Who's staying, who's going at the ProJo?

I'll have more detailed coverage later in the week, but here's some of the immediate local reaction to today's news about the pending buyout offers that will seek to eliminate 54 jobs at the Providence Journal.

While similar cuts have become routine in the troubled newspaper industry, some reporters were still taken by surprise by the latest development, which is bound to have a severe effect on the ProJo's journalistic capability.

"It certainly is demoralizing," says one reporter. "As it stands, we're already working so hard and still not getting to all the news we should. Cut ten, 15, maybe 20 people out of that mix? I can't even imagine. Even worse is to consider some of the names that might go. They're people who are the real heart and soul of the place, and they're not easily replaced. If we lose too many of the real stars at once, it could take years to recover."

Here's a rundown on the outlook for some senior staffers.

A source indicates that Kathy Gregg, the Journal's longtime State House bureau chief, will not consider the buyout.

Metro columnist Bob Kerr, 63, says that he'd like to work indefinitely, but that he will feel compelled to consider the buyout. "I don't want to have to be told, 'If you stay, then some promising young reporter has to go,' " Kerr says. "I hope it doesn't come to that yet."

Political reporter Scott MacKay says, "You've got to think about it given the state of the industry. It's something a lot of veteran reporters are going to have to think seriously about."

Medical reporter Felice Freyer says she can't possibly even consider it, because she's can't afford it, and that a lot of people who might otherwise be logical choices to take the buyout won't do so, because "people don't feel like there are other opportunities out there for them."

Political columnist M. Charles Bakst, who had previously been thinking about retiring next year, says of the buyout, "I am definitely considering it."

The Providence Newspaper Guild has scheduled an informational meeting about the buyout at 1 pm Wednesday. The Journal is slated to hold its own information meeting an hour later, according to Guild president John Hill.

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