What happens to a business when you lay off several staff members, pile triple the work onto the remaining workhorses in the office and then treat those employees as if they are simply lucky to still have jobs?
A mass exodus, that’s what.
And, no, the Insider isn’t referring to the recent departures of Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James and Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell from the city government… although, the same scenario probably holds true.
This time, the Insider is talking about the chaotic state that currently exists at The Columbia County News-Times.
Just this week, Morris Publishing Group announced that The Columbia County News-Times publisher Steve Crawford is stepping down from his position effective Feb. 12.
Now, according to Morris Publishing Group, Crawford is leaving to take a position in his “family-owned real estate venture, which operates in the Augusta metro area.”
While that statement is not inaccurate, it is hiding a huge problem behind the scenes at the newspaper.
The fact of the matter is, Morris Publishing is slowly strangling the life out of The Columbia County News-Times by cutting staff, slashing expenses and treating its employees like dogs.
A few weeks ago, Morris laid off several talented staff members, including veteran photographer Jim Blaylock, who had worked for The Augusta Chronicle and The Columbia County News-Times for 15 years, and sports writer Scott Rouch.
The last column that Rouch wrote for The Columbia County News-Times on Jan. 10 was called, “What will the new year bring?”
Unfortunately, little did Rouch know that the New Year would bring a pink slip that he didn’t deserve.
Is there any wonder why Crawford, a well-respected journalist in this community for 20 years, decided to pack his bags and explore other options?
And Crawford wasn’t the only one.
Valerie Rowell, a long-time reporter for The Columbia County News-Times, also decided enough was enough.
But Morris Publishing Group wants folks to believe that these two journalists just happened to leave at the exact same time to totally switch careers.
Come on, Morris folks. No one is that stupid.
It’s a shame because ever since Morris Publishing purchased the News-Times back in 1998, they have caused many long-time journalists to run screaming from the media business.
For almost 15 years, former Columbia County News-Times Publisher Barry Paschal was the heart and soul of that paper.
But about three years ago, Paschal left the News-Times to become the senior director of marketing and communications for Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA.
It was a great move for Paschal, but it was devastating for the newspaper and the community because Paschal was “Mr. Columbia County.”
He knew everything and everyone out there.
But Morris didn’t appreciate all of his efforts and dedication to the job.
The paper took Paschal for granted and just assumed his commitment to the county would keep him planted in the publisher’s seat.
Well, hardworking and well-respected professionals can only take so much before they begin considering their options.
And for folks like Paschal, Crawford, Rowell, Blaylock and Rouch, who have outstanding reputations in this region, new opportunities will always present themselves.
The truth is, you can’t keep a good man (or woman) down.
So, now it will be up to Stephen Wade, the newly appointed general manager of The Augusta Chronicle, to find a replacement for Crawford as publisher.
Good luck with that one.
Crawford is an award-winning investigative reporter and former city editor of The Augusta Chronicle.
He was a wise choice to follow after Paschal because Crawford knew how to dig for stories and did some of his best work on controversial issues facing the county, such as the resignation of former Tax Commissioner Kay Allen and the devastating fire at the Marshall Square retirement community.
Journalists like that aren’t easy to find, especially when the job requires them to basically be a one-person show by juggling the responsibilities of reporter, editor, publisher, photographer, office manager, receptionist and everything else under the sun.
No amount of money is worth that kind of torture.
So, have fun, Mr. Wade, trying to find someone to step into that role.
You might want to invest in some rose-colored glasses and staple them to the candidates’ foreheads because that’s the only way you are going to find yourself a captain for that poor sinking ship.