Following trends in Gannett-owned publications nationwide, the Asheville Citizen-Times laid off a total of eight staffers yesterday — six of them from its newsroom, including longtime columnist Susan Reinhardt and Ashvegas reporter and blogger Jason Sandford.
After announcing that he was laid off from the local daily, Sandford, who has worked at the Citizen-Times for a total of 16 years, tweeted yesterday afternoon, “I will be calling upon you, Asheville, for your help and support as I launch a new chapter in my life, and local media.”
In an interview with WLOS Reinhardt said, “I just feel like I made a difference in the 26 and a half years. And I’m really just going to miss all my readers.”
Sandford reports that in addition to himself and Reinhardt, three other staffers were laid off from the news department including copy editor Rob Mikulak, editor Thomas Fraser and staff photographer John Fletcher.
However, in the newspaper industry, layoffs like the one that happened yesterday are neither new nor shocking.
In recent weeks, industry publications and bloggers have reported that Gannett, the United States’ largest media company and newspaper publisher, has been going through a series of nationwide layoffs.
But yesterday’s layoff is only part of the changes that have happened recently at the Citizen-Times.
Earlier this month, Randy Hammer announced that after serving as publisher of the Citizen-Times for about six years, he would retire to focus on writing a book. Dave Niell, who most recently worked as publisher of Naples Daily News, was announced as the new publisher and president of the Citizen-Times.
However, the pain of the most recent layoffs can be found outside of the newsroom, too. Ad traffic coordinator Linda White and web developer Jaime McKee also lost their jobs. McKee wrote of the layoff on her personal blog, “I can’t say I was shocked. Surprised? Yes. Saddened? Very.”
“It’s hard when you see colleagues leaving that you’ve worked with for years, many years,” Sandford tells Xpress. “There are tears, people are crying, there’s emotion.”
Sandford’s worked there for about 16 years total, in three different stints, starting in 1992 (he worked for Xpress from 2008-10). He notes that this mirrors the 2011 lay-offs, when Gannett slashed 10 jobs in the newsroom.
“They’re gutting the news operation, the heart and soul of the newspaper,” he says. “That’s what hurts.”
Sandford also blasted Gannett in a series of tweets, calling the move a “bloodbath” and declaring that the company had created its “worst enemy” in Asheville. Now he’ll try to make his long-running Ashevegas “infotainment” blog his new profession.
“I think that as the daily newspaper declines, there are going to be more opportunities for niche products to rise up.”
— Additional reporting for this piece contributed by David Forbes. Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 251-1333, ext. 140.
A previous version of this article identified Thomas Fraser as a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times when he was an editor. This online version has been updated to reflect that correction.