been after me for some time to do a book on chickens,” Horton says with a laugh. “In another life I was a poultry processor, before I decided to become a famous writer, and I know a lot about chickens.”

Horton says his main regret is departing the paper during a period of financial troubles and circulation declines. “I feel bad about leaving the place, because it’s struggling now and morale is not great, and every time somebody leaves it’s a little bit of a kick in the gut for people who are still there.”

Still, Horton says he relishes the opportunity to finally throw off 30-year-old chains of journalistic objectivity and dabble in environmental activism. “I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of time in jail,” he says, “but maybe a night or two. Who knows?”

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