* Bruce Rushton last week in the Illinois Times…
Newsroom employees at the State Journal-Register are being offered buyouts, with the prospect of layoffs on the horizon.
The buyout offer from GateHouse Media, the paper’s corporate owner, was made Wednesday, with employees told they have until Monday to volunteer to be let go. Under a newsroom collective bargaining agreement, employees who accept a buyout would be paid one week of pay for every year of service, to a maximum of 15 weeks.
The buyout offer, also extended to employees at the Peoria Journal Star and Rockford Register Star, papers also owned by GateHouse, comes just six months after the last GateHouse buyout offer made last August. Reporter John Reynolds accepted the offer and was the only newsroom employee who departed then.
There aren’t many reporters left to cut. City hall reporter Crystal Thomas is leaving the paper on Friday to cover the Missouri legislature for the Kansas City Star. Her departure will leave the SJ-R with five news reporters, including Doug Finke, Dean Olsen, Brendan Moore, Bernard Schoenberg and Steven Spearie. Fifteen writers, editors and photographers have left the paper in the last six years without being replaced.
Yep. Click here to see the staff list. The paper does have three sports writers on staff in addition to those five, however.
* Town by town, local journalism is dying in plain sight - Newspapers in more than 1,400 cities across the US have closed over the past 15 years, often leaving residents without a reliable source of local news: Did GateHouse stop investing because people were less interested in reading the paper? Or did people lose interest because the lack of investment made it a less satisfying read?
* Communities lose when newspapers die or slide into decline: Even more prevalent than closures are what Abernathy calls “ghosts,” newspapers that are a shell of what they were. Tens of thousands of journalists left newsrooms in the decade ending 2017.