After hearing that GateHouse-owned Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record laid off its four-person photo staff and three editors on Friday, former staffer Don Bruce blasted management for gutting “this once-great newspaper.” Bruce, who was laid off from the paper in 2009, posted this to his Facebook friends and gave me permission to share it with Romenesko readers:
I thought it would be impossible for me to have less respect for the management of the Middletown, N.Y., Times Herald-Record than I already do, but the announcement Friday that they were canning three editors (including one who had more than 40 years of service to the paper) and all four staff photographers just leaves me even angrier at the heartless way they treat people.
The purge began several years ago when the Great Recession washed over the country. I was among the victims who were given walking papers over an extended period. They didn’t can us all at once. They doled it out … a couple here … three more there … a few more here. It was painful to watch the others go, but it really hit home when I showed up for work one day and got shuffled off to layoff-land before I could even try to sign on to my computer. (I tried later that day and had already been blocked from the system.)
They made us sign vows of silence to get our severance pay. I guess they could still charge me with breach of contract for even mentioning that. You know what? Fuck you, Times Herald-Record. Sue me to get your money back. Any newspaper that muzzles its own (former) staff members to execute a campaign that primarily targeted staffers who were 50 years or older and had at least a decade of service — people who earned higher salaries because of experience and seniority — deserves to lose the support of advertisers and subscribers who pay to get expert coverage. You want to rely on freelance photographers and reporters for your photo coverage? Go right ahead, but don’t expect to get any respect from the rest of the journalism community for your amateur-hour product.
You have cemented my greatest fears that between the Gannett influence of the current executive editor and the sale of the Dow Jones Local Media chain to an investor group that installed supervision by the bankrupt Gatehouse media chain would gut this once-great newspaper — the flagship paper of the Ottaway Newspaper chain — and render a bland, reader-pets-photos version of journalism.
On behalf of all the talented people you have jettisoned, I hope you senior managers suffer the same fate soon. You have earned it.