Well, it didn’t take long for that shoe to drop.
More bad news came from Fountain Street on Tuesday when word broke that longtime Journal reporter and columnist Bob Kerr had been laid off.
Bob is 69 and had been with the paper for more than 43 years, during which his column became one of the paper’s best-read and most significant features. He probably saw this coming, but it’s pathetic nonetheless to think that he was dismissed so quickly and without fanfare.
Bob is a Vietnam vet (support for vets was a regular topic in his columns), a native of Detroit, Michigan, and a voice of integrity and compassion. A friend to both the Providence Phoenix and P&J for decades, Bob is exactly what a great columnist should be: he did his homework, expended lots of shoe leather, and could make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same column.
Your superior correspondents spoke with him Tuesday and he told us, “I loved every minute of it. [The paper] let me write three columns a week and never told me what to do.
“It’s business,” he continued. “[The newspaper business] is not about the writing anymore. Today, I walked out of the building with Bill Reynolds, who is just about my best friend in there, and I thought, ‘I’m never going back in that building again.’ ” He also mentioned something he was proud of: “Because of some columns, little changes happened.”
Bob did a few other things that are not public knowledge. Toward the end of his tenure, after the paper dispensed of its full-time pop music writer, he wrote a number of stories on local popular music and — here’s the part few know — he wasn’t compensated for this work. He simply felt that music was a vital part of our Rhode Island community and that there should be some coverage of it.
A number of other prominent Journal reporters were given the axe as well on Tuesday, including Tatiana Pina, an excellent reporter (and, to our knowledge, the only Journal writer who spoke fluent Spanish), and the great Thomas J. Morgan, who will carry a huge chunk of institutional knowledge with him out the door. His fluid writing style will be greatly missed.
P&J offer best wishes to our friends who have lost their jobs and especially to Bob Kerr — a singular talent who was a huge part of the glory days of the Other Paper.
We are watching a great institution crumble before our eyes, folks.
An empire in ruin
Hail and farewell, Howard Sutton, longtime publisher of the Urinal, who retired gracefully last week. Fountain Street mourns you, but probably not as much as when it lost Hope’s, or the strip club-and-hot sheets hotel up the street from your office.
In all fairness, Sutton’s main contributions to Our Little Towne and the state were his extensive community service involvements — most notably his work with Crossroads Rhode Island. But there were many others he took time to benefit. Phillipe and Jorge say “Salud!” on that front, and offer well-deserved kudos.