GateHouse Media lays off journalists across the country

May 23, 2019

Another major blow for newspapers. GateHouse Media, one of the largest publishers in the United States with 156 daily newspapers and 328 weeklies, slashed jobs across the country Thursday. The official number is unknown, but it appears to be at least several dozen.

Mike Reed, CEO of GateHouse’s parent company, New Media Investment Group, told Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds, “We are doing a small restructuring — at least that’s what I would call it — that I’m sure will be misreported. We have 11,000 employees. This involves a couple of hundred.”

Reed said that of the 200 or so, a great majority “are moving from non-reporting to reporting jobs.” In other words, editors and photographers could be asked to switch assignments, although it’s unclear how many will accept their new roles.

Reed said, ultimately, the actual number of news staff being downsized is “more like 10.” But numbers far exceeded 10 when journalists impacted took to social media and reached out to Poynter on Thursday.

The Columbus Dispatch cut six positions, including feature columnist Joe Blundo, who volunteered to cut back to one column a week.

Lakeland (Florida) Ledger reporter Gary White tweeted:

“Another brutal, dismal, demoralizing day for @theledger newsroom and other GateHouse newspapers.”

Five positions were eliminated from The Ledger, including both assistant managing editors, meaning only the executive editor is left to oversee the newsroom. The Ledger, which used to have a newsroom of 100 at its peak around 2002, now has only 16 journalists.

Nikki Ross of the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Florida tweeted that six staffers there were let go, adding, “My heart is broken for all of them. This is a sad day for @GateHouse newspapers everywhere.” The cuts included editors for sports, features, politics and letters.

On and on it went.

Six were laid off from the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette and, in a tweet, Worcester Magazine’s Bill Shaner said the magazine’s editor, Walter Bird, and arts editor, Josh Lyford, were laid off, leaving Shaner as the only full-timer left.

At the Daily Commercial in Leesburg (Florida), two were let go, including executive editor Tom McNiff. The paper is now left with just six people to put out a seven-day-a-week paper. Three were let go at The St. Augustine (Florida) Record, including its executive editor. Other Florida papers impacted included the Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner.

The Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Times laid off an employee who had been at the paper for 35 years. That newsroom had 60 staffers in the early 2000s, but is now down to 12 to put out a three-section paper six days a week.

Ian Donnis, from The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, tweeted that two longtime employees of the Providence Journal — photographer Steve Szydlowski and copy editor Esther Gross — were among the cuts.

There were also cuts at the Canton (Illinois) Daily Ledger and Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News, including Ben Jones, who covered the University of Alabama football program. Other jobs were eliminated at the Hagerstown (Maryland) Herald-Mail and several papers in in Illinois, including the Peoria Journal Star and Rockford Register Star.

The Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina cut three people. A newsroom that once had 72 in the late 1990s is now down to 18. The Patriot Group in Massachusetts is believed to have had six cuts: four at the Fall River Herald News and two at the Standard-Times in New Bedford. The Hillsdale (Michigan) Daily News laid off its editor.

Reed told the Business Insider that reports of 200 being laid off were a “lie” and called the number “immaterial” without specifying an exact figure. Reed also seemed to brush off that the number was “a lot.” He told Business Insider, “We have 11,000 employees, a lot to me is 2,000.”

Reed also told Poynter, “We are expanding our investigative staff — adding 30 to our team.” He did not give a timetable for those hires.

This is the second round of layoffs for GateHouse in 2019. Around 60 were laid off in January and February amid first-quarter losses. According the Worcester Business Journal, New Media Investment Group reported a $9.3 million loss in the first quarter of 2019 while revenues of $387.6 million increased 13.7% from last year’s first quarter. The company ended 2018 with a $18.2 million profit on revenues of $1.53 billion.

Update: The Boston Business Journal reported Thursday morning that in a rare move, stockholders of GateHouse’s parent company, New Media Investment Group, “rejected a proposed compensation plan that includes $1.7 million for GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis.”

Poynter’s Edmonds just wrote about the issue of media company CEO pay.