The short goodbye: Tuesday was last day for Asheville Citizen-Times newsroom staffers out under reorg

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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asheville_citizen_times_first_2014The Asheville Citizen-Times has a very different newsroom today. On Tuesday, the five newsroom staffers who did not reapply for newly defined jobs under a major newsroom reorganization turned in equipment, parking passes and badges. It was the last day for photographers John Coutlakis and Bobby Bradley, archivist Holly MacKenzie and 40-year veteran reporter Barbara Blake.

Bill Sanders, the newsroom’s photo chief, is staying on a bit longer to see the newsroom’s photo department through transition. That’s because right now, there is no photo staff as he, Coutlakis and Bradley are all leaving. Photographer Erin Brethauer took a photo job in California just a few weeks ago.

Reporter Clarke Morrison and multimedia editor Polly McDaniel were laid off in the newsroom reorganization. If their layoffs were handled as layoffs in the past, they were out the door the day they were notified that they would no longer be employed.

Blake wrote a lengthy, nostalgic piece about her long career at the Citizen-Times, and even took to the comments section of her story to defend Gannett’s moves. From Blake’s column on the family of a newsroom:

We’ve been there for each other, even when we fuss and fume as family members do, through the best and worst of times. We have a job like no other, and those outside the circle can’t really get what that means. I believe that special bond will never change, no matter what the decade.

It’s a new day at the Citizen-Times, and the hard-working, passionate journalists in this newsroom will continue standing strong as inevitable change comes and they meet it with dignity, enthusiasm and tremendous talent, in spite of dark-hearted Internet trolls and random naysayers.

To our readers, I hope you will embrace and support their efforts to strengthen and sustain our — your — community newspaper.

To my newspaper family, past and present, thanks for taking me along on this incredible journey. And thank you for having my back.

Coutlakis, a 21-year employee of the Citizen-Times, offered a much more melancholy column about his time at the newspaper, which he said he was leaving “with deep pain” and faces “an uncertain future.” From Coutlakis:

I am thankful for my time here. All that I witnessed, photographed, the people I met, the personalities that passed through this building, especially my friends — these were the best 21 years of my life.

I was best known as a sports shooter. I was a reliable Friday night football shooter. Columnist John Boyle told me I was the best sports photographer here in 20 years.

Yet I do not include any sports photos here. The best ones gave me the sensational thrill of capturing peak moments of action and athletic strain; that is valuable human drama. Dramatic moments as fleeting as our lives, captured in a frame just before deadline so we can look at ourselves, in triumphs and tears.

The images here are not my “best photos.” Rather they are the more concrete fragments of many memories and late-night sentiments. A reminiscence, over bourbon and cigarettes — more like Shelby Foote recounting the Civil War on the porch.

The Citizen-Times posted the job openings for the photographers, as well as three or four reporters and at least one “digital producer,” just days after the layoffs. I’ve heard rumblings that a couple of former newsroom employees are considering applying. I, for one, will not.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Susan P September 12, 2014

    What a loss for the Asheville community. I can remember in the late 90s when the CT was a 100,000 circulation daily. It was the newspaper for western North Carolina! While we all must adapt or be trampled I worry about the public’s right to know.
    Good luck to all!!

  2. Sean September 3, 2014

    Very sorry for all those that have to move on.

    I really like Coutlakis writing above.

  3. John Stevenson September 3, 2014

    Jason, good job writing what i know wasa painful story. As bad as The News got hit, Asheville got it worse.

    1. Jason Sandford September 3, 2014

      Hey John, good to hear from you. Yes, it’s tough all around.

  4. Mike M September 3, 2014

    This former staffer will not be re-applying either.


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