The Press-Citizen will no longer have its own editor, Press-Citizen reporter Zachary Oren-Smith tweeted on Tuesday.
Effective Monday, the Press-Citizen’s editor Tory Brecht was laid off, one of many cuts across our company as Gatehouse-Gannett’s mid-merger search for $300 million leads them into the newsroom. https://t.co/rsBYfEFHRI
— Zachary Oren Smith (@ZacharyOS) April 28, 2020
According to Oren-Smith, the Press-Citizen will now share an editor with the Ames Tribune. That editor won’t be located in either Iowa City or Ames, but will work out of an office at the Des Moines Register.
In November, Gannett, which owned 109 daily newspapers across the country — including the Register and the Press-Citizen — was purchased by GateHouse Media in November. GateHouse is a holding company for New Media Investment Group, which is controlled by Fortress Investment Group, a New York City-based investment management firm. Fortress is owned by SoftBank, a Japanese holding company, best known for its ownership stakes in tech companies. It owned 156 dailies, mostly in small markets, as well as 328 weeklies.
Prior to the merger, GateHouse had spent more than $1 billion since 2014 to acquire newspaper groups in small markets. In Iowa, it owned two daily newspapers (the Ames Tribune and The Hawk Eye in Burlington) and five weeklies (the Boone News-Republican, Dallas County News, Hamburg Reporter, Nevada Journal and Perry Chief).
GateHouse was the largest owner of newspapers in the country, and Gannett had the largest circulation of any newspaper chain. The merger created a concentration of media control unprecedented in American history.
The new conglomerate uses Gannett as its name.
Gannett, prior to the merger, was known for frequently cutting staff and budgets at its newspapers, including the Press-Citizen and the Register, and GateHouse had pursued an aggressive strategy of consolidation with its newspapers. In May 2019, GateHouse consolidated 50 Massachusetts newspapers into just 18. A leaked memo from GateHouse executives said “this consolidation will reduce production expenses and represents a necessary next step in our evolution.”
When the $1.38 billion merger, which was partially financed with new private equity debt, was concluded in November, Michael E. Reed, the executive GateHouse made CEO of Gannett, told the New York Times the new company would be looking for “efficiencies” to cut costs.
Reed told the Times the bulk of those efficiencies “is not going to come from editorial.” On Friday, Poytner reported Gannett had begun cutting jobs across the nation, adding on Monday, “it’s unclear if the layoffs are in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus or the result of the merger with Gatehouse, though one source told Poynter the cuts relate to the GateHouse/Gannett integration.”
The new cuts leave the Press-Citizen with four reporters and one photographer.
Update: On Tuesday night, Oren-Smith tweeted Des Moines Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter said in an email that contrary to the what the Press-Citizen staff was told, it will not be sharing an editor with the Ames Tribune.
The Register’s @carolhunter said in email: “There will be an editor for Ames. There will be an editor for Iowa City. Two people. Each will be dedicated full-time to his or her respective papers.” https://t.co/7W3T4dBEyH
— Zachary Oren Smith (@ZacharyOS) April 29, 2020