Reporters and visual journalists at USA Today and Gannett’s local newsrooms will come off furlough July 6, according to a Friday memo sent by Maribel Wadsworth, Gannett’s president of news and the publisher of USA Today.
“Beginning July 6, reporters and photo/video journalists for USA TODAY and our local sites will be exempted from furloughs. We must bring our reporting firepower back to full strength as we juggle the enormity of three major events — the pandemic, the fight for social justice and the looming election.”
Gannett is the biggest newspaper chain in the United States, with 261 newspapers in 46 states. In March, the company announced furloughs and pay cuts. In April, it started a round of layoffs after its merger with GateHouse.
On Thursday, Gannett announced Paul Bascobert, operating CEO, was leaving that job.
Newsrooms around the country, regardless of size or medium, have been hit by layoffs, furloughs and closures due to the coronavirus’ impact on the economy. While some newsrooms delayed furloughs for coverage of recent protests, this is the first time we’ve seen a full exemption to them since the pandemic began.
Here’s the full memo, which Poynter obtained:
I know you have been awaiting updates on our outlook for the remainder of the year as we continue to navigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The challenges of the last few months have been significant and have taken many forms. I am deeply grateful for your commitment to our mission and resilience in the face of such adversity.
We have had opportunities to showcase some of your great work and the stories behind the stories in our divisional all-hands meetings, the company town hall and in regular updates to our board of directors. We will continue to do that and to seek new ways to recognize your incredible contributions to coverage of some of the most important news events in a generation.
We have begun to see some rays of light in our financial performance and hope to build on that momentum. While significant cost reductions remain crucial to stabilizing the business and positioning us to come out of this tough economic climate as strongly as possible, we must also balance the demands of serving our communities with meaningful journalism as they, too, manage these uncertain times.
Beginning July 6, reporters and photo/video journalists for USA TODAY and our local sites will be exempted from furloughs. We must bring our reporting firepower back to full strength as we juggle the enormity of three major events — the pandemic, the fight for social justice and the looming election.
All other News division employees will continue to be furloughed intermittently during the 3rd quarter or have their wages reduced. However, there will be adjustments meant to bring some financial relief to a broader range of our team. These adjustments vary within departments in my organization, and your managers will provide additional details. Additionally, I and other members of my leadership team will continue to take salary reductions during the third quarter.
This is the plan for the News division. Other divisions are making their own plans.
I know furloughs create financial hardships and complicate our ability to get the work done. This is not easy. Across a range of cost reduction options, I continue to believe that temporary savings in the form of furloughs are the right choice for us at this time. But know this: it is my sincere desire to eliminate furloughs and pay reductions for all as soon as possible.
You have my full support and unwavering thanks.