Larry Tarleton, who may have held the local media record for purges survived, finally got his throat cut in the latest “restructuring” at the Dallas Times Herald. And in typically gracious fashion, the well-respected executive editor and twelve-year Herald loyalist refused to bleed all over the carpet, saying mainly nice things about the men with the long knives.
“We reached an agreement that 1 would leave,” Tarleton says. “They were fair, I guess. The new owners came in, they brought in Roy Bode to run things, and they were also having economic problems. It’s a cost-cutting thing. They need to save the money. Roy and I talked two months ago, and he said then that it was going to be tough to justify my salary. I really wasn’t doing anything after they took me out of the day-today anyway.”
Actually, everybody but Tarleton accepted his departure as a strong likelihood the very day John Buzzetta took over as publisher, and saw it as a certainty when former executive editor and Tarleton benefactor Dave Burgin got the hook.
The reason Tarleton didn’t duck out sooner may be due to some unseemly behavior on John Buzzetta’s part: the day he look over, he reportedly called Tarleton and asked him to stay on because he was needed and wanted, staffers close to Tarleton say.
Says one associate, “He didn’t get out and look elsewhere, because he believed that they were really embracing him and wanted him aboard.” Result: Tarleton had no immediate job prospects in sight. Friends mourn his absence.
Says a middle-level manager, “It’s like having a friend who’s got a terminal disease. You know it’s gonna happen, and you try to get ready for it, but when it happens, it still hurts.”
And many may want to join Tarleton wherever he goes. Says a well-placed staffer: “If Larry Tarleton lands anywhere even vaguely attractive, he’ll be flooded with letters from people wanting to talk.” The Herald masthead for many years has been as permanent as a portable sign, and this summer it changed drastically three times in three months, so keeping up with who’s on first-and who used to be-is a full-time job.
General morale, even for the perennially pessimistic folks in that oft-tormented newsroom, is at an all-time low. Dismissals and rumors of dismissals have been with the Herald always, but a long list of additional woes has left many staffers doubly dissatisfied. Raises were reportedly held to 3 percent, and some staffers who had been convinced that they had some worth received nothing. It seems that all the ingredients are there for a major exodus from the Herald– which may be what Buzzetta and Bode have in mind: a clean sweep, but at their convenience.