It is a shocker-oo. "The Talk" columnist Doug Moe is leaving The Capital Times for the Wisconsin State Journal in mid-March, well before the demise of the daily itself. More big names are leaving. More on that in a moment.
But only Moe is switching sides. Doug, a genuinely good guy in a profession not known for them, writes:
Starting in mid-March, I will begin writing my daily column about Madison for the Wisconsin State Journal.
I believe The Capital Times has a bright future as it embraces the rapidly changing technology that's sweeping our business. But I also thought the transition offered a chance for me to make a change, recharge my own batteries, and I look forward to joining the State Journal.
Once upon a time, switching between the morning and afternoon papers in Madison was considered a no-no. The only exception I am aware of occurred in 1988 or 1989 when the State Journal went after a talented young TCT photographer by the name of Meg Theno. (She is now multi-media editor of the Chicago Tribune.)
But it is evidence that the morning paper feels free to pick over the bones of what remains of The Capital Times, much as the women in the Zorba the Greek story availed themselves of the dead person's belongings.
The newspaper's last day as a daily is Saturday, April 26. Then it will exist as an online daily and -- in corporeal form -- as a semi-weekly -- Wednesday news and opinion, Thursday arts and entertainment -- inserted into the morning Wisconsin State Journal and distributed free.
Moe is that rarity at the Prog Dane newspaper -- apolitical. Even its senior citizens columnist, Barbara Quirk, cannot resist excoriating GWB. And apolitical is what the State Journal likes these days. But it does seem that a semi-weekly would want the kind of product Doug produced so well, feature-based people news -- what used to be called gossip.
16 down, 4 to 8 to go
A total of 16 staffers have already decided to take The Capital Times' buyout. Some are on the copy desk. But among the names you would know are these: columnist Rob Zaleski, travel writer Mary Bergin, features editor/garden writer Linda Brazill, arts reporter and former PM editor Jake Stockinger, former managing editor Phil Haslanger, former sports editor Joe Hart, and photographers Dave Sandell, Hank Koshollek, and photo chief Rich Rygh.
That leaves only two photographers to illustrate a medium that has a voracious appetite for art -- the web.
Good news: I hear that courts reporter Mike Miller and State Capitol reporter Dave Callender want to stay. I can't get a read on another of my favorites, Lyman Anderson traveling companion Bill Novak.
But another four to eight staffers who have not accepted a buyout must leave the staff of 66. All staffers who wish to remain will have to re-apply for the new jobs that are left. They are allowed to apply for up to three jobs. Interviews start Thursday, Feb. 28. Decision day, I am hearing, is Monday, March 10.
If they don't like the job they are offered, they can turn it down and they will be given a buyout. It is a generous buyout -- two weeks of full pay for every one year worked. Some of them -- the three photographers, Haslanger and Hart, for instance -- will get a full year's pay. Not bad.
I still don't get the web part. You mean the Wisconsin State Journal, with vastly more resources, won't compete in that -- excuse me, this -- growing medium?
But Moe's announcement, made to the staff on Wednesday, was a surprise. One source at the newspaper tells me "I don't think anyone saw it coming. I think he was pretty important to TCT's plans for the future."
- Credit to The Capital Times for praising J.B. Van Hollen for reducing the backlog at the State Crime Lab.
- Another of our intellectual giants, William F. Buckley, is gone at the age of 82. Back in the 1960s, he would sell out a theater on a college campus debating the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith. Art Schlesinger, Norman Mailer, they're all gone. Few will have as lasting an effect on America as Bill Buckley. He deserves a postage stamp for certain.
- When then-sheriff Gary Hamblin, an elected official, agreed to endorse yours truly, he did so outdoors (at Fitchburg's BelMar Park) and in his civvies. Not so with new sheriff David Mahoney. He posed in full uniform in the public safety building with the sheriff's crest visible behind him with west side county supervisor candidate Lisa Subeck. Her opponent, Ronn Farrell, is crying foul.