Reporters at GateHouse paper withhold bylines after veteran city editor is laid off

Three or four (I’m getting different counts) of the seven city reporters at GateHouse Media’s Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star are withholding bylines to protest the layoff of metro/city editor Mike Cecil, who had been with the paper for 29 years. “Cecil had just completed work on a well-received tab on the recent flooding across the region,” a JS reporter tells me. “It published the day before his firing.”
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Political reporter Chris Kaergard tells his Facebook friends: “I am exercising my contract right to withhold my name from all printed work (excepting the column, where it’s forbidden) until further notice to protest the foolish, short-sighted layoff of 29-year Journal Star veteran Mike Cecil … for ‘budget reasons’ at a time when the paper continues to make money hand over greedy fist.”

Journal Star executive editor Dennis Anderson writes in an email: “This was a reorganization of our newsroom management with a focus on putting more reporting resources in the community. We are hiring two reporters this week. We are losing a well-respected editor with years of experience. But after reviewing our existing resources, it came down to making sure we are serving our readers the best we can. It was vital that we have more reporters on the street.”

Columnist Phil Luciano tells Romenesko readers: “We’re told it’s a financial decision. And it feels like whiplash. A few weeks ago, the publisher called a meeting and told us that we were doing very well: good financial performance, plus a reader survey showing very positive responses regarding the paper. …Once again, despite our doing a good job here, the GateHouse bottom line costs the Journal Star yet another loyal employee (along with, we’re told, other jobs at other GateHouse papers). Though the city editor was a management position (one apparently that will be left unfilled), it leaves the newsroom bereft of 29 years of experience covering this city, something that can’t be replaced.”

* Union: “The employee was canned suddenly, then told to leave” (facebook.com)

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