Newspaper Editor's Wife Laid Off [UPDATED, CORRECTION]

Peter BhatiaLast week the editor and publisher of The Oregonian announced brutal cuts: Almost 100 of the Portland daily newspaper's 650 employees would be laid off. The newsroom, in particular, was decimated; nearly 1 in 4 editorial staffers would be jobless by Sept. 27.

But that may not have been the most surprising part. It was that Oregonian Editor Peter Bhatia's wife Liz Dahl, was laid off, too. "That's got to make for some awkward dinner conversations," The New York Observer noted.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION, June 29: Bhatia sent an email late Friday to AOL, stressing that he didn't make the decision to lay off his wife, as this story originally reported, citing The New York Observer. Bhatia wrote:

"I did not lay off my wife. I run the news staff and handled those layoffs. My wife works at the paper but is on the editorial staff and does not work for me."

In any case, many were stunned by the ruthlessness of the layoffs. Bhatia laid off a husband and wife, editors Randy Cox and Joany Carlin, even though Cox is fighting kidney cancer, reports The Willamette Week. "Our newsroom is a family of outstanding journalists and people," Bhatia reportedly said. "I agonized over every decision."

According to The Willamette Week, Bhatia told staff that he alone decided who would stay on the news staff and who would go, and that "employees had been judged using a metric that graded each person on whether they fit into the paper's new digital strategy.

For decades, Advance Publications, the owner of The Oregonian, was famous for its no-layoff pledge. But in recent years, it has moved aggressively to a "digital first" strategy with its newspapers -- slashing staff, reducing newspaper delivery and shifting focus to the Web. The approach has not always been successful, either, as Advance was sharply criticized for how it handled layoffs at the well-regarded Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans.

One decision, though, was already reversed; the new online Portland paper will not be called "MyDigitalO," a name that "quickly generated laughter about the unintended sexual connotation," said The Willamette Week.
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