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Lioce among layoffs at Mercury News

UPDATE: In describing Tony Lioce, ProJo metro columnist Bob Kerr recalls that it was Lioce who convinced the Journal to let Kerr cover the 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, in Memphis, and "only because he said it would be a good idea." This came in 1987, shortly before Lioce left for a job with the Los Angeles Times.

"I don't think anyone would argue that our feature pages have been as good since Tony left," Kerr tells me. "He was just one of those guys who had an awareness of things, and an eye for good stories, and a little bit of craziness that you can't teach anybody. He just made things posible that weren't possible before and really haven't been possible since, I don't think. San Jose is wasting a great talent, obviously."

Lioce, who served as Kerr's best man and who traveled cross-country with him in 1973, was a rock critic at the Journal before becoming a feature editor.

. . . .

California's East Bay Express is reporting that Tony Lioce is among 31 newsroom employees laid off Monday by the San Jose Mercury News, part of ongoing cost cuts since the paper was purchased last year by Denver-based MediaNews (h/t Romenesko). For those unfamiliar with Lioce, he was a legendary scribe during his days at the ProJo.

This was before my time, but I remain indebted to Tony for speaking with me candidly and on-the-record when I first started covering the media beat in Rhode Island for the Phoenix. This bit, from a 2000 story about the ProJo's growing aversion to self-scrutiny, is a case in point: 

Although the Journal has since become known as one of the best papers of its size, winning a handful of Pulitzers and doggedly investigating the state's multitudinous political intrigues, even its recent history contains episodes in which the paper has been less disinterested than its reputation would suggest. Tony Lioce, for example, was busted off his four-day a week column in 1979, when he lampooned the high cost of the Biltmore Hotel after it was revived by a group of local businessmen, including the Journal's owners. Although the company was decidedly a minority investor, "They [Journal management] went crazy," recalls Lioce, now entertainment editor at the San Jose Mercury News. "They had me rewrite it between editions to try to tone it down."

Veteran ProJo reporters have lots of stories about Lioce, who is remembered as a gifted writer. Losing the kind of talent and institutional memory that he represents is a very bad thing for any news organization. Good luck to you, Tony.

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