Update: Asheville Citizen-Times newsroom staffers reapply for jobs under restructuring


UPDATE 3:30 P.M. AUG. 8: I have reliable (though at this point unconfirmed) information that the following newsroom staffers at the Asheville Citizen-Times have decided not to reapply for a “newsroom of the future” job: 

Barbara Blake: Barbara is perhaps the newspaper’s most well-known reporter, having worked at the newspaper since 1974. Last December, her daughter, Casey Blake, wrote a great piece for the Citizen-Times recounting her mother’s career to mark Barb’s 40th anniversary. Casey is also a reporter at the newspaper.

Barbara has won numerous honors for her writing, including two Thomas Wolfe awards. She’s covered all the big stories of the day for the past four decades. She’s the newsroom’s mother figure, quietly checking in with everyone, taking on extra editing duties and helping organize Thanksgiving and Christmas newsroom dinners (along with Holly, see below). Read Casey Blake’s story about her mother, Barbara Blake, here.

Bill Sanders: Bill is the photo editor at the Citizen-Times. This is his second go-round at the newspaper, having first worked as a Citizen-Times photographer in the 1970s, I believe. Bill is a career newspaper photographer.

Bobby Bradley: Bobby started out at the newspaper as a graphic designer. Most recently, Bobby has been producing videos and shooting photos. I’m not sure how long he’s been at the newspaper.

Holly MacKenzie: Holly has been the newspaper’s staff librarian for years. As the newspaper has gradually cut back on staff, Holly was tasked with doing more and more regarding online archiving and most recently she’s been tasked with some copy editing duties. Holly has been with the Citizen-Times for at least 20 years, though I don’t exactly how long.

UPDATE 1 p.m. Aug. 8: Asheville Citizen-Times newsroom employees have had to reapply for their jobs Thursday and Friday. The result will mean fewer jobs and the regionalization of some coverage areas between the Gannett-owned Citizen-Times and Greenville News in Greenville, S.C. Over at jimromenesko.com, there are Gannett job descriptions posted. The ones posted are for Gannett’s Pensacola newspaper, but they’ve been standardized and will be used across Gannett.

Josh Awtry, the editor of both of those newspapers, talked about the restructuring in an interview published Aug. 7 by Columbia Journalism Review. Awtry offers up some details about the changes, hints at the regionalization of reporters’ beats and sidesteps the question of whether or not Asheville employees would have to reapply for their jobs. Another topic that went unexplained was Awtry’s mention of new “digital producers” the newspapers will hire. What’s a digital producer?

If you’re interested in more detail and background about how Gannett got to this point, read Jim Hopkins’ excellent and details recounting in this December 2013 piece at Gannett Blog.

Original post Aug. 6, 2014: Asheville Citizen-Times Editor Josh Awtry on Wednesday announced a “sweeping reconfiguration” of the way the newspaper’s newsroom is organized following an announcement by the newspaper’s corporate parent, Gannett, that it would spin off the 80 newspapers it owns into a separate company.

In his column, Awtry said the reconfiguration would result in “more reporters, more resources dedicated to watchdog journalism and more staff dedicated to answering your questions and serving you better online.” Followed by this:

Full disclosure: realigning will come with some pain. In keeping with the realities of a fragmented media landscape, the trade-off is that there will be fewer management positions, fewer production-related roles, and that will make us a little smaller overall.

Translation: fewer employees focused first and foremost on serving up news via the Internet.

Employees at in Gannett newsrooms around the country are reporting that they’re being required to reapply for their jobs. The result will be that some people will be laid off, while others will be placed in new jobs. Those likely to be hit: editors and copy editors.

Will Asheville Citizen-Times newsroom staffers be required to reapply for their jobs? I have yet to hear. I was at the newspaper in 2010 when the company required newsroom employees to reapply for their jobs, and layoffs followed. It was a horrible experience. We were pitted against people we worked side-by-side with for years. We were required to answer to a corporate HR executive, then be quizzed by your editors. The result, from my point of view, was a room full of depressed employees.

A year ago this month, that the Asheville Citizen-Times slashed eight newsroom employees (including me) in its last round of layoffs. And it was another wrenching experience. The result – more employees feeling beaten down.

