Go to work for Tribune and forget about your future

But neither ad rep recalls signing the document. "I don't remember that," says Valez-Stokes, a divorced father who has epilepsy and raised his daughter, Jazmine, alone. "The first time I saw it was when [Tribune] sent it to me after I stopped working there."

The lawsuit, which includes the alleged noncompete agreements, was filed after several warning letters had been sent by Tribune to New Times. It not only orders this newspaper to terminate Bobb and Valez-Stokes but demands that we refuse ads from the pair's former clients at Tribune.

Really, aren't advertisers smart enough to make up their own minds? It's clear from the circulation scandal and the lawsuit that the company doesn't much respect the people who pay its freight.

The Tribune Company is demanding that Miami New Times terminate classified advertising rep Gail Bobb
The Tribune Company is demanding that Miami New Times terminate classified advertising rep Gail Bobb

Moreover, such noncompete agreements are rare in the media industry and virtually unheard of in lower-level jobs like those held by Bobb and Valez-Stokes. New Times requires no such documents. And neither the Miami Herald -- where I worked before heading to the Sentinel, by the way -- nor the Palm Beach Post employs them. Like Bobb and Valez-Stokes, I don't remember signing a noncompete agreement.

"No, we do not have noncompete agreements," Robert Beatty, general counsel and vice president of public affairs for the Herald, says tersely.

The Post generally doesn't employ them either, informs Tom Giuffrida, the newspaper's publisher. Giuffrida, who has the pluck to answer his phone unlike Sentinel publisher Robert Gremillion, says his paper has twice signed noncompete contracts -- but only with senior executives as part of severance packages. But lower-level types? "We have never done anything like that," he says. "It doesn't seem right. This prohibits them from changing jobs unless they move to another city."

Neither Bobb nor Valez-Stokes has plans to move from South Florida. Bobb's daughter Theresa, who lives with her, is six months pregnant. Valez-Stokes is paying Jazmine's tuition at Florida Atlantic University.

Both say they departed their jobs at Forum/Tribune because the newspapers weren't delivering on what they promised advertisers. "Too many of our advertisers were dissatisfied," Bobb says.

Does that sound a little like Newsday?

Editor's note: Chuck Strouse is the editor of New Times Broward-Palm Beach. From May 1998 to August 2000 he was managing editor of Miami New Times.

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