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500 staffers take voluntary buyouts at USA Today parent Gannett

USA Today’s parent company Gannett, the nation’s biggest newspaper chain, reportedly will see 500 employees take voluntary buyouts that were offered to the company’s 21,000 workers in October.

Over 40 percent of the buyouts, or some 214 staffers, are from the editorial side, according to Poynter.org, which obtained a list of all the jobs on the buyout list. That includes 124 reporters, 19 photojournalists, seven managing editors, three executive editors and 61 editors.

Poynter said that 600 people had applied for buyouts, but Gannett only accepted 500. Locally, Gannett owns the Asbury Park Press, The (Bergen) Record, and the Journal News that covers Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties.

The old Gannett was taken over last November in a $1.4 billion acquisition by New Media Investment Group, the parent of Gatehouse Media, but the newly combined company continued to operate under Gannett name. At the time, then CEO Paul Bascobert said frontline reporters “are the last place we want to touch” when it comes to job cuts.

But the coronavirus upended those plans. The company instituted executive pay cuts and furloughs across its more than 250 daily papers in late March. Bascobert’s job was eliminated in June and Michael Reed, the CEO of the parent company, took over his job.

The furloughs and pay cuts unveiled in March ended in July, but the company has continued to struggle.

In its third quarter ending Sept. 30, operating revenue was down 19.6 percent compared to a year earlier to $814.5 million, although the company said the decline had slowed from the second quarter when it had collapsed by 28 percent.

In one bright spot, the company said it had passed one million paid digital-only subscribers. But digital ads were down 13. 5 percent and print advertising was down 30.9 percent int he quarter..

In his earnings call on Nov. 3, Reed said that the company “replaced certain temporary measures including furloughs and wage reductions with more permanent cost savings.”

At the time of the merger, the company said it intended to wring out $300 million in savings through synergies. Through the end of the third quarter, Reed said the company had realized $115 million in savings.

But more cuts are likely ahead. Reed said the company “expects to realize $60 million to $65 million in additional cost reductions from synergies in the fourth quarter” but declined to pinpoint where the cuts would come from.

The company has converted several papers to digital-only and continues to sell off some of its non-core properties. The company is also selling off real estate and Reed said the company plans to sell real estate valued at $100 million to $125 million by the end of 2021.

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