Henry Haitz, the publisher of The State, has a note today about the latest round of layoffs at the Columbia, SC, newspaper. Highlights include that executive editor Mark Lett will add the editorial and opinion pages to his duties, to fill the void left by Brad Warthen’s departure.
Lett is a talented journalist and adroit manager, but one suspects that even the most gifted of leaders would be discouraged by the shrinking staff and declining morale evident at The State.
Lett has had opportunities over the past few years to jump to larger papers, and this morning he may be regreting not having moved on at some point.
The problem is, however, that The State’s situation is no different than that at almost any other newspaper.
Haitz’s letter is reprinted below.
To our readers,
We made announcements Tuesday regarding how The State Media Co. is responding to a worsening economy. Like many businesses, we must reduce costs. These decisions are difficult and painful, and we had to part with professionals whose work has enriched this newspaper and this community. These job eliminations were not about performance, but are necessary because we simply cannot afford the same level of expense.
Among the positions eliminated was vice president and editorial page editor. Of course, that’s Brad Warthen. Brad has guided the editorial and opinion pages of this newspaper for nearly 12 years. He is a remarkable journalist and writer, with keen understanding of the issues most vital to our community and our state. I know many readers appreciated Brad’s insight, even when they disagreed with his opinion. Which is as it should be.
Mark E. Lett, our vice president and executive editor, will add the editorial and opinion pages to his news responsibilities, effective March 21. He has been a newspaperman for four decades, including 11 years as editor of The State’s award-winning newsroom. He also directed the newsroom and editorial pages of another newspaper before joining The State. Our opinion and commentary pages will continue to operate independently of the news department, and I am confident that they will continue to provide an essential and engaging forum.
Our editorial pages will continue to feature the unique work of Warren Bolton and Cindi Scoppe, associate editors with unmatched experience in this community. Among their other recognitions, Cindi is a former South Carolina Journalist of the Year, and Warren will be honored next week by the South Carolina Press Association as the state’s most outstanding editorial writer for 2008.
These are difficult times for America’s newspapers. Despite the challenges, we remain committed to sustaining The State as South Carolina’s most authoritative and most important source of news, information and commentary.
HENRY B. HAITZ III
President and Publisher