More Layoffs for Journal Sentinel?
Parent company Gannett faces financial issues, announces coming staff cuts, which may include Milwaukee paper.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel may face yet another round of staff layoffs.
This comes after news that its parent company, Gannett, which owns more than 100 daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 weekly papers nationally, reported a dismal second quarter financially, with key revenue sources down, costs up and a loss of $54 million on revenues of $749 million. The company’s stock is down nearly 55% for the year and has dropped even further, from $6.28 in late February, to $2.51 today.
Gannett had more than 16,000 employees worldwide last year which included more than 4,200 reporters, editors and photographers. About 100 of those are at the Journal Sentinel, one of its largest newspapers.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage,” writes longtime media analyst Dan Kennedy of Gannett’s cuts. The Associated Press reported that the ‘company declined to provide details about the number of people losing their jobs.’ The number 400 has been bandied about, but is that 400 journalists or 400 total employees?… We do know that the cuts were broad and deep, from Worcester County, where, according to Grafton Common, the chain’s weekly papers were decimated, all the way up to the flagship paper, USA Today.”
“The NewsGuild, which represents more than 1,500 Gannett journalists across roughly 50 newsrooms…identified 35 layoffs across 20 newsrooms,” Deadline reported. “There are likely many others.” That included the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newsroom, the story noted.
“We’ve seen it over and over again,” said Devi Shastri, health and medicine reporter for the JS and president of the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild, who was interviewed by WORT-FM 89.9 in Madison. “We just get smaller and smaller…We’re all doing the same amount of work with less.”
“The frustration for us is we care about this newspaper, we care about this community and we’re just questioning those priorities,” said Shastri, noting the level of executive pay. “Why is the first thought, ‘we need to cut people’?”
“We’ve gone through so many owners at this point and every time it comes with more cuts,” Shastri lamented. “The reality is we’re paying off a bunch of debt that this company took on when we merged.”
The 2019 merger of Gannett and Gatehouse nearly tripled the long-term debt of the two companies and made more staff cuts inevitable, as Urban Milwaukee reported back then.
Shastri noted that the Journal Sentinel Guild contract requires the company to offer buyouts that pay the most to those reporters with the most years on the job. “That means losing a lot of our more experienced members,” she noted. “That’s a loss of really great talent.”
Daykin is among the veterans listed in the newspaper’s staff directory. Not many are left. That said, the newspaper still lists some 100 staff, including reporters, editors, photographer and designers.
Shastri did not respond to a request for comment on the likely number of staff cuts at the JS or who will be let go. And the newspaper’s management typically does not report on staff who are pushed out. This story will be updated if we hear more.
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