Gannett Layoffs Shutter the Voices of Small Town America
News of looming layoffs from Gannett’s newspapers had been hanging over newsrooms for months now following the takeover of Gannett by private-equity funded GateHouse Media in August. And this past week, the axe officially fell for local newsrooms across the country. Beginning on #LoveMyNewspaper Day, Gannett laid off at least 215 employees at outlets nationwide in December with more projected to continue through February. From the Indianapolis Star to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to even its flagship paper USA Today, newspapers large and small under Gannett’s control fared the same fate, leaving many journalists uncertain of their future in an already diminished news industry.
The surge of private equity ownership of newspapers is just more evidence that big tech, including Google and Facebook, are destroying the business model for the journalism industry. The private equity vultures have noticed and are circling the carcass of the journalism industry. They are able to pick off distressed businesses, slash costs by shedding staff and reducing operations, and make a tidy profit while decimating the quality of journalism and harming local communities.
GateHouse is at the forefront of this alarming trend. The new Gannett, which keeps the newspaper giant’s name but is run by the GateHouse management team, will be the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. by circulation by a factor of four. Its “insatiable” acquisition binge has left hundreds of local newspapers across the country “unrecognizable” from their former selves with dramatically smaller newsrooms and content syndicated across dozens of “local” papers.
A Florida Times-Union journalist, Andrew Pentazi, created a list to record the updated layoffs for Gannett newspapers.
The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, regarding the industry’s losses:
As more than 215 employees have been laid-off from Gannett newspapers nationwide, we must think of how these communities will be drastically affected. Google and Facebook have destroyed the business model for the journalism industry making newspapers ripe for takeover by private equity. This has resulted in slashed newsrooms and centralized “local” content that leaves these communities with dramatically reduced news coverage of their hometowns. Numerous academic studies have shown these trends produce more corruption, environmental degradation, and political polarization. We cannot let this go on any further for fear of an America without a free press because there is no journalism industry left