Gannett Journalists Urge Shareholders to Protect Company’s Future With “No Confidence” Vote in CEO Mike Reed

In Webinar with Shareholders, Gannett Workers Point to Reed’s Gutting of Local Newsrooms, Falling Stock Price to Demand New Leadership


RELEASE: Gannett Journalists Urge Shareholders to Protect Company’s Future With “No Confidence” Vote in CEO Mike Reed


In Webinar with Shareholders, Gannett Workers Point to Reed’s Gutting of Local Newsrooms, Falling Stock Price to Demand New Leadership


**Webinar Recording Link**


Nationwide—In a webinar today, Gannett newsroom workers, policy experts, and union leaders with the NewsGuild-CWA urged shareholders to withhold their vote on Gannett Company, Inc. Board Chairman and CEO Mike Reed at the company’s annual meeting on June 5. The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units, covering more than 1,000 employees. 


Under Reed’s stewardship of the company following the merger of GateHouse Media and Gannett Media in November 2019, newsrooms have been hollowed out, journalists have been laid off en masse, and Gannett share prices have fallen nearly 70% - far more than peers in the industry like the New York Times and Lee Enterprises. 


As the nation's largest newspaper chain, Gannett owns more than 200 daily newspapers across the country, down from the 261 it owned at the time of its merger with GateHouse in 2019. Over the past year, as the company’s finances have struggled, Reed has laid off nearly 20% of its journalism jobs, instituted unpaid furloughs and a hiring slowdown and suspended company contributions to employee 401(k) plans. There has been a “mass exodus” among senior leadership at the company, with eight top-ranking editors and executives departing the company over the past six months, including USA Today’s editor-in-chief, publisher, and vice-president.  


Reed, meanwhile, has profited handsomely during this time, earning a salary of $7.74 million in 2021 - 160 times the median salary of a Gannett worker. In 2022, he made $3.4 million. 


“Retention should be a top priority for a business built on trust between journalists and their readers. When we lose those people, we lose their networks and the trust they’ve built up with sources – the kind of relationships that lead to the scoops and stories that people want to subscribe to and pay for. I understand and respect that Gannett is a for-profit company with responsibilities to its shareholders. But that business model should be built on compensating employees fairly. Instead, Gannett allows its CEO to make 160 times that of his average employee and invests in anti-union lawyers to counter union drives and drag out contract negotiations across the country. You should not support a leader that thinks this is an acceptable way to do business, particularly when that business is the fourth estate,” said Kayla Dwyer, a reporter for the Indianapolis Star.


“The Desert Sun is now made up of one producer, three photographers and 14 reporters – not nearly enough staff needed to cover the area’s nine cities. In the Coachella Valley, 71% of the population identifies as Latino/Hispanic, yet I am the only Latina reporter at the paper. Being the only one in the newsroom that shares a culture with so many of the valley’s residents means I often mourn stories that simply won’t get written about, for lack of diverse/overall staffing. We are “small but mighty” and work hard to make do with what we have. But Gannett does not recognize our work. The valley’s full of amazing stories that deserve to be shared, and we keep trying to do our jobs, but our employer simply doesn’t support us,” said Eliana Pérez, a reporter at The Desert Sun, a Gannett-owned paper in California’s Coachella Valley.


On the call, Antigone Barton, an investigative reporter at the Palm Beach Post, spoke about how the staffing cuts could expose Gannett to costly lawsuits. Barton described a recent incident in which a sister paper, the Pensacola News Journal, published a guest column attacking a story she had written about an academic study linking sugar cane burning to premature deaths among local residents. The column, written by a PR consultant for the sugar industry, falsely claimed the study had no data and had been produced by “activists.” The column remained on the media outlet’s site for more than a week, until Barton flagged the article could expose Gannett to legal liability. 


“At a newspaper where the executive editor also serves as the editorial page editor, the city editor and the news editor over a staff that has faced three rounds of cuts in a single year, filling a hole in the paper on deadline had taken precedence over the newspaper’s gatekeeper role,” said Barton. “In the process, the facts, relevance, our credibility as a media company along with my professional reputation were not considerations. And the effect of putting out newspapers with declining resources and against mounting odds, compromised the most basic standard of journalism, to at least not do any harm.”


Last Monday, the NewsGuild-CWA sent a letter to Gannett shareholders urging a vote of no-confidence against Reed, pointing to grossly mismanaged finances, a steep debt burden, and mass layoffs that have created news deserts across the country. The letter warned that Reed’s shortsighted leadership was tainting the company’s reputation, turning off subscribers, forcing out talented staff and creating legal risks by hampering proper vetting of stories and violating federal labor law. 


The letter urged a series of changes to bring Gannett back to profitability by reinvesting in local news, including reducing the CEO-to-median salary ratio, re-negotiating the company’s debt to lower annual payments and end the use of asset sales to overpay the debt, and improving transparency about staffing to let the audience know what product they’re buying, including requiring each news outlet to post a list of newsroom staff.


Over the past year, Gannett journalists have also engaged in a series of escalating collective actions targeting Reed, including: 


  • In August 2022, a coordinated “lunch-out” in protest of lay-offs involving hundreds of workers across two dozen newsrooms;
  • In October 2022, a virtual town hall with non-union members, labor and elected leaders, including Florida Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and New York State Senator James Skoufis, as well as musician and activist Billy Bragg;
  • In April of this year, protests by union journalists in Jacksonville, Fl., and New Jersey, two regions that have been particularly hard-hit by layoffs and the gutting of local newsrooms. 


“Mike Reed has been an utter disaster for Gannett. Rather than investing in the journalists who are at the heart of Gannett’s success, Reed is destroying newsrooms and alienating readers, all while raking in millions. It’s no surprise that Reed’s slash-and-burn management style has sunk Gannett’s stock price and driven talented journalists into the arms of its competitors. It’s time for shareholders to show Mike Reed their disapproval – or risk even further damage to local newsrooms across the country,” said Jon Schleuss, President, NewsGuild-CWA.


“Under Mike Reed’s watch, Gannett has become a shadow of its former self, despite the heroic efforts of Gannett journalists to maintain responsible and in-depth reporting in and for their communities. Reed has lined his pockets while forcing journalists to accept poverty wages and cutting newsrooms to the bone. The journalists who work for Gannett and the communities they serve deserve better than Mike Reed. Gannett journalists have organized, held rallies, and gone on strike to call out Mike Reed for his mismanagement. Now shareholders must join them before Reed reduces Gannett to rubble,” said Susan DeCarava, President of The NewsGuild of New York.


The NewsGuild-CWA is a major stakeholder of Gannett. The CWA General Fund owns 1,590 shares of Gannett. NewsGuild-CWA members and staff own Gannett shares, and CWA members hold Gannett shares directly and indirectly through public pension funds. 


For more information on Mike Reed’s failed leadership, you can find a fact sheet here

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