* While this has been expected for some time, it’s just awful seeing it play out in real life….
Political writer and columnist Bernard Schoenburg and statehouse reporter Doug Finke have accepted buyouts and will be departing the paper on Dec. 1. Finke has worked at the SJ-R since the 1970s; Schoenburg’s first byline appeared in the paper in 1990.
Their departures will leave the daily newspaper with two news reporters and an equal number of sports reporters, presuming Finke and Schoenburg are not replaced before their departures and current staff isn’t reassigned. The paper, which has no fulltime courts reporter or police reporter or city hall reporter or education reporter, has posted jobs for a statehouse/politics reporter as well as a cultural, diversity and inclusion reporter who will “focus coverage on culture, diversity and inclusion trends across central Illinois,” according to a job listing posted by Gannett, the SJ-R’s parent company.
Gannett is under heavy financial pressure. Stock in the company was trading at more than $6.50 a share when GateHouse Media, which had owned the SJ-R since 2007, bought Gannett in 2019 and dropped the GateHouse name. The stock closed today at $1.74 per share. A $1.8 billion loan from Apollo Capital Management, a private equity firm that financed the GateHouse-Gannett deal, that came with an 11.5% interest rate is due in 2024.
The company is over-leveraged and has completely lost sight of its news mission.