By Debra Puchalla
Debra Puchalla is AJR's associate editor and deputy editor of Martha
Arizona Republic Managing Editor Steve Knickmeyer resigns after ruffling the paper's brass with comments about more than 60 employees laid off last year after the Republic merged staffs with its now-defunct afternoon sister paper, the Phoenix Gazette . Knickmeyer commented to Columbia Journalism Review that most of the reporters were "fat, lazy, incompetent and slow." His paper's management apparently had a different take on the matter. "The Republic disavows the statement he made in the article," wrote Executive Editor Pam Johnson in a memo to staffers. "The decisions we made a year ago were difficult in view of the abilities and contributions those staff members had made."
A Brand New Ball Game
Embarking on a "major branding campaign," as CEO P. Anthony Ridder calls it, "Knight-Ridder Inc." drops the fabled hyphen and the "Inc." from its name. Though the incorporated designation is gone, the company otherwise enhances its corporate identity; its papers now must carry the Knight Ridder logo. "For many years, the public has had a limited knowledge of Knight Ridder – or none," says Ridder. "It was sufficient that our newspapers be well known and well regarded in their communities. Now, because of stepped up competition and the need to differentiate online, it is time to change this lack of knowledge."
Not So Sweet Home, Alabama
After clear-cutting its staff in December, Birmingham, Alabama's CBS affiliate, WBMG , relaunches under the new call letters WIAT . In a Dickensian move, President and G.M. Eric Land let go 21 anchors, reporters, producers, assignment managers and production staffers just before Christmas. Then he scrapped the nightly and morning news – beforehand, the ratings even paled compared to "Sanford and Son" reruns. In January, would-be viewers tuning in saw only a clock counting down to the February 5 relaunch and a teaser: "It's Coming." The kicker on the bottom of the screen read "It's About Time." "We signed off not as a promotional gimmick but because...we felt we did not want to be associated with the baggage of the past," Land says.
AJR contributor Linda Fibich returns to the newsroom. For the past five years Fibich, 41, taught at the University of Maryland College of Journalism, heading up the Annapolis bureau of its student-staffed Capital News Service . She joins Minneapolis' Star Tribune as teams editor, overseeing lifestyles, government and politics, health and science, education and state teams. Fibich, who previously served as night editor and assistant managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal , says she's excited about moving back to the world of newspapers and to the Midwest. "I'm going to have to learn to talk Fargo again," she says.
Around and About
After seven years as the Washington Post 's managing editor, Robert G. Kaiser plans to return to writing for the Post in June as an associate editor and senior correspondent... Carolina Garcia , former assistant managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , joins the San Antonio Express-News as managing editor... Brian Toolan leaves his post as managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News to become the Hartford Courant 's editor and vice president... Syndicated columnist Roger Simon , formerly of the Baltimore Sun, joins the Chicago Tribune 's Washington bureau to cover the White House, and William Neikirk becomes the paper's chief Washington correspondent. ###