Massive Newspaper Merger Puts NJ Jobs At Risk: Menendez, Booker

Massive Newspaper Merger Puts NJ Jobs At Risk: Menendez, Booker


By:  Eric Kiefer
Patch

NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey's U.S. senators are demanding that Gannett and New Media Investment Group protect vital newsroom jobs as they prepare for a massive merger that will create the largest newspaper company in the nation.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker were among a group of federal lawmakers who sent a stern letter to executives at Gannett and New Media Investment Group, which owns GateHouse Media.

According to the senators, the newly combined media company, which will continue to operate under the Gannett name, owns the following New Jersey news brands: the Record, Asbury Park Press, Herald News, Home News Tribune, Courier News, Courier Post, Daily Journal, Daily Record, Burlington County Times, New Jersey Herald, and online properties App.com, NorthJersey.com, MyCentralJersey.com and NJBIZ.

The new company will be led by New Media CEO Michael Reed, who told The New York Times that the bulk of the $300 million in anticipated savings from the deal "is not going to come from editorial."

"Out of 24,000 people in the company, there's about 2,500 that are actually writing stories every day," Reed told The Times. "It's a small number, relative to 24,000. So there's so much opportunity beyond the newsroom for us to go get these efficiencies."

Despite Reed's assurances, Menendez and Booker – along with colleagues such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders – said they're worried that the merger could have "significant impacts" to local newsrooms across the country, including New Jersey.

"GateHouse has already said it plans to cut between $275 million and $300 million in costs annually after the merger goes through," the senators wrote to Reed and Gannett CEO Paul Bascobert on Nov. 19. "If GateHouse's past cost-cutting measures are any indicator, your newsroom employees are right to be concerned about the future of their newspapers and their jobs."

There may be one big way to help protect newsroom jobs, the senators said: unionizing.

"Union representation will empower workers to advocate not only for themselves but also their newspapers and communities," the senators' letter stated. "In many communities, local newspapers are the primary source of news and information, yet the consequences of closing or hollowing out a newspaper are not considered by news executives seeking to maximize shareholder value and profit. Through collective bargaining with the newsrooms, affected communities will have a voice in decisions about their newspapers."