You’ll find less news in our local paper

The Citizen-Times cut loose some of its best, most experienced people today. Six people from the newsroom, all of whom had been with the paper for years.

Jaime McKee and her son, Lucas.

Jaime McKee and her son, Lucas.

The first to go was Jaime McKee, who started at the paper in 1998, while she was still in college.

I think she grew up in that newsroom as she grew into someone who knows more about the web than anyone I know. I don’t know how they plan to maintain a quality web site without her.

I’m sure she’ll do well, either with another full-time job or as a freelance web builder. I know I’d hire her. Her husband is a teacher and we all know how hard it is to live on a teacher’s salary in North Carolina.

If you want to know more about Jaime, visit her blog at


RobThe next to go was Rob Mikulak, a copy editor with 40 years experience in the business. He was two years away from retirement and an excellent editor. No one knew more about newsroom operations and no one had a keener eye for mistakes in copy.

Rob also happens to be my husband. We haven’t put that out in public a whole lot because we didn’t want the Tea Party to go after him the way they did me. He always said, “Someone in this house has to have a real job.”

It’s not that he thinks running a small nonprofit isn’t a real job; it just doesn’t pay a real salary yet.

Anyway, he’s been counting the days until he can retire, and the countdown just accelerated to zero. He seems relieved, but the paper will be less reliable without him.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford

Then there’s Jason Sandford, the popular Ashevegas blogger. Jason brags that he has been hired at the paper more times than anyone else — four. He is a native of Asheville, and he knows everyone.

Former publisher Randy Hammer considered him an asset partly because of all the people he knew and who would talk to him. That’s a pretty powerful thing in the communications business.

Jason is so even-tempered — a rarity in this business. He loved coming to work every day and he often made the days a little more bearable for those of us who were less even-tempered.

Jason will continue to work on Ashevegas. Look for him to do good things with it.

Susan Reinhardt.

Susan Reinhardt.

Susan Reinhardt has a huge following because of her quirky sense of humor — part Southern belle, part neurotic mother of teenagers.

We all identify with her takes of family and friends. We see ourselves in her or her Aunt Betty.

Susan also has a huge heart for people who are less fortunate, and her telling of their stories touched a lot of hearts.

She’s never been a “hard-news” writer, but her gift for story-telling earned her a huge following. She will be OK as she continues to tell her stories in books.

Thomas Fraser

Thomas Fraser

Thomas Fraser came to the paper six years ago from another Gannett newspaper in New Jersey. We had a number of mutual friends, since I worked at papers in Central New Jersey.

Thomas worked the worst shifts, 3 to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and he rarely complained.



fletchpixI couldn’t find a photo of photographer John Fletcher, one of the most talented people I know, so I included one of the photos he took.

Fletch takes breathtakingly beautiful photos of our mountains and he captures the best of the people he shoots.

I was surprised to hear he was one of the ones let go today.

Actually, I was surprised to hear about all the decisions. These are six really talented people who have always performed well. They have been loyal, hard-working, good employees.

Without these people, there will be fewer stories on the Citizen-Times web site, fewer stories in the paper, more mistakes, less truth.

Perhaps that’s what Gannett wants. This huge corporation cares nothing for talent, for loyalty, for the value of people who work for them, or for informing people of the truth.

Newspapers used to be a better way to get information than television; they could go into depth and analyze the issues. That’s not true anymore. There are so few people in newsrooms anymore that no one has time to investigate anything, and that’s how big business wants it.

Newspapers are killing themselves. The Citizen-Times is profitable — for now; Gannett is profitable. But they continue to make decisions that leave people less informed, when information is supposed to be what they sell.

All six of these people who were canned today will lose their insurance unless they can afford COBRA. Fortunately for all of us, the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January, so my husband, who has had bypass surgery, and I, with my asthma, will be able to get health insurance.

Shame on Gannett.



  1. caroline warren says:

    I am shocked and saddened to hear that the Citizen Times has sacked these wonderful people. Shame on them! And thank you for speaking out. Forget the Tea Pary, you are brave and your words are needed.

  2. karl shellenberger says:

    Leslie, out of adversity, especially today, comes brilliance. You and your husband will never be without a market. Maybe now, he and you will be able to do the things you would have done in your youth, had you had the time. I am hopeful. You and I are political opposites in many ways, however, you are passionate and willing to work for your beliefs. And you care. And you are honest. And I respect that.

  3. This is such bad news for our community. Seems like a good way to completely cripple the paper. Good thoughts going out tonight to all the people laid off.

  4. R. Paul Seago says:

    How’s that “hope and change” working out for you?

  5. Saralyn Collins says:

    There are plenty of people like me who prefer to hold the paper in their hands each day as we read. But…when the paper I read treats some of the most valuable staffers like this, feeling that paper in my hands loses much of the quality. It feels rough and hurtful. The ink stains my hands and I find little reason to continue to hold it! Good-by and thanks for the memories. I’m outta here!

  6. Phil Byrd says:

    As someone who use to work as a photo correspondent for the News and Observer I can feel for the people in this article. Having been laid off twice, first as a corporate photographer for a fortune 500 company then later as a public school teacher in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System, I know personally what it feels like losing a job in both the public and private sectors. In both cases after getting over the initial shock, I didn’t take it personally. It was business. At the same time of my departure a lot of other exceptional and dedicated employees also found themselves unemployed. Today I am retired and as I look back I realize these times of unemployment were a difficult point in my life, but at the same time I realize they provided an opportunity for me to grow both professionally and personally. I hope and pray for the same opportunities for the people listed in this article.

  7. R. A. Bradshaw says:

    I can’t believe AC-T was actually senseless enough to let Susan Reinhardt and John Fletcher go!! I followed Susan’s columns, and enjoyed the things she had to say.

    To me, John Fletcher was the last of the good photographers AC-T had left, since Ewart M. Ball III retired.

    I suppose AC-T will rely on the video captures, like the Tyler Morning News, for the on line news. Sad….

  8. Sad development. Unfortunately, corporations are bottom-line entities. Hoping for the best for all of you who have fallen victim to these cuts.

  9. Alan says:

    So sorry to hear this but not surprised. Gannett and their greed in making such decisions will ultimately bite them in the…

  10. I plan to cancel my subscription to the weekend Citizen-Times. Jean Marie

  11. Peggy Kehoe says:

    Bad news! Although I only visit WNC to visit family, I read The Citizen-Times when there and agree that John Fletcher is one of the most talented photojournalists. As a former small town newsperson, I’ve seen the copy mistakes increase and customer service decrease as corporations seem to be less interested in quality. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how page designer and copy editor became the same position. Most people don’t have both skill sets. Good luck to all!

  12. IM800MHZ says:

    And this is what corporate American media is all about: the print business is the last to get the same cookie-cutter HFCS infused, reduced for profit in any way shape or form. This happened to broadcast radio (and OTA TV) over the last 15 years. De-regulation and conglomeration has all but suffocated that industry into history. Who listens to the radio anymore? Why not? It isn’t because of Ipods and MP3, it is purely for lack of LOCAL, RELEVANT content. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what these corporatists are trying to do, some kind of suicide mission? Or is it just more greed gone wild trying to squeeze every last dime of profit rather than investing in new frontiers like digital. Is it just me or is corporate America as caustic as cancer, consuming until nothing remains.

  13. Melissa says:

    Beautifully written, Leslie.

  14. Gary Carden says:

    Weil, I am astonished that they let John Fletcher go. He is the only one of the six that I met when he came to my home and made the best shot of this old storyteller that I have had made. I’ll continue to use it to promote myself. John always responded to an inquiry…something that the other “regulars” rarely do.

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