Compromises, Compromises

Bitterness Pervades Former 'NLJ' Staffers

To be sure, many feel the NLJ was declining even pre-Wasserstein. But morale plummeted in June 2001, when the debt-ridden ALM laid off about 30 people company-wide. American Lawyer was said to be untouched, but the NLJ lost five employees, including editor in chief Patrick Oster, op-ed editor Josephine Novak, and photo editor Dave Horner. One source explains that Calve didn't like Oster and Novak's vision, and didn't see the need for a photo editor. Calve says that the NLJ layoffs "were not financially motivated. These were motivated by changes in editorial direction."

NLJ editorial director Robert Ambrogi, whom Calve brought in as his right-hand man, suggests the sources doth complain too much. "There's no interchange between business and edit at all with respect to the editorial content," he said, adding, "I would challenge anybody to point to a single instance in which our editorial judgment has been compromised."

Ambrogi added that he is more keen on running stories that appeal to lawyers than to the general public, and that he doesn't go out of his way to seek publicity. Maybe the purists are just nostalgic for the golden days, when the paper sang to journalists instead of the bottom line.

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