Journalists at the nation’s largest newspaper chain are walking off the job in a showdown with its CEO

Jun 2, 2023, 5:00 AM

Hundreds of Gannett journalists plan to stage a one-day strike during the media company’s annual ...

Hundreds of Gannett journalists plan to stage a one-day strike during the media company’s annual shareholder meeting and their message: Gannett needs new leadership, and pictured the Gannett Co. headquarter on July 14, 2010, in McLean, Va. Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/FILE

(CNN) — The biggest newspaper chain in the country is about to be rocked by the biggest walkout of its staff in history.

On Monday, hundreds of Gannett journalists plan to stage a one-day strike during the media company’s annual shareholder meeting. Their message: Gannett needs new leadership.

The journalists want shareholders to take a vote of no-confidence against Mike Reed, Gannett’s chief executive. The NewsGuild-CWA, the union that represents more than 1,000 employees and dozens of bargaining units, has argued Reed has hollowed out newsrooms as a result of “misplaced priorities.”

“Reed doesn’t care one bit about a long-term strategy to invest in the company by investing in journalists,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said in a biting statement. “They need support and resources to make sure our communities have the local news needed to keep our democracy thriving. Instead, Reed’s singular focus has been on stuffing his own pockets. Reed has overstayed his welcome at Gannett and needs to go.”

The walkout Monday will see participation from 24 Gannett newspapers across seven states, notably the Arizona Republic, Austin American-Statesman, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and the Palm Beach Post. The NewsGuild-CWA said that some newsrooms will strike for as long as two days.

Morale at Gannett has not been great over the course of the last year. The company executed what it described as “incredibly difficult” layoffs in December, axing hundreds of jobs as it targeted 6% of roles in its news division.

The cuts came amid challenging industry headwinds. Gannett’s share price has fallen dramatically in recent years as print revenue has declined and the advertising market has weakened. While it has tried to pivot its business toward digital subscriptions, the efforts have simply not been enough.

In a Thursday statement, Gannett referenced some of the industry challenges it has faced and strongly contested the allegations the NewsGuild-CWA are leveling against it.

“During a very challenging time for our industry and economy, Gannett strives to provide competitive wages, benefits, and meaningful opportunities for all our valued employees,” a Gannett spokesperson said. “Our leadership is focused on investing in local newsrooms and monetizing our content as we continue to negotiate fairly and in good faith with the NewsGuild.

“Despite the anticipated work stoppage in some of our markets, there will be no disruption to our content or ability to deliver trusted news,” the spokesperson added. “Our goal is to preserve journalism and serve our communities across the country as we bargain to finalize contracts.”

Some of the reporters who lead their local unions at the company’s newspapers across the country, however, disagree.

“I pour my heart and soul into the work that I do, but love of the work doesn’t pay the bills,” Cheryl Makin, a reporter for Home News Tribune, said in a statement. “We need leadership that will respect our work and provide us with the wages, benefits, and staffing we need to do our jobs well for the long term.”

“We’re paid so little that many of my Gannett colleagues need public assistance or private charity just to get by,” added Kaitlyn Kanzler, a reporter for The Record. “This is no way to run a news company.”

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Journalists at the nation’s largest newspaper chain are walking off the job in a showdown with its CEO