Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, began laying off employees at several outlets Friday following a disappointing financial quarter.
Media members at Gannett-owned publications in Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Florida were recently let go, per The News Guild of New York. At least 20 papers across the country have been affected so far, though there is not yet an official tally for how many employees have lost their jobs. The staff reduction comes after the company lost nearly $54 million and saw revenue decline by 7% in the second quarter of this year.
“Gannett wants to pretend it can report on our communities with fewer journalists while still spending lavishly on executives. We deserve better, and our readers, equally, deserve better,” Asbury Park Press reporter Susanne Cervenka wrote in a statement posted on her union’s website. “There is no local journalism without local journalists.”
Gannett’s share price has fallen 54% year-to-date, including 20% in the month of August so far. This past Wednesday, CEO Mike Reed purchased 500,000 shares of the company for $1.22 million.
“Gannett is a total mess, and yet the CEO continues to buy stocks and have the company buy stocks so he can get richer,” Jon Schleuss, the president of NewsGuild-CWA, said on Twitter.
Reed told analysts last week that the company would be “taking significant and permanent costs” out of its business with a focus on print. On Thursday, hundreds of Gannett employees across the country took part in a lunch break walk out to protest the planned cuts.
“When you lose a job, a lot more things in your life are thrown into uncertainty,” Palm Beach News Guild member Katherine Kokal said of the layoffs, per Poynter. “It’s not just, ‘OK, I’m not going to log on for work Monday.’ It’s, ‘I need to pay my rent,’ or ‘I might not be able to afford food,’ or ‘How on earth am I going to keep health insurance for my family?’”
The company had announced an organizational restructuring in June comprised of two central efforts: Gannett Media, which will emphasize content, and Digital Marketing Solutions, which will focus on customer retention and acquisition.
Gannett owns more than 200 daily U.S. newspapers and had more than 16,000 employees globally as of 2021.