In another recent blow to the Citizen-Times, one of its most talented staffers announced her departure. Photographer Erin Brethauer announced that she was taking a new job at the San Francisco Chronicle. Nobody at the newspaper expects that her position will be filled.

Media analysts are mostly positive about Gannett’s move to spin off the newspaper division. In doing so, the company moves the debt that burdened newspapers to the TV/digital side, thus relieving at least some of the pressure from Gannett having to make up lost profit by slashing resources to the bone. Other analysts see the move as an easy way for Gannett to begin selling off some, or all, of the newspapers it owns.


doghaus28815 August 12, 2014 - 9:22 pm

horrid. glad I don’t subscribe what was a good newspaper anymore.

Katherine August 11, 2014 - 11:09 am

Maybe now is the time for all those really great CT employees to pool their financial resources and create an employee owned dynamically governed newspaper of their own. If the CT does not have any employees except for Josh Awtry I’m pretty sure they can’t put out a newspaper. I would venture a guess that if each person who came on board bought in to the newspaper there would be much more ownership of the content and in the success of the paper.

Big Al August 9, 2014 - 9:21 pm

I moved here 6 years ago from Durham. 2 years earlier, the Durham Herald-Sun been purchased by a large conglomerate like Gannett and immediately laid off most of its’ “local color” writers, including he city’s foremost local historian. He and a few others were immediately picked up by the “state paper of record”, the News & Observer, and for 2 years the N&O delivered the new weekly (later 3x/week)Durham section of 6-8 pages for free to poach readers from the DH-S. I kept reading the DH-S on weekends as they still had some pretty good features sections, especially on farms, gardens and the environment, while enjoying the FREE local new flavor of the Durham News (N&O).

When I got to Asheville/Buncombe, I found a paper that was ALREADY deficient in the features department, and skimpy on good local news, and this was BEFORE Gannett bought it. I never subscribed and rarely read the AC-T unless a co-worker leaves one lying around.

Do these papers have any clue about what readers really want? How about giving us what we can’t find on radio, TV and our ISP front page? How about more local news and features, and leave the national stuff to other media? Even The Economist is branching out into a new features-only publication.

And, hey, Mountain X, are you listening to all of this? You are in a prime position to pick up the slack here.

Martha August 12, 2014 - 3:35 pm

Pretty sure Gannett has mucked up the C-T for 16 years now. Long before you got here. It may have not been perfect paper, but it was pretty darn good in the early ’90s.

Smytty August 13, 2014 - 8:20 am

Their mobile version “Voices and Views” on their homepage still has an image and article from May 7th, 2014. It’s like they aren’t even trying.

Matt August 9, 2014 - 1:32 pm

Sign of the times, I guess (so to speak). I mean, CT could have made the switch to digital and kept up their game, but few papers have been able to do this. So of course its decaying structure is getting bought up and harvested for what its worth by something like Gannet.

Curious to see what’s going to happen to local journalism in general over the next few years. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Ashley Capps August 9, 2014 - 11:04 am

Very sad and sorry to read this. It seems that the corporate newspaper industry continues to make decisions that only increase their irrelevancy and hasten their demise. They’ve lost focus on any true sense of purpose. My only hope is that it opens up opportunities for others to step in and make a difference.

lena August 9, 2014 - 7:06 am

Leaving when I did was the best decision I ever made, but it pains me to see my former colleagues and friends having to go through this vicious cycle again and again. I also am saddened by the way the CT, a paper I once loved and was proud to work for, has been dismantled to pieces 🙁 Where is our watchdog? How can it be effective with only a handful at the helm?? It isn’t possible. And it makes me sad.

Richard Parker August 8, 2014 - 10:29 pm

A humiliating and dehumanizing exercise to make these solid journalists reapply for their jobs. In some cases, AGAIN.
I don’t care what the end game is, but the person who came up with this cynical –almost cowardly — way to eliminate staff is one hell of a douche bag.
Gannett is poisoning its brand across the country.

Michael August 8, 2014 - 10:28 pm

One of the best decisions I made was getting the fuck outta that place. Good luck to those affected.

cwaster August 8, 2014 - 12:22 pm

What a drag…. so much for supporting locals and local news. Going to have to quit reading that rag.

Melissa August 8, 2014 - 12:13 pm

I feel so bad for all the folks going through this again, and again, and again) and a few in particular are especially in my prayers.

