Gannett is cutting pay and implementing furloughs for journalists at newspapers throughout its national media company as ad revenue plummets among the coronavirus crisis and the details of the plan have industry employees reeling. Journalists have taken to Twitter to speak out against the plan, noting that the timing couldn’t be worse time for those relying on media for information about the pandemic.
“New today: @Gannett announced unpaid newsroom furloughs of 1 week per month during April, May and June. We’re told journalists earning more than $38K are subject to the plan. This is prompted by COVID-19,” tweeted Gregory Holman, an investigative reporter with Springfield, Missouri’s News-Leader, which is owned by Gannett.
Albuquerque Journal columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger replied to Holman’s tweet, “The worst time to do this. News is needed now more than ever. Reporters are vital.”
A second Gannett insider confirmed to TheWrap that Holman’s tweets accurately reflected a company-wide email from CEO Paul Bascobert that outlined the furloughs and pay cuts. Bascobert won’t be taking pay until those furloughs and pay cuts end.
That email also laid out the plan for executives to take a 25% pay cut.
A Gannett representative also confirmed the contents of the email to TheWrap, providing an excerpt for review.
“By choosing a collective sacrifice, we can keep our staff intact, reduce our cost structure, deliver for our readers and clients and be ready to emerge strong and with opportunity to grow when this crisis passes.,” Bascobert said in the email.
Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette got sarcastic: “In this time of national crisis — with hundreds of people dying everyday and journalists working incredible hours to bring those stories to an information-thirsty public — of course it makes sense to put the needs of shareholders first.”
Alabama Reporter’s Josh Moon called the decision-makers “assholes.”
“Gannett paid 7 execs nearly $18 million in compensation in 2019, including paying its new CEO $4.5M in bonuses for a company whose stock price has dropped from $12/sh to $1.76/sh. A 10% pay cut by these people would eliminate the need for furloughs all year,” he wrote.
Gannett’s papers are not alone: Local newspapers are taking a beating as the novel coronavirus rips apart the American economy and ways of life — with some facing an existential crisis as the duration and severity of the pandemic and its aftermath remains unknown.
Just in the past few weeks, numerous local papers have folded, laid off staff or cut back operations as advertising — the foundation of papers’ revenue — has disappeared with the closures of local restaurants, bars, shops and event venues.
Gannett, which publishes USA Today, was acquired last August by GateHouse Media for $1.4 billion.