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Whatever you thought about Gerry Braun’s twice-weekly column, you had to recognize the guy had as much talent as he had community knowledge — a couple decades worth of experience covering this town and its politics for the Union-Tribune.

When they moved him to a new position to become the paper’s metro columnist, I thought it was a great move. Few people can tell a story like Braun. This column, for example, about a Starbucks closing in North Park and what that meant for a neighborhood in decline was classic.

But now Braun’s out, apparently. I’d like to find out what happened, but, regardless, his departure is another bread crumb on the U-T’s path to the funeral pyre.

It looks like the list of talent the paper just “bought out” in this latest round of cuts is about complete.

OK, there’s one thing that needs to be said: What kind of an operation goes about a massive contraction, talent cut and restructuring like this without even touching its upper management? I realize they are trying to make the books look good to potential buyers, but they’re sacrificing a service to the community at the same time.

And it is a service. The decline and dissolution of the U-T is nothing to celebrate. We all have our complaints about the paper. But a community depends on a healthy competitive media environment. We were started not to replace or even trump the U-T but to add competition in the coverage of important quality-of-life and political issues in San Diego.

It is no fun to compete with someone who so blithely says goodbye to so many talented people. David Copley is abandoning the community his parents at least claimed to love so much. When businesses fail, they come up with restructuring plans. They replace management and strategize about how to regain their footing.

Copley, on the other hand, is just holding a giant garage sale. If we still have a major newspaper when he’s done, we’ll be lucky.

SCOTT LEWIS

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