Outcry Over Reassignment of Tronc Suburban Newspaper Reporter Grows

For decades, Bob Seidenberg has been the engine of Illinois weekly the Evanston Review.

It happened in Evanston, Ill., the backyard of one of the country’s most eminent media watchers. And Jim Romenesko, now semi-retired, is not impressed. In the comments to Robert Feder’s item this week about the decision to move longtime Evanston Review reporter Bob Seidenberg (pictured) away from that Pioneer Press weekly publication, Romenesko wrote: ‘Nobody knows, or covers, Evanston like Bob. Shame on the Tribune for moving him.’

A spokesperson for Tronc has disputed allegations made by the Chicago News Guild that the transfer of Seidenberg to the purview of sister publication the Franklin Park Herald-Journal and other western suburbs is retaliation for the reporter’s decision to withhold his byline from a recent article, as permitted by his union contract. The transfer decision was communicated to Seidenberg shortly after he met with Pioneer Press boss John Puterbaugh and, subsequently, a local editor:

“The agreement specifically identifies rules for transferring an employee and we adhere to these rules,” said Tronc spokesperson Dana Meyer. “This was not retaliation. We simply had a need for a veteran Pioneer reporter on a strong digital beat that had gone vacant. Evanston is a vital town for us and will continue to be very well covered.’”

However, below Evanston resident Romenesko’s comment to the Feder item, an additional bit of information was relayed Thursday. It’s attributed to Mike Isaacs, a reporter at sister Pioneer Press publication the Skokie Review:

As someone who has been very close to this situation, there is more light to shed on the [Chicago] Tribune’s explanation for transferring Bob. Days before the transfer, Bob was handed off to a new editor. He was provided a list of new “rules” going forward as the Evanston Review reporter. (The list included moving the Review’s deadline up by an unprecedented four full days from what it had been for reasons having nothing to do with production schedule).

Bob pulled his byline — a contractual right — because he felt a rewritten lede by an editor who was brand new to Evanston was inaccurate. Then he got a management call…

So let’s re-examine:.. only days after the company turned Bob over to a new editor and gave him a list of internal rules going forward as reporter of the Evanston Review, he was told he will be transferred. I guess everyone can make up their own minds about the company’s assertion that there was no retaliation.

A change.org petition has been launched to try and reverse the transfer decision, which is due to take effect Monday. Tronc acquired the Pioneer Press group of local newspapers last year.

The Chicago News Guild frames the Seidenberg move within a much larger, concerning atmosphere across Pioneer Press. It has also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and as a result, a federal investigation of the Seidenberg transfer is underway.

Update (Dec. 17):
Read our follow-up post.

Photo via: Twitter

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Tronc Newspaper Crunched by Tronc Flier

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.