Today, four newsroom employees — Shannon Countryman, Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson — will be terminated; a fifth, Wes Huett, will be terminated Sept. 21. To be clear, GateHouse and the Journal Star remain profitable enterprises; these cuts were made to “get to a certain number,” as we were told this week.
The Peoria Newspaper Guild tried to find reasonable alternatives and compromises, including the transitioning of employees to other, necessary work now going undone. We were told no; five employees had to be terminated.
Emphasis mine. Note that that “certain number” is not, say, the number of reporters or stories or pages or investigations or hell, even clicks. No, that “certain number” is a profit margin that makes Gatehouse Media, a wildly wealthy organization, look even wealthier. That’s the number that matters to them.
I mean, at least they’re not lying about needing to adjust to the digital paradigm and inspire the future of the extremely online, or whatever it was they were prattling about last week. I guess that’s something.
Probably after 30 years of never facing any consequences at all for gutting newsrooms, Gatehouse figured they didn’t need to keep paying the intern they hired to fart out buzzwords like “nimble” and “changing tastes of readers” anymore. I mean, this is the very first comment:
Here is the obligatory comment that we now read more news than we ever have but we refuse to pay for it. And this is the result.
This, the bullshit story of the cause and effect, has so utterly defined the narrative of the decline of newspapers that even commenters on a local politics site can parrot it out without missing a beat. Never mind it’s completely false, that the Internet didn’t ruin anything wasn’t already on its way to ruining itself, that all the subscription dollars in the world don’t matter if they all go into the same toxic cauldron of executive incompetence.
Gatehouse isn’t even pretending to blame readers anymore. Readers will blame each other without any help at all. Older reporters will blame younger ones, and they’ll all fight amongst themselves instead of teaming up to take their papers back out of the hands of owners.
To get to a certain number. There’s a mission you can put on your masthead. There’s something to believe in. Good Christ.