Methinks there is more to this story than meets the eye.
For starters, The Citizens’ Voice devoted an entire page to the surprise resignation of Times Leader savior and publisher, Richard Connor, while his own newspaper’s coverage was about the size of a police blotter item plopped to the bottom of its front page. Joe Butkiewicz, who slowly climbed the corporate ladder from TL movie critic to executive editor, declined comment. Why, if this was just your typical resignation from a slew of newspapers, a desire to spend more time with the family or an opportunity to move onto bigger and better things?
Call it a former reporter’s instinct, but I believe that The Times Leader is not giving us “the rest of the story,” as commentator Paul Harvey famously used to say.
My first thought was that Rich wanted to move to Maine and devote his time to the papers he recently acquired there. But he resigned from his top positions there too and will also leave by Dec. 31. We learned that from The Voice, not The TImes Leader. We also learned from The Voice that Dale Duncan, my former boss at the TL, also resigned from the Maine newspapers. Duncan provided a clue that signaled, perhaps, that they are not leaving on their own accord. Duncan said he resigned because the owners want new leadership. Was Rich Connor asked to leave his own company, like Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple computers early in his career?
Connor said nothing in his shorter than usual Sunday column to reassure Times Leader employees that they wouldn’t be joining the ranks of the unemployed. He did say, though, that he intended to be in the media business for at least another 20 years. That’s little consolation to those who, if multiple daily bylines are any indication, are giving their hearts and souls to this newspaper. Connor closed his column by saying “the challenge we all face (is) building a solid digital business foundation for this industry.”
That doesn’t bode too well for those who hit the bricks gathering news for a daily paper or for those who put it together and get it out for the next day’s delivery.
Is this really the beginning of the end? Are Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County on the precipice of becoming a one newspaper town? That would be simply dreadful. If you read both papers like I do, you’d know that sometimes that’s necessary to get a more rounded article. Rich Connor’s resignation is a perfect example.
And there’s nothing like the fear of being scooped that keeps reporters on their toes. When Bill O’Boyle worked for The Citizens’ Voice and beat me on a story, I feared going into the office that day to face the dragon lady, who’d inevitably ask icily, ”Why don’t we have this story?” (But, dear readers, I scooped him plenty in return.)
What I’m getting at is remove that competitive spirit, and reporters run the risk of losing their drive in digging for news that those in office would just love to hide.
The Voice, which we’re betting is busy filling in the blanks of the who, what, when, where and why of the Richard Connor resignation story, wrote a Sunday piece, “Times Leader staffers face uncertain future.” Ya think? The Voice talked to some of those staffers off-the-record. Ironic, isn’t it, that reporters this time need to conceal their identities?
But the biggest irony of all would be if The Citizens’ Voice, a long ago fledgling offshoot of The Times Leader, which did everything possible to drive it out of business, becomes the only game in town.
- Betty Roccograndi