CommonWealth Magazine has an update on GateHouse Media, whose top executives are once again receiving handsome bonuses while their company staggers under a mountain of debt.
GateHouse owns some 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts, including such notable titles as the MetroWest Daily News, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Enterprise of Brockton.
The CommonWealth item includes a link to my 2008 article on GateHouse, in which company executives tried to make the case that the debt woes were not insurmountable. Now, CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan writes, GateHouse’s annual report openly uses the “B”-word — as in bankruptcy — in describing what may soon be down the road.
4 thoughts on “At GateHouse, bonuses and a whiff of bankruptcy”
In 1914, writer-editor-satirist- and -curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken wrote a piece for the The Atlantic on the moral fabric of those who made their living within the newsrooms of the American newspaper. In it, he described the mindset of those who made the decisions on what path a newspaper followed.
“The primary aim of all of them, no less when they played the secular Iokanaan than when they played the mere newsmonger, was to please the crowd, to give a good show; and the way they set about giving that good show was by first selecting a deserving victim, and then putting him magnificently to the torture.”
When Mr. Mencken wrote the above words, he was speaking about how the management of newspapers viewed and treated the public. We will never know, but perhaps he foresaw the day when that same management would treat not only the public, but their employees in a similar fashion. Certainly, he might have commented on the corporate leaders of Gatehouse Media and their propensity for putting their employees “magnificently to the torture” while reserving for themselves the benefits and luxuries that follow successful corporate leaders.
One problem, neither Gatehouse nor its corporate leaders appear successful. I wrote about this in a blog at The Bulletin (a Gatehouse newspaper in Norwich, CT) in November 2011, pointing out that while the actions of Gatehouse corporate leaders led to a continued reduction in the numbers of professional journalists and the resulting loss of information to the communities they serve, it did not stop the outrageous dispersal of perks and bonuses to its corporate leaders.
For pointing this out, my executive editor summarily fired, humiliated, and escorted me out of the building on the same day I, and nearly 20 percent of the newsroom, were due to be laid off as a cost-saving measure. My firing was overturned later that same day when cooler heads (and lawyers) dissolved the actions of my executive editor, but those scheduled to be laid off were still out of a job.
Nothing has changed. This year the company appears to be in worse financial shape, more employees are to be jettisoned into the unemployment zone, and the perks and bonuses given to Gatehouse corporate leaders will be even larger. The end loser, in addition to those employees who gave their all but were still dismissed, will be the communities that depend on a local newspaper for their news.
The saddest part about all this is its familiarity to anyone in a newsroom (or expelled from one) in the last few years.
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I am stunned as a former Gate House employee, that the folks who run the show have so little respect for the value of local papers…just drain them dry and fare-thee-well is what seems to be happening. It’s heartbreaking to think that my community, passionately dedicated to the Marblehead Reporter, could ever be without a weekly.
I am hoping with all my heart and dedication to the paper (I had about a 40-year association with it in several capacities) that it survives. If it looks like it’s going to sink, I pray some deep wallet will rescue it if Gate House goes away.
To all my friends who are still associated with getting local papers out every week, strap on your life jackets and pray you don’t need them.
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