Two of the nation’s biggest newspaper groups, Gannett and GateHouse Media, merged last November. The deal gave Gannett control of more than 260 newspapers across the U.S., including The Providence Journal, Newport Daily News, Fall River Herald News and New Bedford Standard-Times.
As The Public’s Radio (RIPR) reported last month, the pandemic has worsened the financial strain for media organizations debilitated by shrinking profits due to the rise of the internet. Gannett initially responded with company-wide furloughs.
The Providence Journal has since let go of editorial page editor Ed Achorn, a Pulitzer finalist for commentary. ProJo Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg touched on the issue in his weekly Sunday column. Without mentioning Achorn, Rosenberg said the Journal will not run its own editorials any more, or endorse political candidates, in part due to how some readers didn’t understand the separation between the newsroom and the editorial page. The paper will instead rely on guest opinion pieces by various community members.
Two other ProJo employees also got the ax, including the paper’s well-respected basketball beat reporter Kevin McNamara, a 30-year veteran on Fountain Street.
At least four positions were cut at the Herald News in Fall River, including that of the paper’s digital city editor. And at least two jobs were cut at the Standard-Times in New Bedford, including the paper’s regional engagement editor.
Gannett officials and Peter Meyer, the publisher of the Providence Journal, did not respond to requests for comment on these changes.
Critics say companies like Gannett are squeezing profits from declining newspapers by starving them of resources and shrinking the commitment to local news.
On its website, Gannett describes a different story. The company says it has more than $4 billion in revenue, and says it hopes to create a more agile and dynamic business model for sustaining journalism.
In its first-quarter earnings report last week, Gannett reported a net loss of $80 million. The company’s stock is trading at 97 cents a share.
This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by The Public's Radio (RIPR) on May 11, 2020.