[UPDATED] Reuters Supreme Court correspondent Jim Vicini steps down

About a month ago, I posted a letter about Reuters’ Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which targets reporters that the company believes are “laggards.”

“[They] are handed a document that warns they could face termination if they don’t up their game, and given 30 days to turn things around,” a Reuters reporter explained to Romenesko readers on May 31.

Today a Reuters journalist writes: “There’s a new [PIP] casualty today: our ace Supreme Court correspondent Jim Vicini.”

The Romenesko tipster writes:

Jim has built an unmatched reputation for being accurate and fast on complex legal rulings. As we saw with yesterday’s healthcare ruling, it’s easy to blow it on stories like these. Jim had accurate headlines on the wire at 10:07 a.m., while CNN and Fox were reporting that the individual mandate had been struck down.

Jim’s reputation was cemented in December 2000, when he was the first reporter to figure out that the Supreme Court had handed the presidency to George W. Bush.

Rather than deal with the months of humiliation, he opted to leave Reuters.

Jim Vicini

Here is Vicini’s farewell message to colleagues:

After nearly 35 ½ years at Reuters, I have decidedly mixed emotions in letting everyone know that today is my last day.

It has been an honor and privilege to have made so many wonderful friends and to have worked with so many consummate professionals over the years.

I had the opportunity to report on the healthcare and so many other landmark Supreme Court rulings, the Justice Department, the 9/11 investigation, major trials, spies, terrorists, scandals, nine AGs and four FBI directors during the past 28 years.

I would be remiss not to mention that it all began in commodities — as a young reporter in his second job out of college doing a brief stint in New York, then covering the Chicago commodities markets, working on the commodities editing desk and finally reporting countless USDA crop reports after moving to the Washington bureau more than 30 years ago.

Our new bureau chief, Marilyn Thompson, recently remarked about the need for a “happy culture.” I totally agree with her and remember in years past the atmosphere of fun, exhilaration and joy in the Washington bureau while producing hard-hitting, market-moving wire service journalism that beat the pants off the competition.

Over the years, I have jokingly referred to colleagues about “Vicini’s rules.” I want to share a few in no particular order:

* The more paper in a government press packet handed out at a news conference, the less the news.

* The more times you get an email about an event, the less likely there will be news.

* Write fewer internal emails; write more stories.

With Debbie Charles when we worked on the beat together. If there’s a difficult decision with a colleague such as who gets the byline or who works on a weekend, flip a coin.

I am considering a wide range of really exciting ideas as I embark on a new chapter in my life, though I have yet to make a final decision on what I will do next. I will greatly miss so many of you, but we can stay in touch. [Contact info deleted]

UPDATE: The Newspaper Guild of New York says: We hope the departure of Jim Vicini and other talented journalists, including Washington economics correspondent Glenn Somerville a few weeks ago, makes management realize how counterproductive and damaging this [PIP] process is.”

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