Faced with hostile takeover, newspaper chain takes its own life

Earlier this week, there was appropriate gnashing of teeth with word that Digital First — the hedge fund-controlled company that’s destroyed the St. Paul Pioneer Press and other proud newspapers across America — would make a play for Gannett, owners of more than 100 daily newspapers, including the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in South Dakota, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

We need not have worried about Digital First. Gannett has killed off many of the papers with a round of layoffs that leaves the newspapers as newspapers in name only.

Two reporters at the St. Cloud Times were axed — Stephanie Dickrell, the health and social issues reporter; and photographer Jason Wachter, who has been at the paper for decades. Those cuts come on top of the bloodletting at the Times in October 2016 when a dozen people lost their jobs.

Corporate execs usually proclaim that the mission of papers will be unaffected, but anyone who’s read the Times in the last year and a half knows that’s a lie. Newspapers can’t cut their way to excellence. They can merely bleed out slowly.

“Gannett is choosing the low road here — a direct result of the hostile efforts at a takeover by Digital First Media,” contends Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, in a statement to Poynter today. “DFM is once again causing grievous harm to an industry it pretends to be a steward of. Both companies have lost sight of the critical product they are meant to provide — journalism. Newsrooms that could be preserved are being decimated for Wall Street when there are productive paths forward. Let’s find a way to sell these properties to the communities they serve before it’s too late.”

Layoffs today also hit several online news operations. In all, over 1,000 journalists were let go. Remember that the next time you wonder why “the media” didn’t cover a story.

The continuing cuts have reached the most experienced. Journalists with decades of knowledge have been shown the door.

At the Indianapolis Star, the paper that blew the whistle on the perverts involved with USA Gymnastics, Amanda Kingsbury gamely tried to rally the non-journalist world to give a damn.

“Without the work of the IndyStar, Larry Nassar would still be sticking his fingers into the vaginas of hundreds of innocent and trusting gymnasts under the guise of a ‘legitimate medical procedure,'” she wrote on Facebook.

Woke up today and thought, "Should this be my last day at IndyStar, what might I wear?" Didn't want to be too dressy -…

Posted by Amanda Kingsbury on Wednesday, January 23, 2019

But the brutal reality is the non-journalism world doesn’t give a damn, a reality that provides comfort to the despots, crooks, and perverts who continue to benefit most from years of American apathy and whose power requires an uninformed and ignorant people.

Related: Does journalism have a future? (New Yorker)

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