Writing about the N&O's budget cuts on Monday, I made note of what I had perceived to be an augmentation of the Pickett Rd. gang's newsroom:
"It's a relief to see no further cuts to the Durham newsroom, the presence of which is one of the best explanations I can find to the Herald-Sun's recent (and noticeable) beefing-up of its reporting staff after the Paxton blood-letting a few years back."
Turns out I was a bit eager in my assumptions. It's kind of like the Stockholm syndrome, you know? A case in which you come to show some loyalty and empathy for your kidnapper -- in this case, the small town pressers at Paxton who bought out Durham's treasure a few years back -- after you've been under their spell for long enough.
In this case, I was somehow making the connection between the presence of new bylines at the H-S and the conclusion that somehow, someway, Paxton was throwing more bodies at the local news. Ah, not so fast.
One of my readers here at BCR keeps an eye on such matters and corrected me in my calculations. In fact, the H-S actually lost three reporters in the winter to attrition; though one position was refilled a few months back, the other two new metro folks have appeared relatively recently.
In fact, if you check out the H-S' staff directory, you see a grand total of six "Metro" reporters, leaving aside columnist John McCann (the rationale for excluding same from the former category being left as an exercise for the reader.)
A number that just so happens to equal the number of Durham-focused reporters that the Raleigh News & Observer has.
If you think about it, that's actually a pretty staggering number to match, especially given that the N&O staff aren't under pressure to file stories daily -- though as a commenter here has noted, that could change in future rounds of McClatchy cutbacks. Still, it's a sign of how stretched the H-S staff are under the Paxton regime, having to put out a daily newspaper with the same size staff that puts out a weekly edition plus the occasional Durham daily.
It's also a staff that's about two-thirds the size of that which the Herald-Sun had under its previous, locally-based ownership. Which is a pretty depressing figure, when you stop to think about it.
So, just to be clear -- there hasn't been a sudden burst in hiring levels down at the Herald-Sun. It's just that the paper is back to its new-normal level, which is still less than it was a few years back. And which remains a sore point to a city that's used to being able to take maximum pride in its hometown news.
(To repeat a disclaimer made here earlier in the week, lest there be any concern over bias, I do write an occasional paid freelance column for the N&O -- though lest anyone think I'm not desirous of seeing the Herald-Sun succeed, I'd encourage a look back at this 2007 filing.)