Gannett Reporters Cover Their Own Layoffs: Blogging and Crowdsourcing

Yesterday Gannett laid off hundreds of employees around the country. Today, former Gannett reporter and editor Jim Hopkins, who now publishes the Gannett Blog, is once again tracking the paper-specific job losses via crowdsourcing: Roll call III: Say goodbye to more of your friends.

Hopkins has requested Gannett employees to provide information (via comments to his post) about the number of jobs being cut at specific Gannett papers. He has listed the total number of pre-layoff employees for each paper, which will make it possible to gauge the percent reduction in head count per paper.

As of 1:25 a.m. ET today Hopkins updated: “We’ve now accounted for 17 papers. Total layoffs and other job cuts: 655 (including publishers’ early estimates).”

Almost all of the blog comments supplying information or other commentary are anonymous — understandably, to prevent possible employer reprisals and other career damage. Most of the commenters are supplying commentary, not information. Some comments dispute Hopkins’ pre-layoff staff totals as well as each others’ reported layoff numbers.

In my opinion, so much anonymous sourcing could undermine the appearance of credibility of these reported numbers. Still, this project still provides a powerful window on a difficult situation. (Hopkins’ blog offered similar crowdsourcing during Gannett layoffs in August and September.)

…Meanwhile, environment reporter Bruce Ritchie blogged yesterday about his experience of getting laid off by the Tallahassee Democrat. His eloquent account indicates his dedication to covering this important local beat. For instance, after the layoff Ritchie still attended the same state hearing on recycling he’d been planning to cover for the Democrat.

Ritchie wrote: “About 100 people attended… It seemed like news to me, but I was the only reporter there to cover it. And I wasn’t even a newspaper reporter any more. Perhaps the other media were at the [Florida] Environmental Regulation Commission meeting across town, where an important vote was scheduled on whether to adopt California’s auto emissions. Or maybe they were not there either…

“In this age of change, I feel certain there is a place for me to report on the important issues in Florida’s Capital. Maybe I’ll become a blogger, combined with some freelancing, combined with being on welfare. The reality hasn’t really set in yet.

“All I know is that today ended a lot differently than it started — at least for me. And I think I’m OK with that.”

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