Nashville’s leading daily newspaper began another round of layoffs on Thursday, and the cuts included a well respected hockey reporter.
The Tennessean, owned by the Gannett Company, announced plans to “reset” in August, and did so by laying off 15 percent of its staff. The layoffs continued on Thursday, most notably including Predators beat reporter Josh Cooper, who was not offered a position going forward. Training camp for the NHL club is just two weeks away.
Long-time high school sports writers Chip Cirillo and Maurice Patton were also among the cuts, along with several other writers, copy editors and photographers. As of Sept. 20, they will no longer be employed by the publication.
It’s all part of something management is calling “the newsroom of the future”. Here’s how executive editor Stefanie Murray described the plan last month:
The bottom line is that we’re embarking on an ambitious project to create the newsroom of the future, right here in Nashville. We are testing an exciting new structure that is geared toward building a dynamic, responsive newsroom. This is a ‘reset’ for us, an entirely different way of operating that gives us more reporters and columnists and puts them even closer to the communities they cover. Our goal is to empower them to be more focused on YOUR needs and interests.
Translation: Fewer managers and more reporters. Less hockey and prep coverage, more college football, more of Nashville’s “lively retail scene”, and more tourism writing. All in all, the paper will shrink from 89 newsroom positions down to 76 by the end of the month. The latest announcement comes just one day after Gannett began laying off between over 60 employees at USA Today, including about 30 in the newsroom.
The paper’s parent company carried out a similar plan in Indianapolis in August, announcing 15 percent of the Indy Star staff would be let go ahead of a relocation. Long-time columnist Bob Kravitz jumped to local TV station WTHR after 14 years with the newspaper just before the cuts took place.
This whole “newsroom of the future” thing sounds familiar, but where have we heard it before? Oh, that’s right. Gannett used the term eight years ago.
Back to the future, indeed.
The 2006 restructuring was a seven-pronged approach that prioritized local, digital and multimedia. On Thursday, The Tennessean laid off three of its most experienced local reporters.
It’s remarkable that a company would stick with an eight-year-old vision in a system that clearly wasn’t working, and it’s especially tragic when this stubbornness claims the livelihood of a universally respected hockey reporter, along with many others. In an industry full of competitors that continue to adapt and innovate, The Tennessean and its parent company are content to sing a familiar refrain and lay off talented journalists.
Cooper and the others will land elsewhere, and Gannett will be worse off for it.