Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Is Unemployment Better Than Working For Gannett?

Maybe Not, But.....

I've been chatting this week with a couple of scribes at the Journal News, the Gannett paper in New York's northern suburbs where I toiled in the late 80s. The paper, like many in the chain, is a desiccated husk of its former self both in size and staffing. The circulation has followed a similar pattern, now down to about 55,000 daily where it was 160,000 when I was there.

Those convos got me thinking about Gannett's newest employees, the staffs of 11 dailies in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Texas, as part of a swap with Digital First in which Gannett gave up its 19 percent interest in some California newspapers in return.

Suffice to say, if you're an employee of the El Paso Times, the York Daily Record or one of the nine other dailies that are now orbiting the Gannett mother ship, these are not happy days. Not that you were exactly doing jigs with Digital First, which shares a reputation with Gannett as a ruthless cost-cutter.

Gannett has shown no compunction about staffing its newsrooms to the bare minimums. Copy editing is farmed out to regional hubs as is design. Admittedly, I don't know if the six small New Mexico dailies have separate editing staffs below the top of the masthead. But if they do, chances are they won't for long, if Gannett is consistent with past moves at papers in New Jersey and New York, among others. The same will likely hold for printing presses.

As Ken Doctor pointed out, the move makes financial sense for Gannett, now that it is a standalone newspaper company lacking debt. It also makes sense for Digital First, which is breaking itself into pieces after attempts at finding a buyer for all of its disparate pieces never went anywhere.

Does it make sense for any of the newspapers' employees? Doubtful. It will likely be a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

At least they have what fewer people than ever can claim--jobs working for a newspaper.

For now.

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