Obi-Wan Kenobe summed it up best after the planet Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star: “I feel a great disturbance in the force.”

That’s how I felt Friday upon hearing words of the latest rounds of buyouts to hit the industry. At the Chicago Tribune, the axe began to fall for 80 newsroom employees, including managing editor for news Hanke Gratteau, Washington bureau chief Michael Tackett and public editor Tim McNulty (who, ironically, was the first reporter in the Trib’s Beijing bureau and left on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics). Although these are high profile people leaving the paper, the cuts go much deeper, including a number of veteran reporters, editors and photographers (a list is at the end of this link), like Ed Sherman, Skip Mylinski, Charles Osgood, Maria Mooshil, Barbara Rose. These folks were writers, photographers and editors who also gave the Tribune a sense of personality, something it desperately lacked several years ago.

Then, on top of that, I learn that the Detroit Free Press’s Joe Grimm has also agreed to a buyout there. There are hundreds of young journalists out there that owe their jobs to Joe and the help he has provided over the years. A real believer in recruiting and coaching, his was in essence a pioneer for the development of minority recruiting and talent development.

That’s an awful lot of talent and institutional knowledge lost in one day. And while I can understand the economic needs for such action, I can’t help but wonder if newspapers will be better because of it.

There has been a great disturbance in the force. We can only hope it hasn’t irreparably damaged the institution.

UPDATE: Some pretty sobering numbers from Mark Potts and Erica Smith. Dark days indeed

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