The Detroit Free Press told employees today that it would be laying off five staffers as part of the newspaper’s latest cutbacks in the wake of hemorrhaging ad revenue and declining circulation.
The newspaper, owned by media giant Gannett, has managed to avoid large layoffs for years because of hiring freezes and retirement buyouts. The Free Press also reduced newspaper delivery from seven to four days a week as more people read the news online
The latest layoffs come just three days after colleagues said goodbye at a party to two esteemed reporters who left for other work.
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The newspaper will cut one photographer, two artists and two editorial research assistants, but their identities won’t be determined for another 30 days.
“We don’t know exactly who yet, but they surely will be missed,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jim Schaefer posted on Facebook this afternoon.
Despite the cutbacks, the Free Press continues to churn out award-winning work and has been noted for its impressive transition to digital media. What seemed unlikely just a decade ago – newspaper documentaries, live video feeds and multi-media stories – are the norm at the Free Press, which has won numerous national Emmy Awards.
Still, M.L. Elrick, who shared the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Kwame Kilpatrick saga before leaving the newspaper, said the Free Press would provide better coverage if there were fewer editors and more journalists on the ground.
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“It has been my sad experience that at the Free Press, they are good at getting rid of the Indians but not so good at getting rid of the chiefs,” said Elrick, the former vice chairman of the newsroom unit of the Newspaper Guild.
Click here to read the announcement to staff and the union’s response.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.