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The Sun's Ever-Shrinking Newsroom Isn't Good News For Baltimore

The City Paper Digi-Cam™

By John Barry | Posted 8/20/2008

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About a week after the July 17 rally, there's a wake for the daily business section downtown at Lucy's Irish Pub. There's a little discomfort in the room at the prospect of an alt-weekly reporter hanging around, dancing on their graves. Then again, a number of reporters say they feel the story has been underreported.

Bernie Kohn, the editor of the business section, sports a Hawaiian shirt and holds a bottle of Canadian Club. His section has been pulled out from underneath him, but he's staying with The Sun as an investigative editor. Yes, he acknowledges, a lot of people are headed out. And good ones, too. But he is quick to counter that there is good stuff yet to come, that The Sun is going to be true to its mission. "Tim Ryan and Tim Franklin have drawn a line in the dust," he says. Then he pushes through the crowd gathered around the bar. Sixteen shots have been placed on a silver platter and are being passed around. Kohn toasts those who "are moving on, in The Sun, and elsewhere."

There are plenty of people in the bar who have moved on or are about to. Sandy Banisky is going to work at the University of Maryland College of Journalism. June Arney is looking forward to her first year as a teacher. Laura McCandlish is heading for Oregon, considering her options. I find myself talking to a reporter who's looking for a job as a mortgage dealer. One young reporter, who's staying with The Sun, looks around the room and says, "You've got to get these peoples' names before they go."

The conversations continue. One reporter is talking about how many children he has. A now-retired page designer is reminiscing about the front page after the 1996 Dole/Clinton election. There's a discussion about the possible purchase of The Sun by local publisher and former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis, which still seems to be a straw of hope some reporters are grabbing at. Another reporter suggests starting another newspaper with the people at the wake. Given the number of people who are now flooding the side room and spilling into the main bar at Lucy's, it would involve a sizable percentage of the Sun's current newsroom.

By 11, the wake seems to have transformed into a reunion, and it's still going strong at midnight. There's a managing editor, an assistant managing editor, a national reporter, a couple of columnists, a retired foreign reporter, a web designer, and an editorial page assistant editor, some leaving to face an uncertain future outside The Sun, others remaining at the paper to report the news of the city and deal with long-term realities that are unpredictable at best. But for a few hours all of them can rely on one constant: Soon, it will be last call.

Corrections 8/27/2008: This story unfortunately contained a number of errors. Sun newsroom staffers Sandy Banisky and June Arney did leave the paper, but they did not take Tribune Co.-offered buyouts. The paper's Carroll County bureau closed in October 2007, not December 2007. And due to an editing error, the story reported that a space on the sixth floor of the Sun building had once housed presses, which it did not. City Paper regrets the errors.

Corrections 9/3/2008: This story contained additional errors. Departing reporter John Fritze's first name was misspelled. In addition, it appears that the Sun lobby displays no portrait of Editor Tim Franklin, nor are the photographs displayed on the second floor of the Calvert Street building 6 feet high. City Paper regrets the errors.

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