Last month, Gannett initiated a round of cuts, laying off 200 journalists and placing hundreds more on furloughs over the holidays.
Among those affected were entire teams, early-career journalists, veteran editors — and college students.
The FSView & Florida Flambeau, a student newspaper for Florida State University owned by Gannett, lost at least three paid positions and had its weekly print pages cut from 12 to eight. The changes went into effect this semester, according to two staff members with knowledge of the situation.
The students first learned about the cuts in early December when top editors at the paper attempted to replace a graduating senior who had held a paid position. Shortly after they requested that Gannett add their new editor to the company system, an editor at the Gannett-owned Tallahassee Democrat reached out to the students and informed them of the cuts.
The FSView, which is staffed entirely by students, was purchased by the Democrat in 2006. Until this semester, the paper maintained seven paid positions: editor-in-chief, managing editor, news editor, sports editor, arts and culture editor, opinion editor and social media manager. Wages for the positions differed but they were never paid more than Florida minimum wage — currently $11 an hour — for up to 20 hours a week.
That set of cuts resulted in the elimination of wages for the sports editor, arts and culture editor, opinion editor and social media manager. The students holding those positions also lost access to their Gannett email addresses.
The FSView also maintains a slate of deputy editors and staff writers, who are paid a small stipend for every story that makes it into print. Because the paper now has fewer pages, there are fewer opportunities for student journalists to get paid.
Though the salaries were never very large, they allowed editors to focus on the paper instead of working other jobs, said a former editor. The editor said they were worried that staff would have less time to contribute to the paper, which is the main source of independent news on campus.
Unlike the Democrat, the FSView does not maintain a paywall. That makes it a valuable source of local news, said a current staff member, who worried that the cuts would make it more difficult for readers to stay informed.
Gannett spokesperson Carlene Cox wrote in an emailed statement that the Democrat and USA Today Network have long been supporters of student journalism. Many of the students who have contributed to the FSView have gone on to work for the Democrat and other newspapers. The cuts are a result of Gannett’s efforts to adapt to the “economic environment,” she wrote.
“Gannett, like the many in the media and publishing industry, is facing exponentially rising costs and adapting to the economic environment,” Cox wrote. “While these decisions are difficult, we are strategically aligning our resources to best serve our readers and advertisers to ensure the future of journalism.”
This is not the first time the FSView has faced cuts. Earlier in the pandemic, Gannett cut the newspaper’s weekly pages from 16 to 12, according to a former editor, and there have been fears that the company will shut down the paper entirely.
In 2007, Gannett bought the Central Florida Future, which served as the student newspaper for the University of Central Florida. The Future won several awards for its coverage before Gannett shuttered it in 2016.