GateHouse reveals mixed messages among public quotes, confidential memos and nationwide layoffs

May 28, 2019

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May 28, 2019

Good morning! Here are some of the media stories that are catching our attention today

GateHouse messages are mixed

GateHouse leaders sent out two memos touting their commitment to the company, current successes and future plans after a series of layoffs.

Uneasy times — and mixed messages — continue at GateHouse Media.

On Thursday, the company laid off dozens of journalists across the country, referring to the action as a “small restructuring.”

The following day, CEO Kirk Davis sent a confidential memo to GateHouse employees, acknowledging “sizable reductions,” but touting the company’s “Accelerating Change” initiative.

In the memo, obtained by Poynter, Davis states that:

  • The consumer marketing team has driven a 53% increase in digital subscriptions (year over year) and is showing net growth in paid subscriptions for first time in 10 years.

  • Improved mobile device experiences have resulted in eight consecutive months of year-over-year audience growth.

  • GateHouse has been invited to join Google and Facebook in various programs.

  • The manufacturing team generated “significant” savings by streamlining production and delivery.

In acknowledging the layoffs, Davis wrote:

“I don’t take these reductions lightly; many committed colleagues, who played important roles in our company, were impacted. A painful reality is that difficult decisions must be made to enable the company to invest in its future. Let me be clear — local journalism and community leadership remain core to our growth plan. I believe that will be clear as I share the exciting developments taking place within our news organization.”

Davis announced other plans for 2019, such as:

  • Expanding the consumer marketing agency.

  • Investing in data science and digital product development to better understand readers and advertisers.

  • Building a native content team.

  • Adding sales engineers.

  • Launching a central call center in Oklahoma City to better reach small businesses throughout the country with its “attractive suite of digital products.”

  • Improving print facilities.

Shortly after Davis’ memo, Mike Reed — CEO of GateHouse’s parent company, New Media Investment Group — sent his own memo, also acquired by Poynter. Reed criticized a Business Insider story about the layoffs as “misleading.” Reed said:

“The notion that our Company or me personally does not care about its employees, its content, or its communities is just dead wrong.

“Nothing is more important to our future than preserving high quality local journalism. The importance of each and every employee and colleague of ours in this company cannot be emphasized enough. The action taken yesterday was not considered lightly, but in fact was a grueling, long term review. And while it was extremely painful, it will give us resources to invest in doing more, not less, quality local journalism and investigative journalism. The cornerstone to our company is our employees and strong local journalism. I cannot understate how important both of those are to me personally, and to our company’s mission. The actions taken yesterday give us a better path.”

Surprise guests

Student journalists who covered the Parkland, Florida, school shooting will be honored at today’s Pulitzer Prize luncheon.


A group of students from the Eagle Eye newspaper at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attended the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Spring Convention at Columbia University.  (Courtesy)

Winners of the Pulitzer Prizes were announced last month, but the actual prizes themselves will be handed out today during a private luncheon at Columbia University. As Roy J. Harris writes for Poynter, it’s typically a low-key affair. Not today. The Pulitzers will feature eight students and three school representatives from Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The students were among the reporters and editors from The Eagle Eye, the school paper that covered last year’s mass shooting that killed 17 students, teachers and coaches.

Melissa Falkowski, the Eagle Eye faculty adviser, told Harris that most of the student journalists have aspirations to become professional journalists and that today’s luncheon is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and an incredible place for networking.”

And the winner is …

Roy Peter Clark’s take on this year’s best Pulitzer leads.


Anas al-Sarrari sits in his wheelchair in his home in Marib, Yemen, in this July 29, 2018 photo. The 26-year-old activist said he was left paralyzed by torture by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. An Associated Press team won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of this issue.(AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark, who knows as much about journalistic writing as anyone on the planet, looks at this year’s Pulitzer Prize stories and names his top leads of the year among the Pulitzer finalists.

Clark writes, “What makes a good lead? I like John McPhee’s metaphor that a lead is a flashlight that you shine into the well of the story. You don’t have to see all the way to the bottom — just far enough along to know what you are getting into.”

Clark cites one of his all-time favorite leads from a 1968 New York Times story written by the late Mark Hawthorne:

“A 17-year-old boy chased his pet squirrel up a tree in Washington Square Park yesterday afternoon, touching off a series of incidents in which 22 persons were arrested and eight persons, including five policemen, were injured.”

Anchors away

Scott Pelley alleges that his complaints about the workplace got him fired from his anchor job.


Scott Pelley. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Did Scott Pelley lose his job as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” because he wouldn’t stop complaining to management about a hostile work environment at the network? One person thinks so: Scott Pelley. That’s what he told Brian Stelter on Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Pelley said, “I went to the president of the news division (then David Rhodes) and explained to him that this hostile work environment couldn’t go on for women and men. He told me if I kept agitating about that internally, then I’d lose my job.”

After midnight on Sunday, CBS News issued a statement that said, “Scott was expressing his own opinion. We disagree. CBS News has been working hard to advocate for an inclusive, safe and dignified workplace for everyone at CBS News and Scott has been a supporter of these efforts.”

Rhodes denied Pelley’s claims to the The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, saying, “That simply never happened. And if he had those conversations about this with anybody, it wasn’t with me.”

Pelley was the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” from June 2011 until he was replaced in May 2017. He remains at the network as a correspondent for “60 Minutes.”

‘I’m sorry that this happened’

The police chief apologies for raiding a journalist, but the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle argues that the chilling effect is already in place.


San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks to reporters in San Francisco in 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott apologized for police raiding the home and office of a journalist in an attempt to find the confidential source of a story the journalist was working on. On May 10, after obtaining a search warrant, police searched the home and office of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, who had obtained a police report about the death of a public defender. He later sold that information to local media.

Evan Sernoffsky of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Scott admitted the searches were probably illegal and would be calling for an independent investigation into the incident.

“I’m sorry that this happened,” Scott told the Chronicle. “I’m sorry to the people of San Francisco. I’m sorry to the mayor. We have to fix it. We know there were some concerns in that investigation and we know we have to fix it.”

San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper tweeted:

“The problem is, you can’t put this egg back together. The police have chilled sources with their actions and also know whatever is in this journalist’s files. The implications are chilling.”

What’s next for SI?

Sports Illustrated has been sold to Authentic Brands.

News broke late Monday that Sports Illustrated has been sold by Meredith Corp. to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million. Variety’s Brian Steinberg reported that, under the terms of the deal, Authentic Brands acquires the rights to market, develop and license Sports Illustrated and its kids’ editions, along with the magazine’s photo archive. Meredith will pay a licensing fee to operate the editorial operations in print and digital for at  least two years.

Meredith acquired Sports Illustrated as part of its purchase of Time Inc. in 2017 for $1.85 billion.

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.


“The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg in April of 2018. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

  • What is the most important political show TV show in America? “Meet the Press?” “Fox and Friends?” “Face The Nation?” Actually, writing for the New York Times Magazine, Amanda FitzSimon says it’s “The View.”
  • Sad news over the weekend as sportswriter Gerry Fraley died at the age of 64 from cancer. I knew Gerry. Good man and a very good sportswriter. His Dallas Morning News colleague Kevin Sherrington remembers him.
  • CNN’s Jack Guy writes that a German newspaper prints cut-out kippah and urges readers to wear it in solidarity with Jews.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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