Pulitzer's Gain

Some say Pulitzer Inc.'s sale to Lee Enterprises blew in quicker than a shotgun wedding. Others saw it coming a mile away.

"Worried?" muses a second current newsroom staffer who declined to be identified by name. "Depressed is more like it."

Junck did not return phone calls seeking comment.

There are other causes for concern among the staff. Under Pulitzer, domestic partners of Post employees received health insurance; Lee rarely extends benefits to unmarried partners. "We haven't made public what our plans are for Pulitzer employees," says the company's communications director, Dan Hayes. "[But] most of our newspapers do not offer domestic-partner benefits."

Post-Dispatch publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger 
(left) and Pulitzer Inc. president and CEO Robert 
Woodworth announce the sale of the company to Lee 
Enterprises, Inc. SEC filings indicate that Egger holds 
roughly $9.3 million in Pulitzer stock, Woodworth an 
estimated $25 million.
Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Post-Dispatch publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger (left) and Pulitzer Inc. president and CEO Robert Woodworth announce the sale of the company to Lee Enterprises, Inc. SEC filings indicate that Egger holds roughly $9.3 million in Pulitzer stock, Woodworth an estimated $25 million.
Post-Dispatch publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger 
(left) and Pulitzer Inc. president and CEO Robert 
Woodworth announce the sale of the company to Lee 
Enterprises, Inc. SEC filings indicate that Egger holds 
roughly $9.3 million in Pulitzer stock, Woodworth an 
estimated $25 million.
Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Post-Dispatch publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger (left) and Pulitzer Inc. president and CEO Robert Woodworth announce the sale of the company to Lee Enterprises, Inc. SEC filings indicate that Egger holds roughly $9.3 million in Pulitzer stock, Woodworth an estimated $25 million.

Another hand-wringer: employee pensions. Like many companies these days, Lee does not have a pension plan. Instead, it matches employee contributions to their 401(k) retirement plans. Pulitzer Inc. provides a pension plan for employees who have been with the company for five years or more.

Says retired Post reporter Roy Malone: "Through the guild contract, all employees get a healthcare plan, even the retirees. But we all expect to get a letter from Lee Enterprises saying they can't afford our healthcare any more."

Many current and former Lee employees have good things to say about the company -- though they're quick to point out the difference in size between their papers (which usually sport circulations under 100,000) and the Post.

"After Lee bought the paper, there were a lot more resources," says Ken Ma, who until recently worked as a reporter at the Lee-owned North County Times, which serves north San Diego County. "I wanted to write stories that were more readable. Lee wanted us to move in that direction."

Ma notes that under Lee's ownership, his paper sent a reporter and photographer to Iraq on three separate occasions -- quite a feat for a paper with a reported daily circulation of roughly 93,000.

Others at Lee-owned papers are less encouraging. At The Times in northwest Indiana, Ed Collier, a photographer, quit last year citing the paper's handling of a package that chronicled a woman's fight with cancer. "It was a great package, beautifully done," says Collier, who did not work on the package. "But in the last two pages there were funeral-home ads. I'm not sure it was a breakdown in the wall between advertising and editorial, but it just seemed to me to be in very poor taste. It was kind of like, 'Are you thinking about dying? Well, here's a good funeral home.'"

The paper's executive editor, William Nangle, declined to comment about the incident. Lee's vice president for news, David Stoeffler, says he was unaware of any issues about the cancer story. "It was very good work," he says. "Coincidentally I left a copy of it behind at the newsroom at the Post-Dispatch."

That coincidence aside, Stoeffler doubts Post readers will notice much of a difference when Junck and Co. take over later this year. "We're not going to tell them to change their editorial approach. That's their decision," says Stoeffler. "We have lots of papers we're proud of, but clearly the Post-Dispatch, because of its size and history, will be a hot paper for Lee."

This is part two of a two-part story. Last week: "Pulitzer's Pain."

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