The Asheville Citizen-Times laid off eight employees on Wednesday, including six in the newsroom alone, including well-known local columnist Susan Reinhardt. The others included: the newsroom’s best copy editor, Rob Mikulak; photographer John Fletcher; web developer Jaime McKee; night-side editor Thomas Fraser and me, Jason Sandford. I don’t know the names of the other two let go.
Gannett, which owns the Citizen-Times, has been quietly laying off employees at its newspapers around the country. Earlier this month, Romenesko reported that more than 100 employees were being laid off at Gannett properties.
So layoffs really aren’t a surprise. But then again, it’s always a surprise. Without warning on Wednesday morning, the individual employees began getting called to the human resources office on the downtown building’s third floor. There, the HR director from the Citizen-Times‘ sister newspaper in Greenville, S.C., straightforwardly delivered the bad news. She hit the highlights: file for unemployment, COBRA, employee assistance program, etc.
I watched as Jaime came back from receiving the news. Then Rob. Then I got my call. There were tears, hugs and well-wishes all around. It was clear that my colleagues remaining at the newspaper felt worse than I did. Jaime, Rob, John and I rallied at Jack of the Wood for a beer and to be together. My best friend in the world, Melissa, joined us, as did Rob’s wife, Leslie, and colleagues Stacy, Sabian and Todd.
I grabbed my laptop and began telling folks via FB and Twitter. I met with David from Mountain Xpress and Emma from WLOS to talk with them for their stories. (Mountain Xpress story here and WLOS story here.) Reaction to the news has been overwhelmingly negative regarding the layoffs, and overwhelmingly supportive of me and my friends.
I’ve left and come back to the newspaper several times over the years, but I’ve never been laid off, so it’s taken awhile for the new reality to settle in. The one other time I had a similar experience was back in 2011, when the newspaper laid off 10 people in the newsroom and forced those of us left to reapply for our jobs.
I’ll be writing additional posts soon about my plans. For now, I just want to thank you, loyal readers, my family and friends for the kind thoughts and well-wishes. Everything for a reason. Onward to new adventures.