Martin Merzer Among Miami Herald Buyouts

It's official: The Miami Herald's senior writer, Martin Merzer, has left the building.

The 60-year-old Merzer, who began working at the Herald in 1979, accepted a buyout from the McClatchy-owned newspaper and was feted at a farewell get-together yesterday, according to sources. Also confirmed to have taken the buyout in the newsroom were editorial writer Susana Barciela and photographer Nuri Vallbona, both well-respected newsroom veterans as well.

Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal offered the buyouts to staff last month in an attempt to trim two percent of the staff from the newspaper, which is facing record budget shortfalls and losses in circulation.

Over his 29 years, Merzer traveled the world for the Herald, covering famines in Africa and wars in the Middle East. Closer to home he's written about Hurricane Andrew, the September 11 attacks, and Elian Gonzalez, among countless topics. He was, in short, one of the newspaper's great resources.

"What we’re really going to miss is his skill," one staffer told me. "He covered eight hurricanes in 13 months and literally ran out of verbs to describe hurricanes. I look at him as almost like an indicator species. Like when a certain kind of butterfly dies and you know the entire ecosystem is in trouble. We're in a crisis situation."

The newspaper's top-heavy management -- which includes four managing editors -- weren't offered any buyouts, said the source.

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