Thursday, November 01, 2018

GateHouse Media decimates Peoria Journal Star staff; local independent publication calls it 'a ghost newspaper'

GateHouse Media has decimated the staff at the The Journal Star in Peoria, Ill., within the past few months, all but killing its ability to be a community watchdog and turning it into a "ghost newspaper," independent Peoria publication Community Word reports. A ghost paper is one which has had its coverage and circulation area slashed, leaving it a shell of its former self, says Penny Abernathy, Knight chair in journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina.

Twenty years ago the Journal Star had about 35 news reporters. In September it had 25, then GateHouse laid off another five, leaving the paper with no editors for the sports, city, or opinion sections," Tanya Koonce reports for Peoria Public Radio. "Today there are about six [reporters], and virtually all of them are on edge waiting for the next announced layoffs. The reporter with the least seniority, next on the layoff list, has more than 20 years in the newsroom and a cache of journalism awards," a newsroom source told Community Word.

"If Peoria ever wants to be more than it is today, improvement will require a local media presence. TV long ago abrogated its watchdog role, and they (corporate management) are stealing the community’s only remaining watchdog, and the paper is becoming a 'shopper' with obits and ads," the source told Community Word. "It’s not the internet that’s killing us. It’s incompetence and greed."

UPDATE: Poynter's media business analyst Rick Edmonds offers a summary of GateHouse's activities in the news industry this year, observing that GateHouse now owns 145 of the nation's dailies -- more than 10 percent of the estimated total of 1,350 to 1,400 papers. But because many of GateHouse's markets are small, their papers constitute less than 10 percent of total U.S. newspaper circulation.

GateHouse has now spent more than $1 billion in five years on acquisitions, including $156 million this year

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