Deadline passes for Chronicle employee buyout

March 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Journalists at San Francisco's struggling newspaper had a tough decision to make Tuesday night. They had to either accept a buyout and leave, or risk staying with no guarantee of job protection. Some well-known journalists chose the buyout.

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For 28 years, Jesse Ticzou has been a bookkeeper at the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. Tuesday was his last day.

It is a reality that hit immediately after Ticzou volunteered to leave his position. Each employee who takes a buyout will get two weeks' pay for every year worked, health benefits, and a pension. Media Workers Guild members had until 5 p.m. to opt for it.

"I'm leaving the Chronicle today to pursue being a bum," said Kevin Albert, a former Chronicle employee.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 130 Media Guild members applied for voluntary termination, but Chronicle management wants 150, which means 20 other people could be terminated at any time.

"It would be nice to get the total number right now and not have to worry about layoffs. However, the package that we negotiated gives anyone who is involuntarily terminated after this point the same benefit," said Linda Frediani, a Media Workers Guild representative.

Many well-known Chronicle journalists, like sports writer Nancy Gay and music critic Joel Selvin, chose not to take the wait and see approach. Instead, they agreed to the buyout.

Selvin was 17 when he started at the Chronicle. His last day was Friday. Regardless, it is not necessarily the end of an era. Selvin is coming back to the Chronicle as a freelance writer.

"I'm in this incredibly lucky position," said Selvin. "I'm like a survivor of a disaster here."

As a freelancer, Selvin will write fewer reviews, which is still something in a time when others have even less.

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