Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When newspapers lay off Pulitzer winners

Amid all the celebration of the annual announcement of the winners of the Pulitzers, the highest honor in journalism, was word that the tiny East Valley Tribune shared the award in the local reporting category.

Reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin wrote the Pulitzer-winning series about immigration enforcement operations of a local sheriff.

Sounds great. Except for one little thing: Three months earlier, the Tribune laid off Giblin.


Now, call me old-fashioned, but if I were a newspaper editor or publisher at a paper who had just seen fit to cut ties with someone who would go on to win a Pulitzer, I might happen to think that I have a whole lot of egg on my face. No self-respecting newsroom leader would choose to get rid of someone who had earned the newspaper the biggest award in the biz.

So how does the Tribune handle the announcement? By omitting any mention of the fact that Giblin was laid off. Check out their story and an editor's column about the win, in which they simply refer to him as a "former" reporter.


Now imagine if the Tribune was covering some local business or government entity that had gotten rid of someone, and then a few months later that person was given the highest honor in his profession for the work he or she did there. Do you think they would report the fact that the person was let go? Or would they hide it behind weasel words and obfuscation?

If I was writing that story, his being laid off would be in the lede, or first sentence.

Guys, laying off Giblin makes you look bad. But then you made yourselves look even worse by abandoning the basic tenants of journalism when it came time to focus the story on your own paper.

To the editor and publisher of the East Valley Tribune: For shame. First you showed the incredibly poor judgment to lay off a worker who is among the finest in the field. Then you compounded the error by not owning up to it.


  1. His name is Paul Giblin. Not Paul Gilbon.