Monday, January 10, 2011

Reports: Three N.J. newsrooms to be consolidated; Asbury to take news lead, as 99 jobs get cut by half

The three papers are the Courier News, Daily Record and Home News Tribune, according to reader e-mail, and Gannett Blogger comments. Under the reorganization announced about an hour ago, the Asbury Park Press will produce the bulk of local news stories, while the remaining staffers will focus on producing "topics" content, says Anonymous@3:05 p.m.

The 99 current staffers must apply for 53 remaining positions, my tipsters say. "NO SEVERANCE," says 3:05 p.m. "Just some 'transitional pay program.' Everyone's gone by Feb. 4; not even a month's notice."

In an e-mail, a reader told me: "Nothing in writing; they are talking on a conference call now. . . . Content being changed: We will keep putting out a daily newspaper, but they are completely changing what we do."

[Updated at 5:29 p.m.: I've now posted Asbury Park Publisher Tom Donovan's memo, laying out the reorganization's timetable.]

Among six N.J. dailies
As a whole, Gannett's six-paper New Jersey Group has struggled financially for years. This afternoon's news follows speculation here that a major reorganization was in the works. And it explains why the three affected dailies escaped layoffs during a November round that cost an estimated 253 jobs at 63 other GCI papers.

Asbury, meanwhile, has emerged as an editorial production center. It is one of five hubs for the Design Studios, which will design and build pages for groups of newspapers. The other hubs, being rolled out over two years, are in Des Moines; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, and Phoenix.

The drive time between Asbury Park's main office at Neptune (mapped) and the three dailies ranges from 40 to 75 minutes, according to Google Maps.

Latest circulation
  • Asbury Park: Monday-Friday, 112,683; Saturday, 119,593; Sunday, 160,322
  • Courier News: Monday-Saturday, 18,293; Sunday, 22,134
  • Daily Record: Monday-Saturday, 23,054; Sunday, 25,743
  • Home News Tribune: Monday-Saturday, 34,962; Sunday, 42,352
[Image: today's Daily Record, Newseum. It features a story about Phyllis Schneck, a local summer resident killed in Saturday's attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at Tucson, Ariz.]


  1. Jim -- fake or real?1/10/2011 4:11 PM

    Wasn't there a post with Jim's name on it that predicted something close to this happening?

    I don't recall if that one was discredited or deleted, but it looks to be solid right now.

  2. Now Hollis Towns will get to preside over the news coverage of four New Jersey towns he doesn't care about, not just Asbury Park.

  3. So, now we wait to see what happens to two other new jersey papers, courierpost and vineland daily urinal. Those shoes should drop very soon. Does Philadelphia inquirer rumor surface again?

  4. Anonymous@5:04 p.m. posted the following on another thread; I'm cross-posting it here because of its relevant content:

    Jim, regarding the copy editing consolidation at Asbury Park, that actually happened on May 4, 2009. Copy editors and paginators from the Home News Tribune and Courier News were given the option of relocating to the Asbury Park Press. Those who wished management positions had to re-apply. The same thing happened in the sports and art/graphics departments. So at that time, the copy desk and pagination desk for the Press became the copy/pagination desk for all three papers, including their weeklies and any niche publications. The addition of the Daily Record came a few months later. It was announced about a year ago, that Asbury also would take over the copy/pagination/art responsibilities for Vineland and Cherry Hill. But since the announcement of CCI Newsgate and the design studios, Vineland and Cherry Hill have gone on the back burner. One of the theories floating around is that when the Press, Home News, Courier News and Daily Record go live with CCI Newsgate, that's when the Press will also swallow up Cherry Hill's copy, etc. desks.
    But who knows?
    All I can say is that the people in the newsroom at Asbury are shocked and saddened about the massive layoffs to the north. Asbury newsroom staffers appear to be safe, so far. But, again, who knows?

  5. Posted a few days under the Hattiesburg article was the observation that the smaller New Jersey newspapers were "discovered" to be way, way, way in the red because of a change in how some services they receive from the APP (printing, finance, depreciation, etc.) were charged. In other words, after corporate came up with a different and consistent way to charge the NT sites for what they get from T sites, there was a big "a-ha" money that these properties were deep in the red -- to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. The big question last summer was: Why should we keep these sites open? The reality is that the news folks at these sites will be sacrificed, with a few notable, locally known exceptions (such as a local-local sports editor or editorial editor with a face and column).

