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Sun to Close Towson Bureau

February 19, 2008
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The Sun is closing its news bureau in Towson to make room for a new publication aimed at “Generation Y,” a spokesman confirmed.

About eight reporters and editors based in the Baltimore County bureau were told today that their office will be closed and their desks moved either downtown or to the Howard County office adjacent to the Mall in Columbia, according to Sun spokeswoman Linda Yurche.

“They’re not in their office most of the time anyway,” Yurche says. “They can go out to Glen Burnie or Reisterstown from here just as quick as they could from Towson. We’re not cutting back on that coverage at all. Their desk[s] will be in a different spot.”

Yurche says the Towson bureau will close “in the next week or so,” but a source told City Paper that next Friday, Feb. 22, is the last day for the final three Baltimore County reporters working from the office. There is also a reporter whose desk was moved to the Towson office when the paper closed its Carroll County bureau last year, plus a features writer, bureau chief, copy editor, and an editor who divides her time between the Baltimore County and Bel Air bureaus.

“People are discouraged,” says a source who asked not to be quoted by name. “We have a lot of readers in Baltimore County, and it’s going to be hard to cover the county from downtown.”

The new publication issuing from the office will be called b and will be a “free daily tabloid created by and for active young adults,” according to a Feb. 19 Sun press release. Yurche says the new paper, to be published beginning April 14, will be “more broad” than the entertainment-oriented Metromix weekly Tribune rolled out in Los Angeles last week. Metromix in Baltimore is an internet-only publication.

“Some content from Metromix will help populate this new publication,” Yurche says. “But this will also have news, sports, opinions stuff—all reader-generated.”

She says the news stories will be written by staff writers, at least at first, but the paper hopes that readers will write that content, too, as the publication catches on. “It’s a world of user-generated content now,” she says. “This will be more of a conversation than a monologue.”

The Sun‘s Newspaper Guild rep, Michael Hill, could not be reached for comment.

Update:

Several people have called to make corrections and suggestions:.

First, I was wrong about the date of the bureau’s closing: it’s next Friday, Feb 29.

Second, Linda Yurche says I misquoted her, though she is unsure of her own exact words. “The way you’ve represented it makes it sound much worse than the way I said it to you,” she says. “I want to make it clear that it is a big deal for the people who are being relocated.” She also points out that “being centrally located in a place will allow [the reporters] to cover a county that wraps around the city,” which is very close to what she told us in our first conversation. Finally, regarding b, she wants it made very clear that Tribune envisions that only the “opinion” pieces will be user-generated, not the news.

Third, Tanika White is the co-representative of Newspaper Guild’s Baltimore bargaining unit, having recently replaced Mike Hill. “The guild is obviously very interested in this latest development,” she says. “We’ like to have a meeting with The Sun leadership to discuss some questions that we have. Frankly we don’t even know the questions yet.” She did sound a bit skeptical about the bureau’s fate, however. “Want to make sure it’s going to be a prudent move for coverage in Baltimore County, where frankly most of our readers are.”

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