The Sun announced yesterday that it will close two of its five foreign bureaus by the end of the year, bringing home its correspondents now reporting from London and Beijing.
Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin announced the move "with profound regret," but said financial constraints due primarily to a weak advertising climate made the move necessary. He said that he and Managing Editor Robert Blau chose to close the bureaus to avoid newsroom layoffs and reductions in news content.
The closures, which are to take effect by the end of the year, mean that The Sun will staff three foreign bureaus - in Jerusalem, Moscow and Johannesburg, South Africa
Space devoted to foreign news coverage, Franklin said, will not diminish despite the reassignment of correspondents Gady Epstein and Todd Richissin from Beijing and London, respectively.
Franklin pointed out that The Sun would have more foreign bureaus than any newspaper its size.
The paper will use more foreign stories from its sister papers in the Tribune Co., such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, Franklin said, and will continue to send reporters overseas when news warrants it.
Three Sun reporters were sent to Rome to cover the death of Pope John Paul II earlier this year, for instance, and a Sun reporter flew from Baltimore to London to augment Richissin's coverage of the July 7 bombings.
Franklin noted that The Sun is also taking other temporary cost-saving measures, such as leaving unfilled 12 job vacancies in the news department.
A 1983 boast
In 1983, an advertisement for the paper boasted, "The Sun Never Sets on the World."
At one point the paper had eight foreign bureaus but it closed three - in Tokyo, Mexico City and Berlin - between 1995 and 1996 when John S. Carroll was editor.
Carroll resigned as editor of the Los Angeles Times in July, a post he had assumed in 2000, in part due to growing frustration with Tribune Co.'s efforts to trim the paper's budget.
Layoffs and buyouts in Los Angeles were accompanied by similar moves at other Tribune properties, including Newsday, which lost 45 newsroom jobs.
The Hartford Courant, another Tribune paper, told its staff yesterday that it would be eliminating 29 jobs by 2006, including 15 positions currently vacant.
Chicago Tribune deputy managing editor George de Lama wrote in an e-mail yesterday that, like all newspapers, the Tribune too was "currently reviewing our posture in light of difficult budget realities."
The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury-News, among others, also have announced staff reductions in recent months.
From the house in the borough of Kensington that serves as The Sun's London bureau, Richissin said yesterday that he was "kind of stunned" by the call he had received earlier from Sun foreign editor Robert Ruby, telling him of the bureau's demise. He had heard rumors that the bureau might close, he said, but assumed it might happen next summer.
The Sun, which sent its first correspondent overseas in 1887 and established its presence in London in 1924, had been unique among medium-sized metro dailies, Richissin said, in that it "splurged for the foreign bureaus."
"It was a mark of prestige," he said. "They considered it important and they had the money to do it."
During World War I, reporter Raymond S. Tompkins traveled abroad with Maryland troops, and joined his colleague J. Fred Essary to cover the signing of the Versailles peace treaty in Pairs.
In 1959, Peter Kumpa covered the "kitchen debate" between Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev in Moscow, although his 14-page story never made it past the Soviet censors.
Richissin, who in his 3 1/2 years in Britain made reporting forays to Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout Europe, said he was forced by budget constraints to cover last month's elections in Germany from London.
'A smaller quirk'
Ruby, the foreign editor, said he believed it would be more difficult to cover stories in Europe and China without reporters in place. The Sun, he said, "always had more bureaus per reader than any paper in the country," and as a result, "always hit above its weight."
"It's been one of the endearing quirks of the paper," Ruby said, "and I guess it's going to be a smaller quirk."firstname.lastname@example.org