November 2, 2018

As of last week, about 30 people were out at Hearst Connecticut newsrooms due to layoffs and buyouts.

“The phone call may have been 30 seconds,” said one staffer who was laid off.

Hearst Connecticut is made up of 20 weeklies, 29 websites and eight daily newsrooms including the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post and The Middletown Press.

“As we continue to invest in and produce the highest-quality content on all platforms, we are making decisions—including difficult ones—to position our businesses for future growth,” a Hearst Newspapers spokesman told Poynter via email. “We are proud to have become the largest local news operation in Connecticut—with more than 200 journalists.”

The company announced a buyout offer Oct. 2. It ran through Oct. 9. Here’s part of the memo Poynter obtained from Paul Barbetta, president and group publisher:

“…Our overarching goal continues to be to provide the most relevant state and local content to our readers in Connecticut. While change can be unsettling, we believe moving our newsroom forward is essential to keeping our organization strong for the years to come….”

On the afternoon of Oct. 26, according to an internal email, Barbetta and Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital, held a call and meeting with remaining staff.

DeRienzo, who recently came to the job from Local Independent Online Publishers, spoke with Poynter last month about why he was returning to newspapers.

Last month, the company bought seven weeklies from Hersam Acorn Newspapers, which previously closed another five weeklies: the Weston Forum, the Redding Pilot, the Easton Courier, the Monroe Courier and the Stratford Star, according to Ridgefield Patch.

Newspaper layoffs continue around the country and in Connecticut. In September, The Day, a daily in New London, laid off nine. Overall newsroom employment dropped 23 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to a July report from Pew Research. In newspapers, that number was 45 percent, “from about 71,000 workers in 2008 to 39,000 in 2017.”

The growth in newsrooms, that report notes, took place online, where employment increased 79 percent, from 7,400 people to 13,000, in the same time frame. LION, the group DeRienzo previously led, now has 225 members in 45 states, and the Institute for Nonprofit News reported last month that the U.S. now has more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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