Reactions to Asheville Citizen-Times recent layoffs

LAY OFFS: Asheville Citizen-Times laid off nine employees, including six reporters, this past Tuesday, Oct. 25. Photo by Thomas Calder

Gannett is in the process of reducing its workforce by 2 percent, CEO Bob Dickey announced on Oct. 24. As part of the media giant’s cuts, the Asheville Citizen-Times laid off nine full-time employees yesterday. In its article announcing the layoff, the newspaper wrote:

The majority of the layoffs were in the newsroom, including several veterans: Tony Kiss, the paper’s Beer Guy; people and places writer Dale Neal; editorial page editor Jim Buchanan; sports writer Bob Berghaus; producer Denise Pridgen; and business reporter Mike Cronin. Other cutbacks were in the advertising department and the Black Mountain News newsroom.

Citizen-Times news director Katie Wadington is quoted in the article, saying : “On Wednesday, we will regroup, still intent on giving readers in-depth coverage of the Asheville area, telling its stories and being its watchdog. Our front page says we are the ‘Voice of the Mountains,’ and we will still be that voice.”

Rob Mikulak, copy-desk chief at Citizen-Times until he accepted a buyout in 2013, commented on this round of cuts, noting that in the past five years at the paper, more than 20 people have been “forced out, shoved out [or] coaxed out with buyouts.”

“It’s an incredible waste of talent and experience,” Mikulak says. “There’s no way the paper will be able to continue to give proper coverage of all that’s going on in this area. … Keep in mind, with Bob Berghaus’ dismissal, they now have one full-time sportswriter in an area that is nuts about its high school sports, especially football. … They’re not going to be able to provide the kind of service the people of Western North Carolina deserve.”

Former Citizen-Times employee, Jason Sandford of Ashevegas echoes Mikulak’s views, writing: “Most of folks [laid off]… have given decades of their lives to work for the Asheville newspaper. It’s gut-wrenching to see them lose their livelihoods.”

Sandford continues:

Tuesday’s layoffs were just the latest in a string of layoffs, which date back to about 2007, that have gutted the daily newspaper here and newspapers across the country. (For a little perspective: Gannett, from ’07 to ’11, has laid off 20,000 employees.) The latest round of Citizen-Times layoffs was August 2014. There was the 2013 round of Citizen-Times layoffs, of which I was a part. There was the big round of Citizen-Times layoffs in 2011. The list goes on.

Journalist and former Citizen-Times reporter, Caitlin Byrd offered several tweets:

Soap box: I no longer work for the Citizen-Times, but that was a paper where I learned a lot about myself as a journalist.

Those six employees who were laid off today were colleagues, friends and damn fine journalists.

I only urge people in Asheville and WNC this: Do not turn your back on the Citizen-Times. Instead, support them. Buy a subscription.

Anne-Fitten Glenn, author of Asheville Beer: An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing tweeted: “Thanks, Tony, for being an important voice for ‪#avlbeer for so long! ‪#gannettsucks.”

The loss goes beyond talent, Mikulak adds. “A lot of those people had 20 or more years of experience,” he says. “You’re talking 400 years of journalism experience and institutional memory. [The Citizen-Times is] just not going to be able to replace that.”

Dale Neal, who was among the nine employees laid off, gave his farewell on Twitter: “So long AC-T. 33 years. It’s been a great ride. Peace out. #avlnews.”


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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40 thoughts on “Reactions to Asheville Citizen-Times recent layoffs

  1. bsummers

    And all so Gannett can spruce up their Profit/Loss statement while they try to attract investors for their next big acquisition:

    “Indeed, that acquisition of Tronc, in “final paperwork” for quite awhile, too could well come this week. Internally that means tough optics, as a major newspaper company acquisition gets paired the same week with more staff cuts, including significant ones in at least some newsroom. The company’s execs will say the two are unrelated – noting the larger strategic picture requiring both costs cuts and strategic buys — but that will be a tough sell.”

    So who knows someone with money who can start a real newspaper for this burg?

  2. boatrocker

    Darn, where will WNC get it’s daily allotment of angry retiree white guy Walt Kowalski news now that it’s being pared down?
    Ahhhh, Gannett, the McKibbon of journalism. Tacky, vapid and geared to the casual newsophile.

    I’d amend a familiar saying-
    People get the journalism they deserve.

    I hope the ACT will still include 3 lbs of glossy insert ads in every Sunday issue.

  3. bsummers

    Tough break for all those that got laid off, but the one that hurts for me is Jim Buchanan, editorial page editor. I had arguments with him over the years (he rejected more than one submission of mine), but I always knew I was talking to a pro who had a strong connection to Asheville & a desire to do right.

    One other AC-T position that Gannett quietly eliminated some time ago, was that of Executive Editor. Has anyone else noticed that Asheville’s newspaper now answers to an editor in Greenville SC?

    • boatrocker

      Answering to out of town owners?

      As in the hotel, brewery, Airb+b and chain restaurant businesses here in town?
      Heavens no! Say it ain’t so!

