Local newspaper giant GateHouse Media has quietly been laying off reporters and photographers across its publications, according to reports, journalists’ testimony online, and sources close to the layoffs.
GateHouse, which says it owns 145 daily newspapers, 325 community publications, and over than 555 local websites in 37 states, seemingly focused cuts on photo departments and local sports coverage.
The layoffs follow GateHouse’s $30 million purchase of 1o local Indiana papers from Schurz Communications Inc. in late January. Sources close to the layoffs and tweets from journalists estimated that over 50 employees across at least 14 publications lost their jobs. The acquired papers and other GateHouse properties were impacted, according to several journalists who were affected and local media reports.
GateHouse Media did not immediately reply to request for comment.
One source familiar with the layoffs said eight staffers were cut at The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida. Another, who works in Pennsylvania media, said that 15 to 20 media workers were cut at Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer and New Jersey’s Burlington County Times. At least five people were cut at The Beaver County Times in Pennsylvania, according to a source who was close to the publication. Other papers lost one or two staffers, according to tweets and statements by those affected.
The total number of jobs lost is hard to determine due to non-disclosure agreements required as part of severance agreements, according to at least three sources who were affected by the layoffs.
Journalists affected by the cuts and friends expressed their frustration online with the cuts.
Gary Higgins, former staff photographer at The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter, “Hope you all had a better Friday than me. Terminated today after 31 years as Staff Photographer at the #PatriotLedger. Was in New Orleans 17 years ago tonight getting ready to cover that other Rams Patriots big game. Some Fridays are better than others!”
Friends of Mike Gay, a photographer formerly of Massachusetts’ Taunton Gazette, wrote in a GoFundMe campaign, “Last week, Gatehouse Media, the company that owns the Taunton Gazette had to lay off Mike Gay after being a photographer for the paper for over 40 years. He was the longest tenured employee in the Taunton office.” The campaign, which was raising money for new photo equipment since all of Gay’s was owned by GateHouse, has raised $10,750 of its $2,500 goal.
GateHouse has a reputation for rapidly expanding through acquisition and making deep staffing cuts. Tom Sofield of local Pennsylvania publication LevittownNow.com wrote that staff was cut by 70% at the Bucks County Courier Times after GateHouse acquired it as part of a $17.5 million deal in 2017. In 2018, the company acquired titles including Florida’s Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News.
Since filing for bankruptcy in 2013, GateHouse has made numerous multi-million dollar acquisitions as part of a strategy to digitize local papers. In September 2018, GateHouse acquired the Oklahoman, where it laid off 37 staffers, according to Poynter. In April, GateHouse acquired Ohio’s Akron Beacon Journal for $16 million.
The layoffs come amid a dwindling number of local papers in the digital economy and widespread media layoffs since the beginning of the year. More than 2,200 media jobs have been lost so far this year, according to a Business Insider calculation.