Surprise, surprise

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Bites really isn’t all-knowing all the time. And recently, a few things happened that this columnist just didn’t see coming.

Perhaps the most recent job cuts at The Sacramento Bee should have been more obvious. After all, Bites knew that The McClatchy Co. was looking for further savings, including making it cheaper to get rid of workers by capping severance pay (see “Bee Cheaper”; SN&R Frontlines; December 17, 2009).

But the latest round of 25 buyouts and redundancies—seven positions lost in the newsroom—did come as a surprise after Bites talked to several Bee employees who said they thought layoffs were behind them, at least for the time being.

“We were all surprised,” said Ed Fletcher, Bee reporter and representative of The Sacramento Bee Newspaper Guild.

Perhaps worker bees were surprised because management didn’t mention the cuts at all in the labor negotiations last month. Or they may have been caught off guard because the company just announced that it was lifting a yearlong wage freeze.

And then there’s this: McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt just helped himself to $2.7 million in salary and stock bonuses, and you are out of job. Surprise!

Most of the latest cuts are going to come in the form of “voluntary severance packages,” but if management doesn’t have enough volunteers by the end of the month, they’ll begin to sever less-willing employees.

And no reporters lost their jobs this time around, but that’s no consolation to the editors, photographers and designers who did. “Continued staff reductions only further erode our product,” said Fletcher. “I hope that Sacramento area readers will stay with us despite the company’s ill-thought-out actions.”

And imagine Bites surprise when last week’s issue of SN&R hit the stands, and every damn one of them had a big ol’ Jiffy Lube sticker stuck right next to the masthead.

Nice, eh? Nothing says your publication is alternative and green like peddling oil changes on the front cover.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Why, that’s exactly the kind of classy move that SN&R is always making fun of the Bee for,” then let Bites say this on behalf of the writers and editors here at SN&R:

Yeah, we know.

Bites was also surprised last week when Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster issued a tentative ruling that would kick Mayor Kevin Johnson’s strong-mayor initiative off the ballot. Sure, the thing is probably unconstitutional, but Bites figured the court would wait to see if voters were dumb enough to pass it before taking any drastic steps.

As of this writing, the judge had not made a final decision. So will McMaster stick by his original ruling? If so, will K.J. appeal the injunction, or give up on his divisive initiative and throw his support behind a formal charter commission, as the constitution and common sense require? Since you’re reading these words days after I wrote them, dear reader, you probably already know the answers to all these questions. If not, head over to SN&R’s breaking news and other curveballs blog, Snog, at for updates.