Newspaper Guild: An Open Letter to Paul Bascobert and Mike Reed, CEOs at Gannett

 

To Paul Bascobert and Mike Reed, CEOs at Gannett:

It pains us to learn of any journalist losing their job, but we are especially dismayed by Gannett’s handling of the termination of Rich Jackson, executive editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times, during the latest round of company-wide layoffs.

We do not write this on behalf of Rich, who signed an agreement not to disparage the company that left him homeless. We write this on behalf of the hundreds of members we represent who see this as a clear statement from Gannett about how it regards its employees.

In its quest for post-merger efficiency, Gannett made the unconscionable decision to leave Rich Jackson jobless and homeless amid a global health crisis.

Rich was the third editor to helm the Herald-Times newsroom since early 2019, having moved to Indiana amid the uncertainty of the Gannett-GateHouse merger. But after 10 months, as he tells it, he was unceremoniously informed of his termination in the parking lot outside the newspaper’s headquarters. To add insult to injury, Rich has also been evicted from the newsroom apartment he’d been staying in as he searched for something more permanent.

This kind of brazen disregard for a person’s well-being is repugnant for any company, but particularly one whose business model depends on building trust in the local communities it serves. Furthermore, it’s shocking that the company would show so little concern in the face of an indisputable truth: an unstable housing situation heightens Rich’s risk of contracting COVID-19.

Throughout these merger proceedings, you’ve asked us to stay focused on our work. That’s just what we’ve done, in the face of unprecedented challenges and derision from one of our top executives.

How, though, can you expect a company full of journalists – who have made a professional and personal commitment to speaking truth to power – to ignore the callous and irresponsible actions of the company they work for?

We see the golden parachutes given to departing executives. We see the hundreds of millions in revenue stripped from our local communities and handed out to wealthy shareholders, including Gannett executives. And we see that we must still pay for two CEOs.

Meanwhile, we’ve watched this company strip our newsrooms year after year. The constant bloodletting tells newsroom staff that the company does not understand what resources we need to be successful. It tells readers that the company doesn’t prioritize their community enough to invest in the journalists working to keep them safe and informed.

But ousting an employee from his job and his housing, at a time when his state was under a stay-at-home order while the country battles a deadly pandemic? It might be a new low for a company that has earned a reputation for discarding its employees like yesterday’s newspaper.

Gannett must end its blatant disregard for the rights and well being of its employees. We all have a vested interest in seeing this company succeed. The company needs to:

  1. End any eviction proceedings against Jackson and continue renting to him at a fair rate
  2. Apologize to Gannett employees and communities for this human resource error
  3. Commit to Gannett stakeholders that employment reductions will end so that our company can continue providing award-winning journalism.

We are appalled by the company’s decision. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Bloomington as they navigate the fallout.

Sincerely,

Emily Hopkins, president, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Kaitlin Lange, vice president, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Ryan Martin, secretary-treasurer, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Jim Ayello, steward, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Vic Ryckaert, steward, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Robert Scheer, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

David Woods, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Holly Hays, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

MJ Slaby, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Sarah Bowman, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild
Arika Herron, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Natalia Contreras, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

Tyler James, South Bend NewsGuild

Michael Caterina, South Bend NewsGuild

Alan Shaw, Sarasota Newspaper Guild

Billy Cox, Sarasota Newspaper Guild

Rebekah Sanders, chair, Arizona Republic Guild

Alden Woods, Arizona Republic Guild

Andrew Pantazi, co-chair, Florida Times-Union Guild

Gary White, steward, CWA Local 3108, Lakeland unit

Suzie Schottelkotte, steward, CWA Local 3108, Lakeland unit

Ashley Luthern, president, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Lainey Seyler, 1st vice president, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Steve Martinez, 2nd vice president, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Andrew Mollica, treasurer, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Talis Shelbourne, secretary, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Tom Silverstein, at-large board member, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Devi Shastri, at-large board member, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Angela Peterson, at-large board member, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild

Jordyn Noennig, steward, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild