Bruce Murphy
Back In The News

More Layoffs for Journal Sentinel?

Parent company Gannett faces financial issues, announces coming staff cuts, which may include Milwaukee paper.

By - Aug 15th, 2022 01:00 pm
330 Kilbourn. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

330 Kilbourn, where the Journal Sentinel offices are located. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

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.

As a story by the Poynter Institute noted, Gannett’s media division head Maribel Perez Wadsworth, in a note to staff, warned of impending layoffs. “In the coming days,” she wrote, “we will … be making necessary but painful reductions to staffing, eliminating some open positions and roles that will impact valued colleagues.”

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.” 

Staff at the Journal Sentinel were among those at a number of Gannett Newspapers to hold a “lunch out” to protest the cuts. As veteran JS scribe Tom Daykin tweeted, “Gannett journalists throughout the nation are taking an hour off today from 1 to 2 p.m. CST to bring attention to our concerns about upcoming layoffs at the nation’s largest newspaper chain–even as its CEO makes nearly $8 million in annual pay.”

“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.” 

She noted the problem for the newspaper of making the transition from print to digital subscribers and maintaining the same amount of revenue. But the real issue for the news industry is that nearly all digital advertising goes through the internet giants, Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), and they get nearly all the money for any ads appearing online in newspapers. “As Nicco Mele, a former deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times, explained several years ago, a full-page weekday ad in the paper that cost $50,000 had given way to Google ads on its website that brought in less than $20 to reach the same number of readers,” as a column by GBH News noted.

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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2 thoughts on “Back In The News: More Layoffs for Journal Sentinel?”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    I cancelled my Journal/Sentinel subscription and stopped reading their newspaper when Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner went to Milwaukee’s downtown parks and held pro-war rallies for the 2nd US invasion of Iraq.

    There were no WMD’s in Iraq… Americans murdered over 3 million civilians in Iraq for a pack of lies and the killing continues today with Joe Biden.

    Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner should be put in prison for the rest of their rotten, filthy lives… They demonized Muslims every day on their radio programs… Sykes’ and Wagner’s hatred and racism toward Muslims caused the Sikh Temple massacre in Oak Creek.

  2. SFGiants58 says:

    Tom Daykin is a journalist. He is an outlier.

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