Reporters at The Florida Times-Union spent their lunch hour on Thursday handing out flyers and urging people to support local news coverage.
The Jacksonville newspaper has seen its newsroom staff cut from 62 to 29 in the two years since it was bought by GateHouse Media, according to Times-Union Reporter Andrew Pantazi.
The Times-Union is a WJCT News partner.
Now, GateHouse is buying Gannett and plans to merge operations to form the nation’s largest newspaper chain.
As T-U reporter Andrew Pantazi explained on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Thursday, the union he represents is worried the merger could further erode the T-U’s watchdog capabilities.
“There are stories we know are happening that we just can’t do. Because there’s only so many things and we have to prioritize. Right now we’re prioritizing the JEA potential privatization. We’re prioritizing the Duval schools maintenance and the potential sales tax. What you’re not seeing in the paper that you used to see, for example, is as much daily courts coverage or as much daily coverage about crimes that are happening,” said Pantazi.
In a joint statement announcing the deal in August, GateHouse Media and Gannett said, "We believe this transaction will create value for our shareholders, greater opportunities for our employees, and a stronger future for journalism."
Once completed, the planned merger will create a local and national media company with 263 daily media organizations across 47 states and Guam.
"The majority of synergies is expected to be realized within 24 months of closing and result from the increased scale of the new organization, sharing of best practices, leveraging existing infrastructure, facility rationalization and other judicious cost reductions," the companies said in the August news release.
Pantazi and other members of the News-Guild-CWA union are urging the public to contact GateHouse executives and let them know how important it is to preserve local Times-Union news coverage.
The GateHouse Group Publisher that oversees The Times-Union, St. Augustine Record and Daytona Beach News-Journal is Bill Offill. His email is: email@example.com
A list of the national GateHouse executive team is available here.
An online letter writing campaign has also been organized at this link.