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