It is a story that became the focus for almost the entire four hours of the “Dana and Parks” talk radio show from 2-6 p.m. on KMBZ-980 AM this Wednesday afternoon. It is still reverberating across the country.
It began with a memo sent to staffers by Kansas City Star Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish earlier this week where she announced another round of layoffs would be occurring at the McClatchy-owned newspaper. (NBC News revealed later the total employee count was set at 17.)
That in itself was no real surprise considering the paper has had layoffs/furloughs now for several years—and at least three times in 2012. However, the timing of the latest announcement right before the holidays seemed somewhat cruel.
However, the biggest surprise was that the newspaper told two of its top veteran reporters—Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann—to decide among themselves who would be laid off, and who would continue being employed at the paper at least entering the new year.
Callers to KMBZ had a wide variety of opinions. Some felt seniority should determine the decision. Many felt management was shirking its duty in not making a decision. Some felt Dillon and Bormann should say they could or would not decide their own fate and force management to make the decision. One particularly strong caller said if she had to decide she would always decide in her best interests.
The two journalists have been given a week to decide their fates. Dillon has more seniority and will likely survive the cut, but reportedly a decision has not been finalized.
One local media blogger erroneously confidentially reported/guessed earlier today Bormann was out, but has now been forced to backtrack on that story.
If Bormann departs she will likely will be trying to find employment elsewhere in a very tough job market for journalists. Either way, these are human beings who are forced to make an agonizing decision that will impact both their lives for years to come.
One former Kansas City Star reporter Tweeted that this this is not the first time the Star has forced staffers to make a similar decision.
“It’s true AND what no one is reporting is…they’ve done this before with copy editors and others,” wrote DeAnn Smith, who is now with KCTV. “Survivor newspaper style.”
“I have been in the business 35 years and up until I read this story, I labored under the belief I had seen it all. I stand corrected. This is an outrage,” wrote David Hanners from Indiana State University on a national media blog. “Where did management get this idea? Some Claude Van Damme movie?”
Some women went so far to claim that it was a sexist decision to pit one woman against another. However, with Parrish as Publisher, that view does not seem to carry much weight. On the other hand, one can assume Star editor Mike Fannin was also involved in the layoff process.
In reality, maybe the story has been blown out of proportion because two females were involved. Numerous male bloggers and talk show callers have shared stories of simply being called into a room and summarily fired with no discussion. On KMBZ one caller noted how he was told to layoff employees and promptly fired himself so they could keep their jobs.
Overall, there is almost universal agreement that it was no way to run a business the size of the Kansas City Star.