Over 100 business leaders gathered at Pack's Tavern Oct. 8 to honor several longtime staffers who were recently laid-off by the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Former Citizen-Times columnist Susan Reinhardt, copy editor Rob Mikulak, photographer John Fletcher and web developer Jaime McKee all attended the event, which was hosted by the Vibrant Asheville Business group. Reporter Jason Sandford and editor Thomas Frazier were also laid-off from the newsroom Aug. 22, although they didn't attend. The local cuts came as part of Gannett Company's move to shed workers across the country.
The idea behind the local event was to honor the journalists and the contributions they made to the community as well as to provide support as they seek out other job opportunities.
"We're just really pleased to be able to reach out to these folks, to show them that in Asheville, they're not alone. They've given so much to us; we want to give back to them," said event organizer Hank Eder. "It's a good opportunity for them to get to know the community of businesspeople. It's possible that they'll make some valuable connections."
Eder currently owns a local marketing company, and he previously worked as a reporter at several papers in Florida. "A lot of people call newspapers a dying tradition. … but some of us still love a good daily newspaper," he added.
Eder and Vibrant Asheville founder Alan Rosenthal presented each of the former Citizen-Times employees with certificates of appreciation. In a short ceremony, they also introduced them to attendees and touted their accomplishments and skills. Several of the businesspeople bought the guests of honor drinks and exchanged business cards.
Fletcher, who worked at the local publication since 1997, said he was touched by the outpouring of support.
"It's amazing. Everyone here has been so kind and supportive," he said. "It helps us get our feet on the ground. Exposure like this is priceless."
Fletcher said he's in the process of starting his own photography business, and is currently seeking freelance work.
"The transition has been stressful, but it's going well. I'm adapting to the freelance market better than I ever thought I could," he said. "When you work for a newspaper, you feel very connected to the community. We're out in the community every day. … As an introverted personality, I hope to be able to maintain that connection."
Rosenthal said he was thrilled with the turnout.
"I have a special place in my heart for truth seekers," he noted. "It just seemed like a nice thing to do."
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