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Jeff Krupsaw Offers ‘Human Side’ of Democrat-Gazette Layoffs

3 min read

When Jeff Krupsaw got the call, he had been working at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for 24 years and 355 days.

Then all of a sudden, it was over. His 10-days-short-of-a-quarter-century run as deputy sports editor of the statewide newspaper was finished. “Sure, I wish I could have gone out with punch and cake and a bunch of handshakes, but that’s not how it happened,” Krupsaw told Arkansas Business in an email.

At 60, Krupsaw became one of the latest casualties in the incredible shrinking daily newspaper business, a phenomenon seen all over but reflected starkly in the newsroom at the Democrat-Gazette, which has declined from some 250 employees to about 100.

“It’s an old story,” Democrat-Gazette President Lynn Hamilton said after 86 layoffs across Wehco Media Inc., including 27 at the Little Rock paper. “Because of the continued downturn in advertising, it was a necessity to remain moderately profitable.”

Wehco’s cuts included seven layoffs at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and more at other papers in the chain, but the company didn’t provide a statewide breakdown. Krupsaw, who was one of eight Democrat-Gazette news staffers let go in Little Rock, reached out to offer the “human side of the story.” He’s still “coming to grips with it” in a process very much like the stages of grief.

“I’ve been feted by colleagues as if someone in my family had died,” he wrote. “People have knocked on my door, called, texted, chatted on messenger.

“At first I resisted the notion that something around me had died, but now I realize that I am facing an identity crisis. I’ve been known as the sports guy for one quarter century. Now I’m just another unemployed guy.”

Former colleagues hope his professional detour is brief. He ran the sports department as the right hand of longtime Sports Editor Wally Hall, and his editing touch as a “story doctor” was praised as outstanding. Krupsaw has an impressive resume, but with each year, more downsized journalists compete for fewer jobs.

In 2000, some 55,000 journalists worked at American daily newspapers. Last year, that number had plunged to around 30,000, and the American Society of News Editors announced it would no longer estimate the national number of newsroom employees. Modern structures make estimations “impractical and error-prone,” the group said, noting that “buyouts and restructuring are a norm.”

The Democrat-Gazette made deep cuts during the economic downturn in 2009, and smaller reductions came in January 2016 and again six weeks later. Newsroom veterans like Krupsaw often felt the ax. Two other editors with three decades of service at the paper — designer Doug Grimsley and copy editor Denise Dorton — were let go in the same batch.

Before joining the Democrat-Gazette in November 1992, Krupsaw was assistant sports editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri, and had spent about a year as a turf writer for the Racing Times. His bachelor’s degree is from the University of Missouri, home to one of the nation’s top journalism schools.

Krupsaw wanted everyone to know he’s not bitter. “I had a great run at the paper and it’s over. And now I have to start over.”

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