Friday, February 15, 2008

GateHouse Media Staff Cuts to Impact Allston-Brighton TAB

The Boston Globe reported in Thursday's edition that GateHouse Media, the owner of more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers in the greater Boston area, will be cutting around 60 staff positions. Thirty-five of the positions are anticipated to be layoffs, while another 25 will consist of currently-vacant positions that will not be re-filled. The cuts correspond to nearly 5% of the entire staffing of GateHouse New England's papers.

GateHouse Media is the owner of the Allston-Brighton TAB, a weekly community newspaper, which will be impacted by the staff reductions. The larger newspapers owned by GateHouse Media in the Boston area are the Patriot Ledger and The Enterprise of Brockton.

The A-B TAB's position of staff reporter is currently vacant after the departure of Rich Cherecwich last month to California. His duties are currently taken up by a number of free-lance reporters.

A source at GateHouse Media confirms that the reporter position at the A-B TAB is one of the 25 vacant positions that will not be filled as part of the staffing cuts. The A-B TAB has typically had 1.5 FTEs on its staff -- one full-time reporter plus an editor, Valentina Zic, who is in charge of two newspapers -- which will be reduced by two-thirds. Free-lance reporters will be replacing the full-time staff reporter position.

The staff reduction at the A-B TAB comes at a critical time for the community because of the challenge in covering the massive institutional expansion proposals of Harvard University in North Allston and Boston College in Brighton. Free-lance reporters will have a steep learning curve in getting "up-to-speed" with the complicated projects proposed by the institutions, and the year(s)-long process of regulatory approval an discussion between the community and the institution.

One way the A-B TAB appears to be dealing with this challenge is to have the same free-lancer cover a given issue regularly. In the last month, Susan Haverson, for example, has had several bylines covering the BC expansion issue. The Boston Globe has also been using the same approach in its City Weekly coverage, where free-lancer Andreae Downs is covering the Harvard and BC beats in A-B for the Sunday section.

GateHouse Media will also be laying off their only staff reporter covering the Massachusetts State House -- reporter Tom Benner of the Patriot Ledger -- as part of the staff reduction, according to Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix on his Don't Quote Me blog. Dan Kennedy writes in the Media Nation blog that this one particular position will be sorely missed:
This is a tough cut indeed — one of the benefits of a local paper's having a Statehouse reporter is that he or she can cover hometown legislators, assess the local impact of various initiatives and the like.
The A-B TAB regularly includes "roll call" summaries of how local elected officials voted on various bills in front of the State Legislature. Such coverage will be more difficult -- possibly even stop altogether -- without a State House Bureau staffer in the GateHouse Media consortium.

EDIT (2/17/08): Dan Kennedy reports at Media Nation that, while State House Bureau reporter Tom Benner is being laid off, he will be replaced. The Patriot Ledger of Quincy is therefore not closing their State House Bureau, after all. Adam Reilly recounts how he tried to fact-check his original report, which now appears to have been wrong.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Interesting analysis Michael. I used to live in Allston on Linden Street so I have enjoyed taking a look at your blog today.

Just a quick correction though: The A-B Tab won't be losing State House News Service copy or copy prepared for the newspaper by Beacon Hill Roll Call. That material should still be available to GateHouse newspapers. Most of the stuff that Tom worked on was for the South Shore newspapers, not the Metro or other newspapers. So, the material in the A-B Tab should not be affected by the job cut.

While I don't know that this is 100 percent fact, I think it is correct.