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Bergen Record tells reporters not to discuss buyout

No word about plans to replace Jackson on Washington beat

By David Wildstein, December 14 2018 12:49 pm

The (Bergen) Record has effectively placed a gag order on reporters talking about buyout offers, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Politico reported this week that Herb Jackson, The Record’s one-man Washington bureau, is retiring as part of “Gannett’s endless quest to hollow out its papers’ editorial staff.”

The Record news director Dan Sforza didn’t respond to Matt Friedman’s e-mail, and he didn’t answer a direct message The Globe sent to him via Twitter.

Columnist Mike Kelly is one of those who was offered a package, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  Reached by telephone, Kelly declined to answer questions about his status.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Kelly said.  “This conversation is over.”

He appears to be semi-retired anyway.  Kelly has written just one column since Thanksgiving.

On the surface, The Record’s ban on public comment regarding their business seems a bit hypocritical.  Their reporters call other private sector entities all the time in order to give their readers the information they need.  (Just this morning, The Record reported the results of an interview with Aline Tabibian about her new Jack’s Lobster Shack in Cresskill.)

“One set of rules for us.  One set of rules for everybody else,” a New Jersey public official said, mocking The Record’s request that their reporters not speak to reporters about company business.

More distressing is what happens at the end of the process.

The conventional wisdom is that Gannett will not replace Jackson when he retires at the end of the month.  If it’s true, that’s a shame.  He’s an outstanding journalist with considerable institutional knowledge.

It’s reasonable to look at Gannett’s past practices on other newspaper acquisitions.  That means The Record’s readers can look forward to generic Washington stories written by people who can’t spell Gottheimer.

That too is a shame.

So, here’s one reasonable request of The Record: disclose your intentions.  If you’re no longer going to have a full-time reporter covering New Jersey on Capitol Hill, just say it.

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