GateHouse Media Seeking More Cuts At Providence Journal

Aug 16, 2016

Providence Journal building in downtown Providence
Credit RIPR FILE

The Providence Journal is facing further cuts through the latest in a series of buyouts offered by the newspaper's owner, GateHouse Media, RI Public Radio has learned.

Under the terms of the latest buyout, ProJo employees could receive between 13 and 17 weeks of pay, depending on their length of service with the company. Workers learned of the offer Tuesday.

[UPDATE August 17: The voluntary severance offer was announced in a memo from GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis, addressed to "all GateHouse Media Employees," according to a copy of the memo obtained by RIPR.

According to Davis, "The action supports ongoing efforts across our organization to reduce costs. While we continue to make progress toward our goal of being revenue positive by 2018 and year-to-date our revenue performance has improved and outperformed our industry peers, we continue to see revenue declines and must align our expenses accordingly."

Separately, Denee Stirpe, GateHouse's vice president for HR, declined to comment on questions about the buyout offer.]

The deadline for employee to express interest in the buyout is Monday, August 29. Management is expected to make decisions on the volume of cuts on Wednesday, September 7.

GateHouse owns 125 daily newspapers.

GateHouse Media, a subsidiary of New Media Investment Group, completed its $46 million purchase of The Providence Journal in 2014 -- around the same time when the newspaper cut 22 jobs, including that of well-known metro columnist Bob Kerr. 

That followed a series of earlier cost-cutting moves by the ProJo's previous owner, A.H. Belo, that became more frequent in 2008.

GateHouse has continued cutting since acquiring Rhode Island's statewide daily.

ProJo management has said it remains committed to supporting strong journalism in a challenging economic climate for the news industry.

Yet the Providence Newspaper Guild, the main union at the newspaper, has characterized the ongoing cuts as a threat to the news organization's mission.

As the Guild wrote in an email last year, "We are down to 37 reporters and columnists, including our sports writers – that’s 1 journalist for every 28,548 Rhode Islanders. How can we give necessary watchdog journalism with these numbers?"

In related news, the ProJo recently reassigned the paper's top Statehouse reporter, Katherine Gregg, away from the Capitol, although ProJo editor Dave Butler said the move may not be permanent. Gregg has not yet returned to work from vacation.