As More Local Newsrooms are Gutted, the Fate of American Democracy Hangs in the Balance

WASHINGTON, DC – As Tom Jones at Poynter reports, this week alone nearly 20 reporters, across four GateHouse newsrooms – the Oklahoman, Palm Beach Post, Cape Cod Times, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, – have been laid off. Jones reports that it’s unclear if the layoffs are a result of the forthcoming merger between GateHouse and Gannett, but, even so, that merger was designed to save money. The sparse money left over after Facebook and Google drain the news industry of its ad revenue. One thing is for certain: journalists, the free press, and the American people are the ones paying the price. Have you seen a decline in journalism or been personally affected by layoffs or cuts? Share your story here. 

John Stanton, former DC bureau chief for Buzzfeed who was laid off in January and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project said of the layoffs: “This is the new normal. I hate to see not only fellow journalists laid off, but the dwindling stature of America’s press. Reporters are becoming an endangered species and when there’s no one left to report on local shootings, high school sports, or natural disasters, how will the American people move forward without the critical information that informs their world perspectives and facilitates the state of a healthy democracy? There’s a paper trail leading right to the main culprits: Facebook and Google.”  

Jones’ article is excerpted below and available in full here

Last week, GateHouse and Gannett announced their intent to merge and form the largest newspaper chain in the country, a consolidation designed to save money. When the move was announced, there was a fear among many in the industry that layoffs would follow.

… One of the newsrooms hardest hit by the cuts was the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, which parted ways with 14 employees, including five in the newsroom. That includes Ellis Williams, a sportswriter who accepted a job offer to join the Oklahoman only to have that offer withdrawn. Other layoffs included a photographer, a health reporter and two breaking news reporters, people close to the newsroom reported. When GateHouse bought the Oklahoman in September, it laid off 37 staffers.

According to sources and social media, the Palm Beach (Florida) Post laid off two photographers, the Cape Cod Times laid off two reporters — a sportswriter and a courts reporter — and the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette laid off columnist Clive McFarlane, who had been at the paper for 26 years.

In addition, according to a source, there were two layoffs at the Fall River (Massachusetts) Herald News, two at the New Bedford (Massachusetts) Standard-Times and one at the Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain.

… As far as the Gannett-GateHouse merger, it still is not a done deal. The New York Post reported that the executives are on a road trip this week in hopes of convincing investors to support the merger.