by YES! Staff

N&O drivers feel the pinch The Raleigh News & Observer has hired a contractor to handle distribution of its newspaper, a move that will trim 17 full-time and 58 part-time positions, the newspaper announced in a press release las week. Beginning in mid-January, Penske Logistics will begin transporting newspapers to sites in the N&O’s circulation area where carriers pick them up for delivery to homes and businesses, publisher Orage Quarles III said. “We are making this move to serve our customers more effectively, efficiently and economically while focusing on our core business: producing relevant and compelling news and advertising information in our newspaper and on our websites,” said Quarles, who added that the decision came after years of review. Penske is expected to hire some drivers losing their N&O jobs, provided they meet Penske and government standards. The newspaper company will offer severance and health care continuation for those who do not land employment. Some workers have decided to retire, said Quarles. The deal with Penske was the latest in a series of steps this year as the N&O and its parent, the McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, Calif., modify operations to contend with a severe slump in advertising. The N&O has cut jobs through buyouts and layoffs and trimmed sections to save on news print. Penske will take over the transport of newspapers from the presses in downtown Raleigh to distribution and insert centers on Mechanical Boulevard and to the company’s nine distribution centers in Wake, Durham, Johnston and Orange counties as well as drop-off sites outside those four counties. Independent contractors who take the paper directly to readers will not be affected, according to the N&O press release. — KB

War is over (if you want it) What Obama will or won’t do in his first year in office has been a matter of moderate anxiety lately. Conservatives and businesspeople anticipate with dread how and when the president-elect will raise taxes on top earners and possibly usher in the dark ages of American socialism. Progressives, on the other hand, worry that the charismatic former senator from Illinois represents a cosmetic change and a preservation of the status quo. After all, he’s been talking about keeping Robert Gates on as defense secretary, and his economic team seems to be chiefly comprised of Clinton administration pro-deregulation retreads. Liberal activists around the country decided to take matters into their own hands on Nov. 12, distributing 1.2 million copies of a phony New York Times issue dated July 4, 2009. The banner headline “Iraq war ends” sets the tone for a host of items on progressives’ wish list for the Obama administration: “Nation sets its sights on building sane economy,” “Maximum wage law succeeds” and “Ex-secretary apologizes for WMD scare.” Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former Times reporter told the newspaper it should be flattered. “I’m just glad someone thinks The New York Times print edition is worthy of an elaborate hoax,” he said. “A web spoof would have been infinitely easier. But creating a print newspaper and handing it out at subway stations. That takes a lot of effort.” — JG

Rather be suing Wait just a minute here… is it possible that Dan Rather, the former “CBS News” anchor laden with Texas-style gravitas, was set up? Rather, you’ll probably remember, was somewhat ceremoniously fired after airing a report on George Bush’s 1972-’73 Texas Air National Guard service which referenced documents that were (to anyone born after 1965) clearly forged. Conspiracy theorists smelled the scent of Karl Rove, charging that, in a strange kind of jiujitsu, he and the GOP were the source of the docs which, among other tells, seemed to have been created with technology that did not exist at the time and were created with the express purpose of bringing down Dan Rather and the CBS News Department, outspoken critics of the admiinstration. Anyhoo… Rather filed a $70-million lawsuit against CBS in 2007 charging breach of contract and a fraudulent investigation of the matter by the network. It became the fodder for a hundred late-night television and right-wing radio jokes, but now it seems Rather is not as crazy as everybody thought. According to a piece last week in the New York Times, the journalist has spent $2 million of his own money on the case and, using his investigative reporting skills empowered by the force of the court system, has gotten through the discovery process of the trial with two of his original seven charges intact. And so far he’s managed to uncover evidence that suggests the network’s investigatory board carried a right-wing bias. And if the case goes to trial, it is possible that all of his old bosses at the network, including Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone, could have to take the stand. This begs the question: What happens when reporters get subpoena power?

— BC