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August 3, 2008

Barnhart out at the AJC

Per Crane in our comments area, and now "almost" completely confirmed via other sources, Tony Barnhart, Furman Bisher and 71 other writers were offered "Voluntary Separation" buyouts by the Atlanta Journal on August 1st.

The total number of "applicants" to take the buyout, and the fact that all "applications" were accepted are also confirmed. This comes from an internal AJC memo leaked/distributed to Poynter Online.

HometownHeadlines.com has published most of the names of those accepting the buyout. The cuts run across business, sports, travel, etc. Another source confirmed that Barnhart and Bisher were on the list of those leaving the publication.

(Image: TD Club of Memphis)

Bisher reportedly told the human resources staff, "And don't even think about offering me any of that new fangled Union money." Ok, that part isn't totally true (ht - Orson on the joke idea).

I have never understood the idea of offering voluntary buyouts. To me, it's a chicken #$%^ way to do business. As an executive or business owner, you need to step up, stack rank your employees and then decide who stays and who goes.

You know who takes Voluntary Buyouts? People who can get jobs elsewhere and old folks. Yes, it's a nice way to remove expensive old staff without facing wrongful termination lawsuits. But is the risk of losing top talent worth it?

I sincerely respect the work guys like Chip Towers and Mike Knobler do, but Tony Barnhart is the crown jewel of the sports section. That's why a college football fan in Michigan would even know or care about his departure.

To give you a sense of the AJC's business model problems, here's a sample sales call to me from them
AJC: Would you like to subscribe to the AJC?
Me: Why would I do that? I get it for free online.
AJC: You don't get the coupons online.
Me: Does that mean you're in the coupon selling business?
Terrence Moore didn't take a buyout. Lucky us.

As someone suggested in the comments section, Barnhart will land on his feet. If we end up with an SEC Network, he would make an excellent flagship employee.

PWD

22 comments:

Dubbayoo said...

There is no real risk of losing top talent because you only offer the package to people you're willing to lose. You save respected employees the indignity of being fired/laid off AND you get rid of people who really don't want to be there. It's good business. I just wished they had offered bigger bait to Terrence Moore.

carter said...

Watch the last season of "The Wire" to understand the idea of offering voluntary buyouts. The writers belong to a union.

Sports Dawg said...

I hate to see TB go, and although it probably is Furman's time to say farewell, he has more class and journalistic ability in his pinkie than Terrence Moore has in his dreams! I'll especially miss FB's Thanksgiving Day column.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the AJC's writers belong to a union. In fact, I'd wager money on it. Some newspapers' writers are union-represented, but they're in states that aren't "right to work (read: right to fire)" states.

Dubbayoo, your point would be valid if the AJC had been selective in its buyout offering process. It wasn't. It offered them to every employee who'd been there for more than 5 years, and it offered the same package, based on years of service. (Not sure of the exact terms.) It also might have held water if the AJC had taken the 73 buyout applications and culled them to get the 58 positions they wanted to eliminate. Instead, it took all 73, with the extra 15 as a bonus.

In addition to Bisher and Barnhart, the AJC is also losing Tech writer Matt Winkeljohn, frequent takeout writers Steve Hummer and Michelle Hiskey and golf writer Stan Awtrey. There is absolutely a risk of losing top talent, and that's exactly what they're doing.

Anonymous said...

i read this whole thing praying to see terence moore's name as someone that took the buyout. and at the end you give me the bad news. man i hate that guy.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who will not miss Furman Bisher? This guy has written the same column for the past 15 years. We know you really like golf. We know you get off on the Masters. Bobby Jones was a hell of a guy. We know you claim to like UGA and tech the very same, followed by 500 words on how Bobby Dodd could walk on water.

Stay on St. Simons full time. Play with your grandkids. This guy has not offered any decent insight or interesting opinion in decades.

I think Terrance Moore is a total jackbag, but atleast he pisses me off and brings out some emotion. Bisher puts me to sleep.

Andy said...

Marcus Howard on NBC! But blue's not his color, red and black looks better.

Andy said...

And he just put a huge hit on Todd Collins! Jennings is just standing around, but I guess he's already earned his spot.

And Marcus does it again!

Regardless, I will definitely miss you Tony B.

RedCrake said...

Way to represent Marcus...

I can't wait until Colt Brennan comes in. You know he still has Marcus Howard nightmares.

Andy said...

Good one. That was going to be my "and I'm out" ala George Costanza. But yes, Colt, you best be ready. Marcus is a Colt, and Marcus Knows Colt.

RedCrake said...

Marcus half destroys Collins again. I love this.

He could well be climbing the depth chart as we speak.

Andy said...

I know! What's that BS? Looked like a fumble to me. . .

RedCrake said...

This could get ugly quickly if Howard stays in the game.

He made Brennan his bitch once before and looks to do so again the way the Redskins backup OL is playing.

I see a graduate assistantship at SMU in Colt's future.

Andy said...

I should hope, after the first time Colt hits the turf courtesy of Howard, NBC cuts to that Sugar Bowl highlight where Marcus recovered the fumble in the endzone for a TD. And then Madden would go "Boom!"

Anonymous said...

I recall when Furman was a great writer, but I am also 57. He hasn't been great for a while now.

I have a bill on my desk to renew my subscription, and I have to wonder if I should. The paper insists on spending a lot of its budget on news, but honestly, why? By the time the paper hits the driveway, I know the news. I would like some analysis, and I would like some features, and I would especially like some football/sports coverage that doesn't come from ESPN. Where am I going to get that now? I can only stare at a computer screen so long, though so I may still renew.

RedCrake said...

That was a serious facemask that didn't get called. You could tell Marcus could smell Colt's fear and was going in for the kill.

Anonymous said...

Barnhart is definitely out, as is golf writer Stan Awetry. I have it from an inside source.

Dawgnoxious said...

Apparently Terence Moore couldn't even write a voluntary separation application that anyone wanted to read.

Smitty said...

well who is going to write article's for them now?

Ky_Dawg said...

I suppose if Grizzard were still around, they would be offering him a buyout too.

Newspapers are a dead industry.

jawjaboy said...

A comment from Barnhart in his AJC blog today:

"On a personal note: I want to acknowledge and say thanks to those of you who wrote words of encouragement concerning an upcoming change in my relationship with the AJC. Given the realities of the blogosphere the word has gotten out about some of the tough decisions a lot of us in this business are having to make. I’m not in a position to talk about it now but I hope to be able to do so soon. But I did want to thank you for the kind notes."

Tony's Blog

Anonymous said...

I am glad I canceled the ajc a few years ago. I like the coupon reference, I can get get all the ads online now.

It looks like the ajc is going focus on the urban market.

 
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