Kerri Glover August 8, 2014 - 9:10 am

Jason, word is that every employee had to reapply yesterday and today and interviews will be conducted Monday and Tuesday.

Jason Sandford August 8, 2014 - 9:37 am

Thanks. I’ve heard the same. Decision to be made by Aug. 22.

Kerri Glover August 8, 2014 - 9:05 am

As a former print journalist, I’m relieved that I got out before Gannett bought any of the companies I worked for and before the internet-driven decline of journalism as a profession. My heart aches for former colleagues who are experienced, trained professionals and losing their jobs to anyone with a keyboard and an opinion. Most people outside the profession don’t understand that the value of copy editors is more than dotting i’s and crossing t’s – it’s also about fact-checking, balance and accountability.

I now rely on news media to report news on a public institution, but it’s happening far less because Gannett and other news organizations do not see the value of “news” translating into ad revenue. There are far fewer news reporters, practically no editors and the public is woefully uninformed. Ultimately, it’s the public’s fault for not caring about news, but we all suffer from the decline of journalism. When the editor is evaluating newsworthiness by the numbers of comments and shares and making decisions on who to hire on that basis, we should all be concerned. Too bad Ashvegas is the only place reporting on the demise of the city’s only daily newspaper. Maybe Gannett should be more transparent.

Susan Reinhardt August 7, 2014 - 11:35 pm

In retrospect, the best thing to ever happen to me was leaving the Citizen-Times. I loved Larry Pope and one or two other executive editors who had local news and the employees in their hearts and consciousness. The callous style of Gannett as a corporation is robotic, disheartening and cruel. Never been happier since being laid off. Wishing my former co-workers all the best. I’m FREE!!!!

FDR August 7, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Anything to pay a dividend to the share holders.

Stu Helm August 7, 2014 - 7:31 am

I couldn’t help but think about an article you posted on Facebook a month or so ago, Jason, in which the author of theorized that the constant structural changes at various newspapers will do absolutely nothing to help their “demise,” because the content remains the problem. I think the piece focused on the NYTimes and/or The Washington Post, but I’m sure the same applies to our little ol’ ACT and others.
Firing copy editors does not seem like a good way to improve content.

There’s doom on the horizon for these papers if they don’t do something to make their content competitive again. Separating their editorial policies from their advertising department would be a great place to start.

smytty August 7, 2014 - 9:12 am

When they added their absurd “pay wall” for their online content, I completely stopped paying attention. Dumb move, and I can’t imagine it has increased revenue by a dime.

aplcnlife August 7, 2014 - 12:21 pm

FYI – You can easily bypass the pay wall by viewing their site in incognito(Chrome)/private(Firefox & Safari)mode. Of course that is assuming you still want to look at their content.

Smytty August 8, 2014 - 1:25 pm

I know – that’s part of what makes it such a stupid and mind-numbing decision.

luther blissett August 7, 2014 - 8:02 pm

The recent long multi-part, multi-author piece on youth homelessness (which included Erin Bretheur’s work) was genuinely great and important work from the C-T, but it also felt like a last hoorah from the paper as anything other than a thin local supplement to USA Today. “This is what we could do every month if we had the resources, but that’s our reporting budget blown for the year.”

Does ‘watchdog journalism’ mean actual resources to deep stories, or just more Answer Person columns following up enquiries from readers with too much time on their hands? I don’t hold out much hope.

Kerri Glover August 8, 2014 - 9:07 am


smytty August 7, 2014 - 6:03 am

Smart move by Erin to be proactive. She is a great talent and a charming individual.

theOtherBarry August 6, 2014 - 8:14 pm

From the NYT piece:

“Analysts are still more concerned about the future of the newspaper unit.

“I’m very skeptical that in the long term you are going to have a hard copy daily newspaper in each market,” Mr. Huber said.”

rob mikulak August 6, 2014 - 7:20 pm

I predict 3-5 people will lose their jobs. Say goodbye to the remaining copy editors (remember this the next time you see Haywood Road confused for Haywood Street) and full-time photographers in favor of freelancers. You’re right about the anxiety, anger and frustration that swept the newsroom last time this happened (2011, not ’10). If they think this doesn’t affect job performance, they’re delusional.

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