  6. Hey, don't forget the publishers and executive editors of those sites. Their positions are really important, as they will be overseeing a collective staff of maybe 25, including people in advertising.
    In Morristown's case, it looks like there will be 3 editors, 2 fotogs, 2 editorial assistants, 7 news reporters and 2 sports guys. And you can put out a product that anyone will want to read with that kind of staff? No way.
    I would love to hear more about the money angle. None of what happened in terms of joint printing, finance, etc. was our decision, it was foisted upon us by Corporate/Asbury. I was under the impression we were helping to improve Asbury's bottom line. Up until two years ago we were specifically told that we were profitable, we were not operating in the red.

  7. Hey 6:37 p.m., sounds like the Rockland office of the Journal News where you have about eight reporters, two photogs and one editor. There's also a columnist and an editorial writer.

    The circs are close - about 27,000 at Rockland -and you're right, there's not much to read in the NEW AND IMPROVED JN.

  8. Good for Gannett's short term bottom line. And good for political corruption in N.J. There will be just a few reporters left. Very bad for readers and local advertisers. All those local papers all around New Jersey used to be reasonably good. Employees from all departments spread goodwill in their towns and felt proud of where they worked. Wonder if the previous owners of the Asbury Park Press, who got a bundle from Gannett, have any regrets seeing a great paper go to hell.

  9. This is a move doomed to fail. Epically. With its staff at a fraction of what it was two years ago, Asbury is no longer able to effectively cover the municipalities in its current two-county coverage area. The thought of that same overworked, whittled-down staff attempting to cover three more swaths of the state on top of that (because it sounds like that's the plan) is laughable.

  10. P.Oed in Parsippany1/10/2011 11:26 PM

    Knowing people at the DR and CN/HNT, I am disgusted by this move. I feel nothing but sorrow for the people there and contempt for the pencil pushing morons who conceived it. Way to take four good papers and make them in to crap! But as you employees make your way to reapply for one of the 53 golden tickets, feel good that somewhere in Gannett, an executive will get a bonus for this. It's like GM introducing the crappiest car they ever made, charging more money for it and trying to make you believe it's really a Corvette

  11. The C-N is not surprisingly the newspaper in this
    entire carnage with the lowest circulation and some of the embarrassing writing appearing on Sundays and Tuesdays in particular. How any serious publisher/ editor/ managing editor could have allowed this juvenile and insulting dsiplay of poor journalism is beyond belief. Well, perhaps Tee Hee Hee and Babbles will take over to rescue their leader.

  12. A bunch of good journalists at these three papers are going to lose their jobs. It's an insult to them to have to re-apply to stay employed. And to try to say this going to lead to better coverage. Oh, please, save us from such bull.

    A curse on all Gannett exec and their apologists involved in destroying what little was left of good local journalism.

  13. Will the 53 reporters be reporting directly to the APP or will they continue to go to the sites that house the 3 various papers? What I'm getting to is are the newsrooms going to be shuttered and all that space wasted? All 3 papers are currently renting space: will the sales reps continue to report on site or will they be getting rid of all three buildings and report via Blackberry, laptop and in person to the APP as well?

  14. What if nobody from the staff applies for the jobs? That would be very telling.

  15. It's sad but this move was inevitable. Indeed, back when the Asbury Park Press first purchased the combined Home News and News Tribune (remember they used to be two separate papers), there was speculation that they would eventually combine. There was even official content sharing and staff sharing.

    Through the years there have been other, rather muddled, initiatives to attempt some sort of "sharing" plans.

    And there had been increasing pushes in some departments for more "regional" sourcing in some stories which was ironic because that had been done earlier and then made verboten.

    And of course, once the regionalization of the copy desks, the handwriting for this latest move was truly on the wall. It wasn't a matter of if, just when.

  16. 6:51, according to the meeting yesterday at the APP, the three sites won't be closing. Their staffs - however small - will stay where they are. They are to be thought of as bureaus of the Press, with the reporters working together to find commonalities among stories with the purpose of writing regionally and locally at the same time (?).

    One example given was that if a reporter is covering a meeting and an issue about snow removal comes up, it would become a broader story about that issue, with several towns that have that problem included.

