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.”
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.”