At least two employees were laid off at the Asheville Citizen-Times last week in yet another round of cost-cutting by Gannett, the newspaper’s parent company.
Reporter Hayley Benton and and advertising operations manager Vicki Harrison are the two layoffs I have confirmed. There may have been others. Poynter.org reported earlier this month that Gannett was cutting less than 1 percent of its workforce in a companywide reorganization. The story notes continued declines in print advertising revenue and circulation revenue.
Benton, a former newsroom intern, started at the Citizen-Times in March 2016 and has been covering the entertainment beat. Harrison has been working in some aspect of the advertising operations role for more than 25 years.
Earlier this year, a group of four reporters and photographers exited the Citizen-Times newsroom, not under the circumstances of a layoff. My understanding is that most, if not all, of the job openings were filled.
Despite the new hires, the cost-cutting at Gannett has been relentless for the past eight years as the Great Recession magnified the newspaper industry’s struggles with making money online. Today, the newspaper has a handful of editors and just seven reporters listed on its website, with most copy editing and production work done at locations in other states.
Here’s a recap of the layoffs:
2016: The newspaper laid off nine employees, including six reporters and editors in the Citizen-Times newsroom.
2015: Gannett offered buyouts to employees 55 or older with an least 15 years of service with the company. Long-time sports writer Keith Jarrett took the offer and departed. He’s now covering sports for WLOS-TV.
2014: The newspaper announced a major reorganization to create a “newsroom of the future” that was focused first and foremost on the digital delivery of information. One reporter and one editor were laid off, and five other newsroom employees did not reapply for jobs under the reorganization.
2013: Eight employees were laid off in this round, including six in the newsroom.
The Citizen-Times layoffs date back to about 2008, when 16 newspaper employees were let go. Then-Publisher Randy Hammer wrote that “It is a very sad day” to see friends and colleagues lose their jobs. In 2009, the newspaper closed its printing press and distribution center on Sardis Road, affecting 60 full-time employees.
The cuts have continued ever since.
This is pitiful and pitiable. When I saw the headline, I thought, “how many reporters are even left now?”
The Raleigh N&O is ditto. Almost all the best reporters are gone. The five formerly 12 to 16 page sections are now down to two 4 or 6-page sections (with the obits relegated to the sport section).
When any kind of feature comes from the parent paper’s feed — well, sorry but gardening in Minnesota doesn’t apply here. Maybe they figure no one will notice? But I miss all the local writers who were reporters of the best quality and knew all the local ins and outs. Tony, Dale, Jason, on and on.
Any more, tourists (young newcomers) are writing for tourists — the newcomer residents. And this is going on everywhere. I agree that a newspaper is paper, meant to be turned page by page and finished with ink-stained hands (and printed by locals nearby the post office distribution center — oh, don’t get me started!!).
Has anybody ever purchased a ACT? No, I didn’t think so. Why is this surprising?
the newspaper has a handful of editors
Please notice that the AC-T website lists no executive editor OR publisher. That’s because they don’t want us to know that the people ultimately in charge of what gets reported in Asheville live and work in Greenville SC.
Call me old school, but I will never think of a newspaper as digital. I will think of a paper, that you touch, and a digital edition. Regardless of the delivery medium, both need people to make it worthwhile.
Vicki Harrison was there 32 years 2 months and 21 days. I hope Gannett’s days are numbered. They aren’t even a shadow of the company they used to be. Best wishes to everyone who is left. But my advice is to begin looking for a job elsewhere because eventually it will be you who is let go. Leave Gannett before they can leave you…..because eventually, they will leave you. I know because it happened to me too.
They probably felt Vicky was overpaid or no longer had skills that were needed such as how to spell and use punctuation. Just need big pictures and Facebook ads now.
The real question is how many are left….
I can personally vouch for the fact that the layoffs began in January 2002.
It’s at a point they should look at the top! The paper is down to a small Newsletter at best!