There’s a TV commercial playing now that talks about a guy who buys a bunch of services he never uses. Our newsroom has been a little bit like that guy; we buy a lot more wire services and syndicated content than we could possibly ever use.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because we can sort through it to present a wider range of content and perspectives. But it’s hard on the checkbook to waste things, and these are budget-challenging times for us in the newspaper business.
All of this is a long way of saying we are changing some of our columnists. We are canceling a few, adding some others that we have paid for — but haven’t been using — and making a few other adjustments.
The biggest changes are to our business section. Years ago, we had a columnist every day, but that dwindled, and we didn’t really do much about finding replacements. Then, earlier this year, two of our columnists died. Kenneth Harney’s “Nation’s Housing” appeared on Mondays, and Malcolm Berko’s “Taking Stock” usually ran twice a week, including on Sundays.
We replaced Berko’s Sunday column with Helaine Olen’s “Life & Money with Helaine,” which is also distributed by Berko’s syndicate. Her softer, Dear Abby-style approach hasn’t been a hit with Berko’s red-meat readers. I like the column, but I have gotten several complaints. So we moved her to the Life section on Saturdays, where we think she will be a better fit.