There they go again: Gannett to lay off journalists just in time for the holidays

By Dan Kennedy

On Thursday I received copies of an email from multiple sources about yet another round of layoffs that our largest newspaper chain is planning. The hammer is scheduled to drop on Dec. 1 and 2, just in time for the holidays.

The email comes from Henry Faure Walker, a Gannett executive who is described on the company’s website as “the Chief Executive Officer of Newsquest Media Group since 2014, managing more than 165 regional brands in the U.K. with an audience of 30 million.” He is also chair of the News Media Association, a British industry group. His operational role at Gannett is not listed in his company bio, but Rick Edmonds of Poynter reported recently that he’s the interim replacement for Maribel Perez Wadsworth, who was the president of Gannett Media and the publisher of USA Today.

The most recent round of  cuts was announced only last month. At that time, the chain imposed unpaid furloughs, a 401(k) freeze, a hiring moratorium and other measures on its beleaguered employees, so this really adds insult to injury. The text of Walker’s email follows:

Dear Gannett News Division:

First and foremost, I want to thank you all for your commitment, hard work and professionalism during these unsettling times.

I have begun working with … the team to address the challenges and opportunities ahead and put the News operation on a sounder footing.

It’s important to provide you with visibility into current conditions and the next steps for our News division, as we are not immune to the economic conditions many industries and companies are facing, particularly in the media sector.

While we have taken several steps already, we must enter the new year in a stronger economic position, and the reality is that our News cost base is currently too high for the revenues it generates. Regretfully, this means we will be implementing further reductions.

I appreciate that this will impact valued colleagues, and we are committed to ensuring they are treated with the utmost respect and courtesy throughout this difficult process. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible. Notifications will occur on Dec. 1 and 2.

Please know that many non-payroll savings have also been targeted, and reducing our workforce is not the preferred course of action. In addition, other similar actions are being taken in other divisions across our organization.

We are going through challenging times, but we will get through this, and build a stronger business that underpins the phenomenal, trusted journalism you do and ensure that we can continue to deliver for our communities for many years to come. Thank you.

Henry

Author: Dan Kennedy

I am a professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a contributor to GBH News in Boston. My blog, Media Nation, is online at dankennedy.net.

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