      At least the Mtn X…still has the same name…. as it did before the Great Purge of staff.
      Cutesy rose-colored glasses/community oriented echo chamber
      journalism is still safe, dear readers. Sleep well for that.

    • bsummers

      Thanks – another great example of the kind of people who should not be controlling the flow of vital information in a democracy.

      What sort of damage do you suppose they’ll do to the LA Times & the Chicago Tribune if they get their claws in them?

  4. pinsker

    Maybe if the Times wasn’t a totally liberal bias paper, they might have a lot more readers.

    • Lulz

      LOL, but leftist tell me they are winning. Are they? Maybe, but with a whole lot of info blackouts, hanky panky, and law breaking though.

    • boatrocker

      That comment blows my mind as the ACT (owned by SC;s Gannet Press) is anything but.

      • Lulz

        Anyone the endorses the crap that the ACT does, including HRC and the local crony goons, deserves their fate.

        Dear ACT staff both current and former. Starve.

  5. Lulz

    LOL, if you had like some integrity, we wouldn’t have Bothwell come on here and claim that road paving is decades behind because of low taxation while a bond issue that is about to go through that will have a big fat zero impact on infrastructure . In fact if you had any integrity whatsoever, Bothwell, Smith, Newman, and the rest of the entrenched cronies wouldn’t be in government. The amount of purposely omitted details (or I should say MANIPULATED) about the spending habits of our local government is criminal. And if the facts were out in the open, people would be inclined to vote in those that will actually do the job of government. And here’s a hint: it’s not to shuttle money to projects that only benefit the connected people such as been happening for years now. Or to enrich those who have the power to vote themselves money such as our friendly crony Brownie Newman. So if you’re not getting the real facts out there so people can make informed decisions, i.e. doing your job, then go away. You’re of no use to anyone who has to deal with this crap.

    • luther blissett

      One tune, played badly. Go ride your hobby-horse somewhere else.

  6. Lee Galloway

    Seeing the people in the recent layoffs at Gannett is more depressing than the thought of a Trump victory for the Presidency. On many days, there would be a sports article by Bob Berghaus and the rest of the sports section filled with AP stories. Prior to retirement, I was often contacted by Dale Neal seeking information about Waynesville or local government activities. He researched issues thoroughly. Jim Buchanan is one of the most professional people I have read in reporting/editorials in any publication. He was a very fair individual. And in a region with like 500,000 breweries, how do you let “the beer guy” go!? The ACT just continues to deteriorate as do most newspapers across the country. I am old school who likes a newspaper in my hand, not particularly on line, but other than John Boyle, I am finding less and less reason to have the ACT in my hand.

  7. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    Don’t remember where I’ve seen a guy sitting at a table at the entrance of Walmart trying to hand out free copies of the local corporate rag, but I’ve since toyed with the idea of next time saying, “No thanks. I’ll get my toilet paper in the back.”

    Did you all her the latest that reporters are whining because they’re being flipped off at Trump rallies and called “presstitutes” and “Clinton apologist whores”? You’d almost think we were back in the 60s.

  8. luther blissett

    There’s often talk about “food deserts” — areas where there’s not much incentive to provide anything but shelf-stable cheap stuff with low nutritional value. I wonder if we’re headed towards “news deserts” in the same way.

    Where does it end up? The MX does interesting features, but it has soft spots around its major advertisers. I’m fine with things like restaurant criticism being “inform, don’t judge” — the annual Best of WNC works in its place.

    The various Tribune / McCredle operations occasionally dig up a nut, but are mostly ax-grinding for bitter one-noters like Lulz and the cranky old CIBO crowd. (Since CIBO shields its members from “political targeting” we don’t know whether they’re buying Tribune ads, but I’m sure there’s some overlap. Please note: this is not an OMG CIBOLLUMINATI theory.) The Daily Planet draws ads from the crunchier crowd. The Blade runs on a shoestring of donations. Carolina Public Press does genuinely good investigative work but on a limited scope.

    It’s sad when people like Neal, Buchanan and Berghaus leave, because you know that the “look at this gorgeous $750k Beaver Lake house on the market!” reporter is sticking around — not because the property reporters do a bad job, but because it shows the slow drift.

    • Media Junkie

      ” . . . the “look at this gorgeous $750k Beaver Lake house on the market!” reporter is sticking around . . .”

      The Home of the Week writer is a freelance correspondent, not a reporter on staff. And to be fair, he covers modest cottages and bungalows as well as upscale showplaces.

    • boatrocker

      Your phrase ‘soft spots’ is one of the best euphemisms I’ve seen in a while.

      One of the members of the all female band Menage told me years ago they had to change their original name from Menage a Trois (being a 3 piece)
      to Menage as the Mtn X refused to print their name under music listings and stated that they feared losing advertising dollars for folks being offended by the name.
      Way to stick to those guns.

