Gannett—the nation’s largest newspaper company, and the owner of The Desert Sun—today laid off dozens, if not hundreds, of employees across the country.
The Independent has heard from a source that up to a half-dozen Desert Sun staffers, including one person from the news side—an editor—were let go today.
Emails sent earlier today to publisher Mark Winkler and executive editor Greg Burton have not received a response as of this writing.
A Facebook message sent to the veteran editor who was reportedly laid off has also gone unreturned.
As of 5 p.m. Pacific time, Gannett Blog’s Jim Hopkins had received reports about a total of 202 layoffs and position-eliminations at 36 Gannett operations across the country.
(Update 6:20 p.m.: Commenters at Gannett Blog are pointing out that a fair number of the people who were laid off are longtime Gannett employees—and therefore on the higher end of the pay scale. The same goes for the Desert Sun case, presuming our source is correct: The editor who we're told was laid off has been with the company for not quite two decades.)
Gannett corporate spokesman Jeremy Gaines confirmed that layoffs were going on to media watchdog Jim Romenesko via this bit of corporate-speak “Some USCP (U.S. Community Publishing) sites are making cuts to align their business plans with local market conditions.”
While local market conditions may vary, Gannett has been slashing newspaper staffers at its operations across the country for about a decade now. And the results, as daily-newspaper readers can see, have not been pretty.
Witness The Desert Sun: While the newspaper still has a lot of hard-working and talented employees, some coverage areas are undeniably weak. Just one example: In some recent weeks, the paper’s “Weekend” entertainment section, published on Fridays, has been completely devoid of locally written copy: Other than locally produced listings, the content has come entirely from wire services. The same lack of locally produced stories has afflicted the Desert Sun-owned Desert Post Weekly at times.
Of course, Gannett is not the only newspaper company making cuts these days. Just yesterday, Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, owned by Advance Publications Inc., cut around 50 newsroom employees, and later this month, the venerable daily will trim home delivery to just four days per week.
In a somewhat cruel twist, employees were warned layoffs were coming, and told to wait at home for a call during a two-hour window. If a call came, they’d receive severance information; if a call didn’t come, they presumably were still employed, and should report to work like normal.
At least the poor folks at The Desert Sun who lost their jobs today presumably didn’t have to suffer through such a stressful indignity.