Another brutal day for journalism.
Gannett began slashing jobs all across the country Wednesday in a cost-cutting move that was anticipated even before the recent news that a hedge-fund company was planning to buy the chain.
The cuts were not minor.
At the Indianapolis Star, three journalists were laid off, including well-known columnist Tim Swarens. At the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel, University of Tennessee women’s basketball reporter Dan Fleser is out after more than 30 years in sports. The Tennessean cut three positions, including high school sports reporter Michael Murphy.
Six were laid off at The Record in North Jersey after nine took an early retirement buyout earlier this month.
On and on it continued.
Four were let go at the Westchester (New York) Journal News. Four were let go at the Ventura County (California) Star. Three were let go at The Citizen Times in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Arizona Republic laid off two, including cartoonist Steve Benson, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for cartooning and a finalist for the award four other times.
News leaked out on Twitter and across newsrooms on Wednesday afternoon. Gannett did not respond to a request for comment.
So, do Wednesday’s cuts have anything to do with the a possible sale of Gannett to Digital First Media? Probably not.
“I don’t know how many newsroom jobs Gannett is cutting, but the move it is hardly surprising with a bad fourth quarter financially to be reported soon and more of the same expected for the first part of 2019,’’ said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for Poynter. “These cost reductions are typically planned at the end of the year, then carried out in January. So I doubt the layoffs and buyouts have anything to do with the Digital First takeover bid.’’
However, Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, laid the blame partly on Digital First Media.
In a statement to Poynter, Lunzer wrote, “Gannett is choosing the low road here — a direct result of the hostile efforts at a takeover by Digital First Media. DFM is once again causing grievous harm to an industry it pretends to be a steward of. Both companies have lost sight of the critical product they are meant to provide — journalism. Newsrooms that could be preserved are being decimated for Wall Street when there are productive paths forward. Let’s find a way to sell these properties to the communities they serve before it’s too late.”