Friday, May 24, 2019

GateHouse makes 'sizable' layoffs, which union local calls 'senseless and greedy;' shareholders reject CEO's pay plan; firm says it's creating a national and regional reporting team

GateHouse Media, which owns more U.S. newspapers than any other company, is making its second chain-wide layoff this year. But it's unclear just how many, or exactly what the company is doing. "A GateHouse employee who wished to keep their name private said layoffs could number near 200," reports Benjamin Goffin of Business Insider. He wrote that he had "confirmed more than 65 cuts in at least 22 local newsrooms in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, and Massachusetts, with potentially more to come on Friday."

Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute reports: "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 . . . a great majority 'are moving from non-reporting to reporting jobs' and the actual reduction in news staff is 'more like 10.' But numbers far exceeded 10 when journalists impacted took to social media and reached out to Poynter on Thursday." New Media Investment CEO Kirk Davis said in a memo to employees that the layoffs are "sizable," MassLive reports.

In Leesburg, Florida, the Daily Commercial "is now left with just six people to put out a seven-day-a-week paper," Jones reports, in a story that is being updated. In nearby Lakeland, The Ledger lost three editors and two reporters, the local news site reported.

In Illinois, the Galesburg Register-Mail also lost five staffers, three in its sports department, sports reporter Tom Wheaton said in an email to his contacts. UPDATE, May 26: The newspaper ran a story saying "This reorganization is part of a larger strategy to build a sustainable business model for quality, local journalism as the industry as a whole faces mounting competition from major technology platforms like Google and Facebook."

In nearby Peoria, the Journal Star lost three newsroom employees, which the local of the United Media Guild called "senseless and greedy," adding, "As usual, these cuts aren't necessary, as the JS is thoroughly in the black -- and, as our publisher so proudly announced recently, doing better financially of late. Rather, the cuts, as always, aim to line the pocketbooks of the GateHouse front office and its shareholders."

New Media Investment is "trading at all-time lows" and shareholders on Thursday "rejected a proposed compensation plan that includes $1.7 million" for Davis, reports Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal. Less than a month ago, "the company’s longtime chairman, Wesley R. Edens, resigned from that role" and was succeeded by Reed.

UPDATE, May 26: The story in the Galesburg paper says, "GateHouse announced in a message to publishers that the company is making a significant investment in national and regional investigative reporting and digital development. This data-driven reporting team of more than 30 talented journalists will focus on critical areas including healthcare, public safety and higher education. The team will be embedded in a number of local newsrooms."

The layoffs come on the heels of two GateHouse reporting projects, one on the potential of lay midwives to deliver obstetric service in rural areas, the other by its Missouri papers, led by the Columbia Daily Tribune, on the rural-urban divide in that state. The company says it owns 156 daily newspapers and 328 weeklies.

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