They say what comes around goes around…
In the case of Tuesday’s breaking news by KC Confidential about the Kansas City Star pitting two reporters – Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann – against one another to see which gets to keep her job, the story circulated just about everywhere.
The consensus among readers being that forcing co-workers to decide which one’s career must end is cruel and unusual punishment.
Things started heating up Wednesday after respected media blogger Jim Romenesko picked up on KC Confidential’s story and laid the matter bare for journalists around the world to marvel at.
“Kansas City Star tells two reporters to decide which one gets laid off,” Romenesko’s headline reads.
Romenesko credited KC Confidential, quoting extensively from our story, right down to the addendum about Dillon having broken the Pee Wee Herman porn arrest story (calling it a ‘fun fact’) in 1991.
Gawker‘s Robert Kessler picked up on the Romenesko story and also credited KC Confidential for the scoop, borrowing a pair of metaphors from our story with the headline, “Kansas City Star Editors Issue Sophie’s Choice: You Choose Who’s Laid Off” and “What would Katniss Everdeen do?”
That was just the tip of the news iceberg.
Dozens of journalist and members of the media weighed in with shock and awe comments as to the crassness of the way Star editor Mike Fannin‘s handled the layoffs.
And the Twitterverse went absolutely wild…
“How about getting rid of the boss instead?” tweeted Linda Thomas, a senior features reporter for Seattle radio station KIRO.
“Cold blooded,” tweeted Melissa Wiese, web editor of the Sacramento Business Journal.
“I grew up at the KC Star, so the fact that it’s now the newsroom version of the Hunger Games arena is doubly horrifying,” tweeted Libby Nelson, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed.
“Hope this doesn’t become a trend,” added New York Times weekend sports editor Naila-Jean Meyers.
“Speechless,” tweeted Indianapolis Star sports reporter Mark Ambrogi.
“This is unbelievable,” said Robert Klemko, NFL Reporter for USA Today.
“It has come to this?” tweeted Karen Tumulty, the national political correspondent for the Washington Post.
“Weak!!! Can managers even do this?” asked Reuters financial columnist Agnes T. Crane.
“The word “inhumane” comes to mind,” tweeted Dwight Silverman, the Houston Chronicle’s social media manager and tech blogger.
“Nightmare,” tweeted Michelle Cortez, Bloomberg News’ Health Science Reporter.
“This takes empowering your staff to a whole new, and scary, level,” added Mark Katches, the editorial director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
“This just seems cruel,” tweeted CNET columnist Ben Parr.
And more to the point…
“This is hugely fucked up,” added Gawker staff writer Max Read.
And on and on they went.
The bottom line being that, “The Star’s editors have managed to combine journalism, cowardice, arrogance, and dereliction of duty into one big toxic lump,” a commenter who goes by Delton Slusher said on Gawker.
Not to mention this appears to be at least the second time the Star has perpetrated this game.
In January of 2011 copy editor Don Munday is thought by Star staffers to have been similarly pitted against copy editor Mike Garbus, who bought the farm while Munday stayed on.
So yes, these are very sad, strange times for the world of print journalism these days.
The other stories: