Chicago Tribune Lays off a Fighter for Diversity

By Joe Grimm

The Chicago Tribune’s layoffs of 15 newsroom employees Thursday made it a little harder for folks to navigate the fickle waters of newspaper hiring.

One of the departing journalists is Sheila Solomon, cross media editor.

Solomon is one of the nation’s longest serving newsroom recruiters and has managed the Trib’s year-round internships and Metpro training program.

She recruited as staff development editor at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., from 1997 until 2002 and then moved on the Tribune, where she scouted talent for 10 more years.

As the recruiter at the Detroit Free Press, I hated having Solomon on the job for the Tribune. She knew far too many people in my newsroom, and she called them far too often. A couple years ago, she found me skulking around inside the Trib Tower and remarked what a delightful surprise it was too find me in her building. She said I really should call and let her know when I was coming to own — and then she didn’t let me out of her sight. That’s how recruiters are.

I left the Free Press in 2008 without telling Sheila this, but I once composed a letter in my head, telling her to shop in someone else’s newsroom. The letter was never written because I imagined it would have become a trophy in the recruiting wars.

Although we battled, we were and are on the same side. We want more diversity in newsrooms because that inevitably leads to better, more well-rounded content.

Solomon’s departure from the Tribune means that we have lost a diversity soldier who devoted thousands of hours to helping journalists advance their careers. A great many people joined the Tribune with Solomon’s help, and many more used her advice to get other jobs. Occasionally, my great enemy even helped me hire people.

Solomon wrote in an email Thursday that the layoff did not come as a surprise and that she was trying to tie up a few loose ends as she deals with an outpouring of support.

Let’s hope that the Tribune, despite challenges that continue reducing its newsroom staff, keeps Solomon’s spirit alive and doesn’t settle for being a newsroom that is both smaller and less diverse.

Joe Grimm, a consultant and adjunct faculty member of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, recruited for the Detroit Free Press, Knight Ridder and Gannett from 1990 until 2008. He now teaches at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He has run the JobsPage journalism careers site at www.jobspage.com since 1996. Questions about careers? E-mail Joe for an answer.

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2 Comments

  1. Sheila got me to where I am today. She has my deepest respect and admiration.

  2. jgrimm
    03.17.12

    The number of people she helped in service to the Tribune and the industry is countless. I am sure I know only a handful of them. I hope the Trib will not let that tradition of grooming talent fall away. I worry, too, about Metpro.

    Let’s hope for the best.

    Joe

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