  9. The Real World

    “I wonder if we’re headed towards “news deserts” in the same way.” —- I think we’re there and have been for awhile; in traditional media anyhow. Thank God for the independent, and pretty fearless, voices on the internet who aren’t as beholden to Fortune 500 advertising constraints.

    Major media chases and reports on the same stories and in the same way. They are given their talking points by politicians, big corporate, various influencers, etc. Investigative and courageous reporting? A fairly rare occurrence except on the web-only news outlets.

    • Lulz

      LOL yep. The establishment media is a propaganda machine now. Not to be listened too except for laughs. Where’s the outrage in the media, and I’m talking to big fat John Boyle, about the woman who got “beaten” at the Trump rally downtown and has now admitted to being paid off by the democrats to fake it. That liar and the garbage in the media who refuse to tell the truth is why they are simply IRRELEVANT.

      • bsummers

        Speaking of lying, please provide a link to a news story where Shirley Teeter “admitted to being paid off.”

        • Deplorable Infidel

          how bout they FEATURE a story on Shirley Teter , a local human interest story ?! ! ! AC-T won’t touch it !!! apparantly neither will this publication for that matter and she lives a block away …

          AC-T is adept at getting my letters swiftly buried outta sight, because they didn’t really want to print them to start with…they are totally in the tank for the evil ‘progressive’ agenda.

          • bsummers

            So, two days later, nobody has anything to support the “she admitted she was paid off” story? Gosh, I’d hate it if we had to conclude that was just another lie…

        • Lulz

          How about the Tribune. You know, the right wing rag that also talks about a boatload of NEPOTISM on the school board THAT GOES UNCOVERED AT THE ACT AND XPRESS. But we know, teachers are underpaid and students don’t have enough supplies. And if that’s so, look to who is in charge of the money and where it’s going. But of course that would mean a whole lot of left leaning cockroaches might end up in jail. The democrat party LOL, full of corruption like no other.

    • luther blissett

      “Investigative and courageous reporting? A fairly rare occurrence except on the web-only news outlets.”

      Oh, give credit where due. The C-T has done some pretty decent work in the past couple of years: the series on child homelessness, the city’s growing pains, the long history of the APD. Even the multi-week report on Mission raised pertinent questions about one of the city’s most powerful entities.

      Investigative work requires time, resources and experienced staff who are willing to put in FOIA requests, pore through documents, pick up the phone, talk to people. Look at how David Fahrenthold was given the time and remit by the Washington Post to dig out how D*n*ld Tr*mp’s charitable giving was mostly a smokescreen. It’s not a hobby job. It’s not about linking to sixteen other bits of reporting and splashing up a composite image with lots of red arrows in MS Paint.

      • The Real World

        Yes, I see that your original comment was referring to local/regional. I didn’t internalize that and my thinking flipped to national which is what my comment was based on.

        Yes, investigative reporting is expensive and time-consuming. I don’t expect as much of it from regional media because of that but, we are very deficient of it on a national level, it seems.

  10. John Penley

    My letter that was just published in the ACT…I was saddened and angry when I read your story which reported that your Letters to the Editor staffer Jim Buchanan has been let go because of cutbacks by the corporate owner of the Asheville Citizen-Times.

    I know personally from dealing with him over my own letters that he cared very much about the job and went out of his way to help people from the community who submitted letters get them published. In my opinion, the area has collectively suffered a great loss because of this.

    Should your readers infer that because Jim will no longer be editing our letters that the voices of your readers will be downsized as well?

    John Penley, Asheville

  11. ApePeeD

    People just aren’t reading newspapers on paper anymore; they’re electronic these days. There’s an apartment complex with over 100 units, and only one person has a Citizen-Times newspaper on paper delivered.
    People want to be able to flip through their little iPods/iPads and breeze through the headlines, and not struggle with a huge newspaper.

    • boatrocker

      “Struggle with a huge newspaper”- what a sad commentary on America’s willful ignorance. Poor babies.

      Now wonder we have creationists, climate change deniers and every other right wing wacko in Congress now, bought, sold and paid for by Wall St, Big Oil, the NRA and Monsanto.

      • Lulz

        LOL, it’s the left that are in tune with Wall Street. The only denier here is you!

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        He was obviously referring to form factor, but that went over your head.

        • boatrocker

          Yeah, thanks, but I know what form factor is. Those awful bulky heavy newspapers with their papercutty edges, and having to figure out how to fold them to transport them to and from home, oh no.
          Has anyone bothered to count the actual pages for a weekday edition? Quite sparse.

          Print media is on life support, unless you have a woodstove or wrap fish. Online sources, though easier to access also lack credible editors who make sure bs stories about an illegitimate half black Clinton babies are not published as ‘facts’. Facts and fact checking seem to be in short supply as of late.

          I find it so funny how both the press and education are vilified by righty loons when they , you know, disagree with your insane agenda.

          When right wing counter revolutions occur, whether Stalin’s Russia, China’s Cultural Revolution of the late 60’s etc., journalism and education always seem to be the first targets- but that couldn’t be anything but a random coincidence.

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