Gannett: Implementing Furloughs as COVID-19 Crisis Cripples Newspapers Financially Including the Chieftain

By Jenny Paulson – Gannett is cutting pay and implementing furloughs of one week per month for journalists at newspapers owned by it’s national media company amidst ad revenue losses during the coronavirus crisis. Company-wide emails just went out to their highest paid reporters at all of their newspapers, which would include the Pueblo Chieftain, saying the’d have to take off one week per month in April, May and June. 

“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,” said management in the email. 

Many union journalists working for Gannett blasted their employer saying it’s the worst time for those relying on reporters working for mainstream media for information. 

The Pueblo Chieftain, which recently hike the price of it’s daily paper, subscriptions and ad rates, has already reportedly suffered a loss of an estimated 30 percent in revenues from the hikes. Insiders say subscriptions are down and many in social media have reported they quit.

Unlike the Denver Post and other Front Range newspapers that voluntarily quit charging for online viewing of their stories because of the critical value of coronavirus news, the Pueblo Chieftain has continued to charge $9.99 per month.

After the Pueblo Chieftain sold to Gatehouse, employees protested the company’s quick layoffs and cuts made after the change of ownership from the Rawlings family. Local union members held signs outside of the newspaper building, which other newspapers in the state covered, but the Pueblo Chieftain did not. 

Chieftain reporter Luke Lyons told the Colorado Independent it was bad enough that employees were left in the dark while the newspaper was on the market, then on the auction block, trying to figure out who was making bids.

Signs read, “News reporters just want to have jobs” with reporters referring to Gatehouse as #GutHouse. At that point Lyons said the staff was already down to 18 from 30 since the out-of-town takeover of the oldest paper in the state.

Lyons said locals haven’t understood why the newspaper has been shrinking and subscribers see the price hikes as gauging. “These corporations, they tend to cut from the bottom; they tend to not live up to their word when they say they respect local journalism,” he told the Independent. “They continue to cut reporters and the people who are providing content.”

Not long after Gatehouse bought the Pueblo Chieftain, it was then acquired by Gannett with other media companies in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at about $1.2 billion in November of 2019, allowing the mega company to own 1 in six newspapers in the United States. 

In November of 2019, the Pueblo Chieftain published an article by Bob Secular of Gatehouse media, just about four months before the coronavirus crisis really hit the nation, Colorado and Pueblo, with orders forcing non-essential businesses to close, a government move hoping to save thousands of lives, but one that would overnight cripple large media companies financially. 

He said, “New Media Investment Group’s acquisition with Gannett would create a nation-blanketing print and digital giant, with more than 260 daily newspapers including the Pueblo Chieftain, and hundreds more websites and community and weekly newspapers across 47 states. The new company, to be called Gannett even though New Media is the acquirer, would have a daily print circulation of 8.7 million, dwarfing the next largest chain, McClatchy, with daily circulation of 1.7 million.”

He continued saying that executives intended to cut about $300 million in annual expenses already over the next two years to accelerate their digital transformation, “The companies say the advantages of size and reach will attract more digital advertisers and save expenses by eliminating operations deemed redundant or expendable, helping to offset a two-decade slide in revenue from print advertising and subscriptions, which has imperiled the newspaper industry overall.

The nation’s largest union of journalists, NewsGuild-CWA, called the deal a “threat to journalism,” saying it would hurt the communities the organization serves. “To fund the merger, local papers will likely disappear, jobs will be slashed, and journalism will suffer.”

The Pueblo Chieftain is just one of 154 daily newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and the Palm Beach Post in Florida. Gannett, based in McLean, Virginia, owns USA Today and 109 dailies, including the Detroit Free Press and the Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile as mainstream media goes broke, with some companies already going under, independent and citizen journalists using niche websites and social media are working to fill the gap, including us – reporting on popular FB pages like our sister pages and groups, Pueblo Independent Magazine, PuebloAlert, Pueblo Crime & Safety and Give Back Pueblo, amongst others, to fill the critical gap, publishing timely information about the contagious disease, some of which is so important, it can save lives.

By Jenny Paulson / Independent Journalist

About Jenny Paulson 185 Articles
Jenny Paulson is the publisher and editor of Pueblo Independent Magazine and can be contacted for more information about Pueblo Magazine, editorial content, marketing, website design and other services.