Gannett Union Members Respond to Company’s 2Q Earnings Report
NEW YORK – In response to Gannett’s second quarter earnings call this morning, where the company announced that digital subscription revenue had returned to growth over the past three months, Gannett union members and NewsGuild leadership released the following statements. The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units, covering more than 1,000 employees.
Chris Damien, Criminal Justice reporter, The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA): “For years, the journalists and editorial staff who make Gannett run have been forced to accept poverty wages and shrinking newsrooms. It’s time to share the wealth and make sure that Gannett employees are adequately compensated for their hard work. It's time the journalists and editorial staff who have put themselves on the line and worked tirelessly to keep Gannett afloat are given what they deserve. Gannett executives have let employee wages stagnate while rewarding themselves. If Gannett truly wants to grow its business, they’ll begin investing in their journalists.”
William Westhoven, Reporter, Daily Record (Morristown, NJ): “I’ve been a reporter, editor and columnist for 35 years, mostly with Gannett. I’m the only full-time reporter covering a county with 500,000 people. I’ve been laid off twice and am now making less than I was making for the same newspaper 22 years ago. I’m nearing a retirement I can’t afford. Yet Gannett pays out millions in executive bonuses and dividends. This is not how you run a billion-dollar business.”
Gabriela L. Laracca, Food & Dining Reporter, Asbury Park Press (Neptune, NJ): “We bring information to our communities that no one else can, we fight corruption, we save businesses, we contribute to the changing of laws and lives as staples in our community that even our readers say they can’t live without. We deserve to be able to start families, we deserve to be able to pay bills, we deserve to be able to buy homes let alone afford our rent, and we deserve to not suffer.”
Susan DeCarava, President, The NewsGuild of New York: “This earnings report makes clear that Gannett has more than enough to go around. Rather than continue to hoard Gannett’s gains for executives and shareholders, the company must get serious about rebuilding its newsrooms and providing robust local coverage. Gannett reporters have taken it on the chin for far too long. It’s time to make sure everybody--journalists and readers--get their fair share.”
On Monday, hundreds of Gannett journalists launched a mass email action action aimed at Gannett’s corporate leadership and local managers, underlining how the company’s stagnant wages have made it nearly impossible for reporters to make ends meet – all while CEO Mike Reed continues to earn a salary ($3.4 million) that’s more than 60 times that of the median worker. More than 200 journalists from across the country participated in the action. Union members described their experiences visiting food banks, working multiple jobs to make ends meet and facing challenges in providing for loved ones on Gannett’s meager salaries.
The action followed a nationwide strike on the day of Gannett’s annual shareholders meeting on June 5, when reporters in two dozen newsrooms walked off the job to protest Reed’s mismanagement of the company and demand leadership change at Gannett. The June 5th collective action was the biggest of its kind in Gannett’s history. The NewsGuild has also recently filed two unfair labor practice charges (in Florida and NY/NJ) over Gannett’s bad-faith bargaining over employee wages and issued a report on racial and gender pay disparities at Gannett’s New York and New Jersey publications which the company has failed to address.
Ahead of the walkout, the NewsGuild-CWA sent a letter to shareholders in May that included a series of recommendations to change course by reinvesting in newsrooms and journalists, including:
- Reducing the ratio of CEO-to-median salary ratio to 20:1 (it is currently 66:1), which would eventually lower salaries throughout the executive ranks;
- Re-negotiating the company’s debt to extend the payback period and lower annual payments, instead of using asset sales to overpay the debt, and using funds from asset sales to reinvest in local newsrooms;
- Improving transparency about staffing to let the audience know what product they’re buying, including requiring each news outlet to post a list of newsroom staff and, if there are no staff members, stating that in the directory.
Under Mike Reed’s watch, the company has laid off more than 600 workers last year - nearly 20% of its journalism jobs – and has instituted unpaid furloughs and a hiring slowdown and suspended company contributions to employee 401(k) plans.
More than 60 newsrooms have shuttered since Gannett’s merger with GateHouse in 2019, the company has halved its staff, and, according to a recent review by the NewsGuild, local news stories have plunged by 59 - 95% over the past decade. In the past four years, Gannett’s share price has fallen nearly 70% - far more than industry peers such as Lee Enterprises (32% loss over the same time period) and The New York Times Company (19% gain).
While Gannett continues to stall on wage negotiations at the bargaining table, the company is proposing that there be “no limitation on the use of AI with respect to any newsroom function including the generation of news content” and publicly announced that it would incorporate AI in the system it uses to publish stories.
ABOUT THE NEWSGUILD OF NEW YORK
The NewsGuild of New York, Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America, is a labor union representing nearly 6,000 media professionals and other employees at New York area news organizations, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Thomson Reuters, The Nation, BuzzFeed News, TIME, PEOPLE, Wirecutter, and The Daily Beast. The NewsGuild of New York advocates for journalists to have a voice in the newsroom, for press freedom, for inclusive and diverse workplaces, and for just cause, no exceptions, for all media professionals.
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