Cox D.C. Chief Calls Shutdown ‘Terrible Loss’

Cox Washington Bureau Chief Andy Alexander today called the pending closure of his bureau “a terrible loss,” but praised Cox for treating employees well during the change and said he already has another job lined up.

“I will be actively involved in Washington journalism,” Alexander, 60, told E&P just hours after Cox announced the bureau would shut down April 1, 2009. “I asked them to retire me and I will be doing something else in journalism, just not for Cox.”

Alexander, who joined the bureau in 1976 and has run it since 1997, declined to reveal his next job. He said the bureau shutdown isn’t a surprise, given that Cox has been planning for months to sell 10 of its 17 daily papers. Those include the Austin American-Statesman and nine others in Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina.

The Washington closing will affect eight national reporters under Alexander, as well as one Cox person each in New York and California, along with five foreign bureaus. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News will continue to have reporters in Washington.

“I think we knew it would be pretty deep because they are selling more than half of the papers,” Alexander said about the D.C. cutback. “Cox has been magnificent in the way they have dealt with this, in the way they have treated our people here. They care about the people.”

Alexander would not reveal details of severance pay being given to departing bureau staffers, but called it “as generous as anywhere else, and more so.” But, he adds, “it is still painful. People are losing jobs, and that is not good.”

Several Cox editors, meanwhile, weighed in on the move that will cut their access to D.C. news. John Bartosek, editor of The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, said the reduction is a second hit for him after he lost his lone Washington reporter months ago to a buyout.

“We have not had our own person there for some months and the Washington bureau had continued to help us out, provide specific coverage for things we were interested in,” he said. “Any lessening is not good. But with great technology everyone has now available, we are not out of touch with our congressmen.”

Steve Sidlo, editor and publisher of the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, says his paper can still rely on the Dayton reporter. But he admits Alexander’s departure creates a void. “Andy is a great loss to us and an incredibly talented journalist,” he said. “It is a loss to the business.”

At the Dayton Daily News, Editor Kevin Riley also points out that he will still have a reporter there. But he says fewer Cox D.C. scribes is not good.

“It is a huge loss to our group to lose the folks in Washington who are always counted on to give us something special,” said Riley, who also serves as editor-in-chief of Cox Ohio Publishing. “Andy is just not someone you can replace. Having a voice of experience to call as things came up.”