Charles Storch worked for the Tribune for 30 years. Years ago he gave me more competition than I could handle as a media writer. His most recent assignment has been covering the arts and philanthropy. He wrote an item recently about the MacArthur Foundation giving $250,000 to Pro Publica, the not-for-profit news room created last year in New York City to do investigative journalism. If he'd stayed on the beat, Storch would have been writing more and more about journalism's emerging business model -- not-for-profit and financed by grants and subscribers, after the fashion of public radio.
But the Tribune is very much the old model -- sell ads, sell papers, or die. On Wednesday Storch was laid off, one of about a dozen newsroom employees to lose their jobs. Worse is to come. Earlier in the week, editor Gerould Kern and publisher Tony Hunter warned the staff that a "dramatic right-sizing" was necessary and would be imposed at the end of the year.
In addition to Storch they include national correspondents Stevenson Swanson and Lisa Anderson. The Tribune is pulling in its horns.
As we talked by phone today, Storch looked around him in the features section. "Terry Armour used to sit on my right -- it's been almost a year since his death. Alan Solomon used to sit in front of me. Ever since he left [earlier this year] we have a little cut-out of him with his face plastered on it and a Hawaiian shirt on him."
Solomon was a travel writer. The interesting thing, I said, is that his desk is still empty. "Yeah," said Storch, "there are a lot of empty desks around and one more as of tomorrow." I said that maybe they could clear some of those desks out and lay down a shuffleboard court. He had a better idea. "Maybe they could bring in another pinball machine," Storch said. "That was one of the early things Sam Zell brought to the company -- he put a pinball machine in the cafeteria."
Can't say Zell hasn't tried.
Meanwhile, Gannett's laying off 2,000 or more people, and this independent blog has become the forum that keeps track of the numbers and gossip while letting victims grieve among friends.