Gannett has announced a 2 percent cut in its workforce across the U.S., including at its headquarters. In addition to the Burlington Free Press in Vermont, the cuts hit hard at two newspapers in the Hudson Valley — The Poughkeepsie Journal and The Journal News.
Cuts to local newsrooms have become commonplace across the country, but they can still be jarring for employees and readers alike. This week, the latest round of layoffs at Gannett hit the Hudson Valley, sending shockwaves through media and political circles. According to President of Poughkeepsie Journal Media Jim Fogler, seven full-time employees were laid off Tuesday, including Executive Editor Stuart Shinske. Shinske, occasionally heard as a WAMC panelist, joined the Poughkeepsie Journal in 1989 as deputy city editor, became news editor in 1994, and in 1996, managing editor. Fogler declined to comment, but directed WAMC to an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal outlining the cuts.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro released a statement saying, in part, “Over a span of more than two decades, Stu Shinske was a champion of free speech at the Poughkeepsie Journal, guiding the newspaper to unparalleled success.” Rick Edmonds is a media business analyst with The Poynter Institute, a journalism education and strategy center based in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“They have been doing that in this round with both some editors and some publishers. They would say consolidating those jobs under a single person who might be the business head or the editing head of two or three different papers,” says Edmonds. “But it’s a big loss. And particularly in smaller communities, either or both of those people can be very important figures in town.”
The Journal News, based in Westchester County, eliminated five newsroom positions. The paper’s website, lohud.com, reports that columnist Phil Reisman and Rangers and Yankees beat writers Rick Carpiniello and Chad Jennings were among those cut. Reisman and Carpiniello each had been with the company nearly 40 years. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino tweeted that he we was sorry to see them cut by Gannett, adding it’s a sad day for journalism and the First Amendment.
Local publication Westfair Online writes that investigative reporter Adrienne Sanders and staff writer Jenny Higgons also were let go and that Executive Editor Traci Bauer will become a regional editor for Gannett, overseeing the Poughkeepsie Journal as well as The Journal News.
Edmonds joined a Gannet conference call Thursday morning about the company’s third quarter earnings.
“It’s really in reaction to a revenue year that’s been even worse than had been expected. I don’t people were expecting great things the declines in print revenue are actually accelerating and Gannett said today that their national advertising was down almost I think it was about 30 percent year to year compared to the third quarter last year. And pre-print insert advertising, which is a staple for the print side of newspapers, is down almost 20 percent.” Edmonds says. “So as you get those kinds of revenue reductions, and I’m not trying to be a management stooge, but there’s really no choice but to scale back your operations.”
In announcing its third quarter results, Gannett noted it had completed acquisitions of North Jersey Media Group and digital marketing solutions leader ReachLocal. The largest newspaper chain in the U.S. by circulation, Gannett is now facing an uncertain future. Late Thursday, news broke that its merger with Tronc, the former Tribune Company, was in jeopardy.