Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Publisher closes five newsrooms, locks Capital Gazette employees out of building the day of planned rally

Tribune Publishing, the publisher of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, announced last month that it would permanently close the newsroom and four other papers. The employees will continue to publish print and online editions while working from home, Tom Jackman reports for The Washington Post.

It's a growing trend among chain-owned newspapers, from rural weeklies to metro dailies, seeking to stay afloat at a time when advertising revenue is down because of the pandemic economy, Jackman reports.

The Capital Gazette staffers weren't happy about the move; after a gunman killed five staffers in 2018, the newsroom was remodeled to enhance security with features like bulletproof walls. Reporters and editors said the remodel made them feel safer. Employees planned to clear out their desks and stage a rally on Monday to protest the move and say goodbye to their headquarters. "But Tribune Publishing had other plans," Jackman reports. "It learned of the rally and locked the Capital Gazette staff out of the building, saying that the event 'raises important covid-related health concerns,' according to a text message from a labor relations executive."

Since they couldn't gather at the newspaper, "many staff members, former staffers and supporters from the Baltimore Sun gathered in the building’s parking lot Monday, painted protest messages on their cars and then drove down to the Annapolis harbor, where a group of about 200 people expressed their hope that the Capital and the Gazette would keep covering local news, even without a central home from which to do it," Jackman reports.

Environment reporter Rachael Pacella, who survived the shooting, told Jackman: "I guess the Tribune didn’t learn after 2018 that the community here loves these journalists and we’re not going to give up easily. We’re not going to let our newspaper be damaged anymore, and we’re not going to let it be closed down easily."

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