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Daily news blues

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So much for guzzling beers in holiday cheer for all those hardworking reporters, editors and photogs at the Detroit Free Press. After storied tales of parties past, the annual Freep Christmas party was canceled this year in favor of an in-house, bring-a-dish Christmas celebration on Tuesday. “I’m bringing eggnog,” said publisher Heath J Meriwether.

Meriwether said the paper didn’t have to cancel its out-of-office party, but he made the decision after Frank Vega, CEO of Detroit Newspapers Inc., canceled the holiday bash for the 1,600-some employees of the joint operation that runs the Free Press and the Detroit News. “If our partners weren’t going to have an out-of-the-office party, we didn’t think it was appropriate for us to have one,” Meriwether told News Hits. Meanwhile, Detroit News publisher Mark Silverman didn’t respond to inquiries about whether his paper would have a party. Vega, likewise, chose not to comment on his canning of the State Theatre bash for the second straight year, but Meriwether said it was linked to the “tough economic year” that included about 60 layoffs. For its part, the Free Press has been fortunate, Meriwether said. It’s made no layoffs, has a fairly full staff of about 310 editorial employees and is one of few Knight Ridder papers to see circulation increase, he said, to an average of 370,000 daily after a huge jump following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (The paper sold 162,000 extra papers in the 24 hours following the attack.)

“We’re selling more newspapers because of Sept. 11, and that’s been encouraging,” Meriwether said. “At the same time, ad revenues across the industry have been hit hard. So as you’re spending more money to cover this extraordinary story, the story of our lifetime, we’ve experienced downturn in advertising revenue.” But we’re sure some folks at the Free Press, after those years of strike-related turmoil, would still appreciate the morale building of a soiree.

As for the hacks at the Metro Times, we are proud to announce that after a couple years of sobbing into empty stockings with the heartbreak of no company-wide holiday party, we will have a shining event this year replete with food and beverages on the boss. And while we’d love to invite the hungry and the thirsty from the massive daily newsrooms, we decided to toast to your prosperity over our cookies and punch instead.

Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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