By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The reaper visits Cape Cod, New Bedford papers

In September I asked (here and here) whether Rupert Murdoch’s 33 Dow Jones community newspapers might face cuts once they were sold to Newcastle Investment Corp., which is affiliated with GateHouse Media. Over the weekend we got the answer: yes, indeed.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 10.05.19 AMLocally, the Cape Cod Times and The Standard-Times of New Bedford, both of which enjoy excellent reputations, will have to make do with a lot less. Seven full-time and 10 part-time employees have been cut at the Cape Cod Media Group, which comprises the Times and several affiliated publications. Twelve newsroom jobs were eliminated, with 10 people being laid off.

Similarly, four full-timers and four part-timers were let go at the SouthCoast Media Group, which is dominated by The Standard-Times. The story does not say how many of those employees were on the news side.

Peter Meyer, the publisher of both papers, was quoted in The Standard-Times as saying:

It is important to know that new ownership is not at fault for today’s actions. Any buyer would have taken similar measures based on financial realities. This was a painful but necessary step to position the SouthCoast Media Group for future success.

Essentially the same statement ran in the Cape Cod paper. Yet Meyer also says the papers in both groups remain profitable, though not as profitable as they were in 2009. Which means that the new owners could have invested in growth — admittedly, a dicey proposition — rather than bet on continued shrinkage.

I could not find any announcement for the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, the third major local daily that Dow Jones sold in September. But Jim Romenesko reports that the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., got rid of all four of its staff photographers and will now rely on freelancers — reminiscent of the move made by the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year. Three newsroom managers were let go as well.

“I’m getting reports today of ‘bloodbaths’ at some of the former Dow Jones papers,” Romenesko wrote on Friday.

GateHouse, currently going through a structured bankruptcy, owns about 100 community newspapers in Massachusetts, most of them weeklies.

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  1. tobe berkovitz

    The New Bedford Standard-Times is (was?) a very good local paper. Ironic that it thrived under the ownership of Murdoch who provided economic resources and left them alone editorially.

    • The Standard-Times, Cape Cod Times and others in the group thrived under Ottaway ownership, not Murdoch’s. After buying Dow Jones in 2007 he vowed to get rid of “those silly Ottaway Newspapers” because as a Dow Jones director, Jim Ottaway had the temerity to lead the fight against his buying the company and opposed everything Murdoch stands for. Rupert couldn’t find buyers during the financial meltdown, so he ignored the smaller papers until the time was right to sell. He got his revenge against Jim Ottaway buy selling to an outfit like Gatehouse.

  2. More killing off of the watchdogs to keep Govt. and the community honest and safe – the light of truth is needed for society to survive.

    The pursue of the almighty dollar wins again –

    Keep up the good work shining the light of truth into the darkness

    Mike Brough

  3. What Mike Brough said!!!

    Pat Daukantas

  4. I’ve been a Cape Cod Times subscriber for over 30 years. Every Sunday and Thursday, there’s still a big fat handful of glossy circulars, and the classifieds are pretty much the only game in town. The senior demographic in the subscription area argues that many customers aren’t on-line shoppers and seniors in general are newspaper readers (which is why the publisher states it’s in the black). So why cut that back and risk losing readers in an ideal traditional reader/subscriber base?

  5. Victor DeRubeis

    @cynthiastead: Because you’re making sense and thinking logically. The people now running CCT are the media equivalent of Toyota execs decreeing that all their cars be sold without engines (reporters) or transmissions (editors).

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