    It's going to be very, very hard to strike a balance between writing regionally and locally at the same time - and readers aren't going to like it.

  17. And it's not 53 reporters - out of the current staff at the three papers, 20 reporters will be laid off. The 53 number is the staff that will remain, everyone included.

  18. Circulation drops, the papers cut staff, readers notice they're not getting anything out of it anymore, circulation drops, the papers cut staff ...

    In other states this might not hurt so much, but in N.J. -- constantly described as "the most densely populated state in the nation" -- it does. It's about 50 miles from Somerville, where the Courier News is located, to Neptune, home of the Asbury Park Press. If you drove 50 miles in Pennsylvania or Indiana, you could pass through maybe six or seven municipalities with their own governments. Driving from Somerville to Neptune, you'd go through about 20.

    Content cannot be shared. There's just too much ... stuff ... in between, too many differences in character and lifestyle and issues among the regions. The 9:36am comment is dead-on. Gannett management has seemingly tried to handle this problem as it might in another part of the world. It's as if they've never driven around the state.

  19. It's Gannett's view of the world. If it works in Ohio, there's no reason it won't work in New Jersey.

    For people so far up the corporate ladder they don't seem to know much. No disrepect meant here, but these guys and gals need to get out of their offices, out of their Caddys and Mercedes, and out of their country clubs.

    Then again, maybe this all part of that grand plan to kill off the community newspaper division a.k.a. the goose that laid the golden eggs.

    It sure seems like an excellent way to do it.

  20. We heard that there are 99 people today, there will be 53 come Feb. 5 so that's a loss of 46 people. Could be more than half of those are editors, not sure, but all are newsroom jobs.
    And yes, it will be amusing if people don't apply for the jobs. Some are saying they won't. Others, with families to support, will be forced to. Take away every last shred of dignity a person has, that's Gannett's way.

  21. I find it ridiculous that NJ will not close the three buildings they are currently renting. So much staff has been eliminated that the spaces are or will be largely empty. One would hope that on-the-beat reporters and photogs (as well as the advertising staff) live in or near the area in which they are reporting (or selling). They could do the work from home and report in to the mother ship when needed. It would save a lot on leased spaces. Two of the Gannett-owned buildings that have been vacated in favor of leasing alternate space still haven't sold. Uh oh, NJ, better get your man pants on.

  22. Leasing new digs while you still own the old place makes as much sense as buying a house before the other one is sold. It's nuts!

    Gannett's funny that way. It slashes to save, while throwing away money at the same time.

    What a company!

  23. The Bridgewater building is sold. And the rent in Somerville is less than the Bridgewater electric bill. Not too dumb.

  24. I'm one of those 99 who was effectively laid off Monday. And I won't be one of the 53 who remain on Feb. 5 because I've given my Feb. 4 notice. After more than a decade with the company, it's time to move on. To say they were disappointed with my decision is an understatement. They wanted me to stay and be one of the ones who reapplies. No thanks. I have a few more weeks of work, but I'm happier already.

  25. Same old Asbury Park Press model that has never worked outside the shore. The APP market identifies as a region. The other markets do not, the readers in the towns served are more parochial in their interests. So, forcing that model on the other markets has always and will continue to fail.

  26. Quick, somebody ask Al Neuharth before he dies whether he remains so proud of what he's brought to all these once-decent newspapers that Gannett has ruined over the years.

  27. I worked as a reporter for the Morristown Record in the 1960s. It was a great local paper, and we covered Morris County like a blanket -- every township committee, board of aldermen, town council, and local planning boards, boards of education, boards of adjustment and municipal courts. Not to mention every local high school sports game, with box scores, every fatal auto accident, with head shots. It's tempting to think that those days could be brought back if only some publisher would try putting quality ahead of profit. If only. It's just so sad, not only for us journos but for the communities that don't even know what they're missing, and the government functions that exist in vacuums.

  28. There's nothing that political office holders like more than knowing they're not being watched.

    Gannett editors can talk about their "watchdog" role all they want, but the facts speak for themselves: The only thing Gannett executives watch are their profit margins.

  29. Lois and Clark1/15/2011 3:12 PM

    The HNT building in East Brunswick is rented on a multi-year lease. Once that's up, see ya. I believe newspapers should be located in downtowns (like the CN is now in Somerville), not on highways, outskirts or next to landfills (like the HNT is now).


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