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More newspaper carnage

Monday, Sep 10, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* September 7th Facebook post by Peoria Journal Star columnist Phil Luciano

Once again, GateHouse has decided that the best way to serve the Journal Star readership and Greater Peoria community is by enacting layoffs.

Today, four newsroom employees — Shannon Countryman, Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson — will be terminated; a fifth, Wes Huett, will be terminated Sept. 21. To be clear, GateHouse and the Journal Star remain profitable enterprises; these cuts were made to “get to a certain number,” as we were told this week.

The Peoria Newspaper Guild tried to find reasonable alternatives and compromises, including the transitioning of employees to other, necessary work now going undone. We were told no; five employees had to be terminated.

As always, this is done by seniority: each of these gents is a rock-solid journalist who made the paper and Peoria a better place. Further, these cuts occur on top of two layoff-triggered departures just weeks ago, along with the sports editor’s exit today via a buyout offer. Not only do these cuts decimate our ability to cover and report local news, but we do so now (among a great many other losses in recent times) with no sports editor, city editor or opinions editor — and this at the largest newspaper in downstate Illinois. There was no need for these terminations, except to increase the bottom line of a corporation already solidly in the black. This is a dark day not just for the Journal Star and our Guild, but for anyone who cares about communities, public discourse, and justice.

Kaergard is the political columnist perhaps best known as “the budget beard.”


* Brian Brueggemann, who has done some solid work for the Belleville News-Democrat was also recently terminated from his own paper and expressed some solidarity online for Kaergard and the others…

The BN-D also apparently whacked editorial writer Brad Weisenstein, who’s been at the paper for over 32 years. His goodbye is here.

* Related…

* Word on the Street: Hail and farewell, Chris Kaergard


  1. - Anonimity - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    Here is the obligatory comment that we now read more news than we ever have but we refuse to pay for it. And this is the result.

  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:33 am:

    ===And this is the result===

    Read Luciano’s piece. This is about increasing profit margins, not stemming losses.

  3. - Steward As Well.... - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:45 am:

    I quit buying the State Journal Register (owned by the same outfit) a couple of years ago. A years subscription had gotten expensive which I could afford but the product was getting terrible. Lots of filler material and because of time constraints stale news that would end up in the paper the following day. At least once a week the newspaper was so short in total pages it looked like a flier supplement. Nope. Not going to pay a premium price for a substandard product.

  4. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    Chris Kaergard may your beard continue to grow or shrink as the budget and your wife permit. Preferably as you continue a career in journalism. Good Luck.

  5. - don the legend - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:53 am:

    ==but for anyone who cares about communities, public discourse, and justice.==

    Sadly there are fewer and fewer people who do care about this. The majority of people don’t know who their reps are, or who their councilman or alderman is. School board rep, forget about it.

    They don’t take the time to learn anything and base their opinions on commercials at election time or the five second sound bite on the radio or tv.

  6. - Stark - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    Modern capitalism and journalism not exactly co-existing well, it seems.

  7. - G'Kar - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:06 am:

    I have had the PJS delivered every day since the late 1960’s. I’ve seen what used to be a really good regional paper become just a shadow of itself. During the week there is almost no content at all. A few days before the lay-offs were announced it was pointed out that my subscription now costs over $700 a year. It is hard for me to justify that much cash for a very inferior product, now to be made worse. I’m not far from cancelling my subscription.

  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:12 am:

    This is where the outside journalist filler comes in from private entities. Illinois News Network.
    Corporations removing journalists other corporations paying for content to give away for free to spin a message.
    Should work out great.

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:13 am:

    –There was no need for these terminations, except to increase the bottom line of a corporation already solidly in the black. This is a dark day not just for the Journal Star and our Guild, but for anyone who cares about communities, public discourse, and justice.–

    Gutsy move by Phil calling out his bosses. Good on you, Huskie. JET would be proud.

    Compare and contrast with the prolonged silence of certain tronclodytes while Zell, then Ferro, robbed them blind.

    I guess the tronc deep-thinkers are too busy nursing their wounded sense of entitlement because Pritzker won’t go to their tea party.

  10. - NIU Grad - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:23 am:

    Incredibly sad.

  11. - Solidarity - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:24 am:

    —Compare and contrast with the prolonged silence of certain tronclodytes while Zell, then Ferro, robbed them blind—

    Look, someone had to be the sources for David Carr’s epic takedown of Zell and Michaels, and I’m guessing worked at the Tribune Tower.

    Also, the Tribune and the LA Times, which were both long anti-union bastions, now have unionized newsrooms. Maybe the staffs should have been more vocal, but I wouldn’t call them “silent.”

  12. - VanillaMan - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:29 am:

    I’m not seeing any needed innovations from newspapers halting their continued irrelevance to the community they serve. Layoffs, mergers and firings show a complete failure of leadership from people whose job it is to lead.

  13. - illini - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 11:40 am:

    Brian Brueggemann at the BND has always been receptive to my calls and was always willing to do follow up on news and information that I was privy to. Maybe I was his “Deep Throat” on a few follow up pieces he did. Sorry to hear that he has departed.

    So sad what is happening to the industry today.

  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 12:04 pm:

    @Illini: Yep. Brian will be missed.

  15. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 12:15 pm:

    You can look their finances up on yahoo finance. They are New Age Media. They broke even last year and are making money this year.

  16. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 12:15 pm:

    Sorry new media investments

  17. - Vote Quimby - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 3:04 pm:

    The News-Democrat is now being printed in Kansas City.

  18. - up2now - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 3:07 pm:

    How ironic that local newspapers continue to be decimated. I don’t buy Trump’s and company’s “fake news” charges, but I do see both left and right bias on the part of the national news organizations, particular TV, where the insatiable 24-hour-a-day news cycle demands to be fed. Local print news is the last bastion of objectivity. And it continues to be killed off.

  19. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 3:44 pm:

    I enjoyed reading the State Journal Register and the Peoria Journal Star in the 80s and nost of the 90s.
    Lot of good local content,all the national and world stories,good sports sections full of stats.

    Since then the papers are much fewer pages with much less content.
    With much less local reporting than they will ever admit to.

    Stopped subscribing when they started their trends of increasing subscription costs while decreasing content and pages.

  20. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 3:56 pm:

    Wondering aloud, how many business side/advertising employees were let go for their inability to utilize their product as a revenue generator?

  21. - BIR R. PH - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 4:54 pm:

    The BND is a shell of it’s former self. Only 1 or 2 local stories. Everything else if from the wire. I cancelled my subscription 2 months ago. The carrier hasn’t missed a day since.
    Company advertising will also go out 1/1/19 when the contract runs out.
    The worst thing anyone can be about your product or service is apathetic. We have reached that point.

  22. - BlueDogDem - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 5:37 pm:

    BIR. I give the BND 6 mos at best. I also dropped my subscription.

  23. - wordslnger - Monday, Sep 10, 18 @ 10:12 pm:

    –Maybe the staffs should have been more vocal, but I wouldn’t call them “silent.”–

    I didn’t call out “staff,” i.e. reporters. I have immense respect for Trib reporters.

    What I meant by “certain troncs” was the willfully ignorant, grievance-peddling gasbag sophists who kissed the Zell/Ferro tukkus to keep their phoney-baloney jobs.

    Real Scooby-Doo mystery, who I’m talking about.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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