The future of investigative journalism at the CJ?

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. with a correction. Legal reporter Andrew Wolfson is not leaving the Courier-Journal.

From Wolfson: Greetings. As I mentioned on your contact form, rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. I never applied for early retirement and actually never even considered applying for early retirement. So I am still employed at the the CJ. I hope you will amend or correct your story. Thanks. Andy Wolfson

In a non-byline story, the Courier-Journal is reporting 26 colleagues accepted early retirement packages yesterday including 18 people in editorial.

McLean, Va.-based corporate parent Gannett Co. Inc. initially approved 20 buyouts, for which 46 employees were eligible.

The CJ somehow managed to scoop everyone on the story, which doesn’t happen much anymore.

However, CJ management decided to forgo anything like reporting details, such as names of people who’d once been the newspaper’s most exalted talent, much less any explanation why more employees were granted early retirement than Gannett documents initially indicated.

Interim Publisher Randi Austin’s statement was especially curt:

“While we are sorry to see these valuable and long-term employees leave, we are happy to be able to provide this voluntary opportunity to retire early,” Austin said. “We thank them for their dedicated service and wish each of them and their families all the best in the years ahead.”

Nothing about years of service, awards or notable accomplishments.

As they say at Club Roxbury – just down the street from the CJ – those men and women sitting in the Gannett C-suites are some stone cold *************.

We’ve talked to insiders about this for months, and it was clear last month that almost everyone eligible for a package was taking their package.

In our original post naming names, we left off several we had been told were leaving but could never double-verify.

So in between big stories yesterday, we went back and worked our sources for all the names, which we don’t have yet.

Here’s our original list:

Joe Baldwin, copy desk.

Harry Bryan, sports editor.

Ralph Dunlop, projects reporter
Steve Ford, editor of editorials

Dale Moss, Southern Indiana columnist

Larry Muhammad, general assignment reporter

Ken Neuhauser, features writer and kids columnist

Mark Provano, political editor

Keith Runyon, opinion page editor

Mike Upsall, assistant metro editor

Here are the staffers we missed:

Arlene Jacobsen, features editor

Pam Spaulding, photographer

Pat Howington, health care reporter

Ric Manning, tech columnist

Carolyn Yetter, copy desk

Roy Walter – sports copy desk

Manning is the only person who will be replaced in news, insiders confirm.

Clearly, the loss of Howington and Dunlop means far less enterprise reporting.

Dunlop’s work on pain clinics/pill mills of Eastern Kentucky was probably the last great journalism committed in Kentucky.

Howington dogged the hospital merger story as much as staff cuts would allow.

On the bright side, as we’ve noted many times before, now that Runyon is retiring mid-month to his Wolf Pen Branch Road plantation, maybe a bridge or two will get built.

The departures of Ford and Runyon leave Pam Platt on the editorial page.

The copy desk operation, known as “the hub,” has been restructured, they add. Editors at the McLean HQ will select between 25 and 30 wire stories each day, then send them to a hub in Des Moines for copy editing.

CJ editors will decide which stories go where, local page designers will paginate them, then local copy editors will trim to fit, then write the headlines.

Long term, we wonder how – or if – the Courier-Journal gets out a newspaper every day with such a small staff, which insiders tell us totals about 700 people, down from about 1,000 in 2004?

In three major rounds of staff cuts since 2008, the Courier-Journal has shed at least 150 people.

This at an institution that once – pre-Gannett – defined Louisville.