Scenes From a Slaughter

Uppity Women -- Up and Out
The makeup of the management team that decided the layoffs has been kept secret from the Republic's reporting staff, but it is known that the mystery firing squad based its decision on three criteria: skills, experience and something labeled "behavioral attributes."

Indeed, three reporters with a particular behavioral attribute inimical to PNI management were shown the door last week: Kim Sue Lia Perkes, Susan Leonard and Barbara Deters. All three were full-fledged members of the dying PNI breed known as Uppity Women.

Many other Uppity Women--so named for their willingness to point out injustices in the newsroom and fight for their stories--had already quit or been pushed out by the time the layoffs were announced. Longtime court reporter J.W. Brown, for example, left late last year for a job in the Maricopa County courts.

Just about the only Uppity Woman left at the Republic is Carol Sowers, who was recently removed from the beat she loved and covered well--Native American affairs--and forced to write about health and fitness.

Burning Questions, Part 2
A four-page memo titled "Q&As"--an addendum to Inside--was distributed to PNI employees January 14. Most of the questions were mundane blather about severance packages, insurance and newsroom redesign.

But there was one great question-answer pair:
Q. If I'm not one of the approximately 55 laid-off employees, can I volunteer to be laid off?

A. No.
(Apparently, by that time it was too late to mouth off to Managing Editor Steve Knickmeyer. Many of the laid off had reportedly rubbed Knickmeyer the wrong way at some point. As one surviving reporter--who, for obvious reasons, requested anonymity--puts it: "If you have an attitude problem with Knickmeyer, you are out the fucking door.")

Some Franke Talk
For years, the Republic did not print negative stories about America West Airlines. This had nothing to do with the fact that William Franke, CEO of America West Airlines, is also a member of the board of directors of PNI.

Last fall, business reporter Ed Foster broke a story about serious maintenance violations at America West listed in a Federal Aviation Administration report.

Ed Foster was fired last week.
His departure has nothing to do with the fact that William Franke, CEO of America West Airlines and a member of the board of directors of PNI, wrote a letter to Republic management threatening to pull the airline's $900,000 of annual advertising because of Foster's story.

Burning Questions, Part 3
Three more questions from the January 14 handout:
Q. Will this change the way we use Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., and the logo?
Q. Will the name of the Lazy R&G Ranch be changed?

Q. Will employees receive a commemorative edition of the January 18 Gazette?

Diverse As They Wanna Be
The Arizona Republic prides itself on its coverage of diverse communities. From PNI's Mission Statement:

"Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., is the leading provider of compelling information to our diverse communities."

From the Arizona Republic's Vision Statement:
"Capturing the spirit and diversity of the Valley and its residents."
Norm Parish, the only black reporter on the Republic's city desk, was laid off last week.

Burning Questions, Part 4
Q. Why has management recently hired people and now it is laying people off?
A. Recent hires were acquired for their skill sets and because we needed them to complement and add skills to the newsroom.

Oh.

Hire and Hire
In the past two months, as the mass layoff loomed, the Republic hired four full-time newsroom staffers from Tribune Newspapers. Most notable among the hires is Kelly Ettenborough, an alleged religion writer for the Tribune, who would have replaced Kim Sue Lia Perkes as the Republic's religion writer, except that Perkes had been stripped of that position years ago after she displayed Uppity Woman tendencies in the newsroom. (Perkes was at one time recognized as one of the best religion writers in the country.) The religion beat initially went to Ben Winton, but he was fired last week, too.

So now Ettenborough apparently stands to take over as religion writer.
Here is the lead from Ettenborough's story in the religion section of the January 18 Republic:

"Stripped to their shorts, the young warriors emerge, skin glistening with sweat, steam rushing off their bodies, problems disappearing into the night air chill."

If things don't work out for Ettenborough at the Republic, she may have a future at Penthouse.

You're Hired: Go Home
Another recent hire is former Tribune columnist David Leibowitz, whose column now will appear in the Republic's East Valley edition.

Leibowitz's first day at the Republic had been scheduled for Monday, January 13. He was sent home to avoid untimely death.

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