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VOL. 132 | NO. 63 | Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gannett Cuts 30 Percent of Commercial Appeal Newsroom

By Andy Meek

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The Commercial Appeal newsroom got around 30 percent smaller Tuesday, March 28, as a result of cuts made by the newspaper’s still relatively new corporate parent, Gannett Co. Inc.

The cuts – involving 20 positions out of a newsroom of 64, according to one staffer’s figure – were part of a reduction in newsrooms essentially statewide that Gannett implemented Tuesday, including cuts at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, The Tennessean and Murfreesboro’s The Daily News Journal.

USA Today Network executive and Tennessean president Laura Hollingsworth, in a statement provided to The Daily News, said the moves come against the backdrop of the company preparing to unveil “a new Tennessee network-wide strategy with our own employees.”

Gannett, the corporate parent of The Commercial Appeal, trimmed about one-third of the paper’s newsroom this week as part of what were essentially statewide workforce reductions the media chain implemented simultaneously.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Since acquiring the former Journal Media Group papers, including The Commercial Appeal, in a deal that closed last April, Gannett has been positioning its Tennessee papers as belonging to the “USA Today Network – Tennessee,” a branding that makes them as much about the overall network as the local markets.

“Once we have completed information sessions with our team members (on Wednesday, March 29), we will release further details about our plans,” Hollingsworth added. “I can say that we have been talking with our team members for some time about a transformative approach for serving our readers, users, communities and businesses in our Tennessee markets. We look forward to sharing these details with our customers and communities, shortly.”

Speculation about what those plans might entail has included the possibility of reducing the publication frequency in some markets.

Hollingsworth sent an email to staffers Tuesday afternoon explaining the day’s actions and hinting at what’s to come.

In the email, she acknowledged “that this has been a tough day, and we respect and appreciate the work of all our colleagues, especially those who have been impacted by these actions -- through no fault of their own.”

Hollingsworth, who referenced that more information about the company’s USA Today Network – Tennessee would be revealed at a “town hall” meeting of employees on Wednesday, March 29, went on to write that the workforce reduction is “the first step as we re-secure and level-set our economic vitality to support our journalism.”

One reporter told The Daily News, as the town hall was under way Wednesday, that it was “basically about connecting the Gannett properties across Tennessee in news and sales.”

CA staffers let go Tuesday, meanwhile, include longtime photographer Nikki Boertman, who tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “Being part of the Memphis community has fundamentally changed me as a human being, and I will forever be grateful. #MemphisLove forever.”

The 20 reported cuts include 12 positions covered by the Memphis Newspaper Guild and eight managers. Without confirming other names yet – “It’s a sad day here,” summed up one reporter – CA guild president Daniel Connolly said the 12 guild-covered positions were all part of a reduction in force.

“I’ve sat in on several of the termination meetings (Tuesday) as a Guild rep, and I’ve been impressed with these employees’ calm and their resolve to make the best of it,” Connolly said. “We’ll aim to help them in the days ahead.”

The newsroom reduction comes a little more than a month after The CA said that printing of the newspaper will move to Jackson, Tennessee, where The Jackson Sun – another Gannett-owned newspaper – is printed, effective with the April 18 edition.

That decision itself meant the elimination of 19 full-time jobs at the CA plant at 495 Union Ave.

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