Hatchet Man

Q: What's a nice guy like Alberto Ibargen doing at a place like the Miami Herald? A: Exactly what his money-grubbing bosses want him to do.

Despite the tough talk, which appeals to many reporters, a small exodus of veterans is already under way. Some of the departing journalists have been at the Herald for many years. "They told us there is going to be attrition in the newsroom, but it will be natural attrition -- but it doesn't cheer up anyone to hear that," says Michael Browning, who plans to leave the paper in November after twenty years. Although he is heading to the Palm Beach Post largely for personal reasons, Browning says he is dismayed by the bottom-line demands IbargYen was hired to fulfill. "I deplore the corporate greed," he says. "It's not all about the money."

Two-time Pulitzer winner Sydney Freedberg, who began at the Herald in 1983, is departing for the St. Petersburg Times next month. "I'm very sad about leaving," says the respected investigative reporter. "I am going to a paper that is not focused so much on the bottom line."

Tropic magazine executive editor Tom Shroder, who has been with the Herald for fourteen years, is leaving at the end of December to become editor of the highly regarded Sunday "Style" section at the Washington Post. "I feel sad about leaving," he says, "but I'm excited about my new job, and it'll be a relief to be in a place that's not so much under the gun."

IbargYen has said he understands that people move on. He actually encourages his employees to look at other job options; that way, if they remain in Miami, it will be because they so choose. As he puts it: "I want you to stay exactly as long as you want to give me at least 100 percent."

The loyalty and dedication he expects will surely be tested in the days ahead. But for Alberto IbargYen, meeting tough corporate financial demands while maintaining journalistic quality and newsroom morale is not the conundrum others perceive. "I believe good journalism is good business," he says flatly.

"He's got a tough challenge," observes the departing Freedberg. "He has to re-energize the staff while cutting, cutting, cutting. I wish him the best.

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