Black Friday On Friday, Aug. 23, the staff of the Pensacola News Journal was notified that their president and publisher Kevin T. Doyle and executive editor Richard A. Schneider were retiring. Marketing Director Becca Boles was named the interim publisher. Kim Thomas, who is currently the deputy managing editor for digital, took over as interim editor.
Those announcements came a day after Gannett, owner of the News Journal, fired the paper’s managing editor Ginny Graybiel, columnist Shannon Nickinson and eight other positions.
PNJ employees were told, according to our sources, that Gannett wanted to move the newspaper in a more digital direction and the “old print” people weren’t the people to move in that direction. We’ve been told that the meeting was an ugly one. People were upset at Gannett for doing this. They were also told the decision to terminate Graybiel, who had been with the paper for 37 years, was solely Doyle’s.
Former USA Today editor and reporter Jim Hopkins keeps track of Gannett with his blog, Gannett Blog. He writes the cuts are part of a massive costing-cutting initiative by the corporation.
On the day of the retirement announcements, Hopkins reported an estimated 360 jobs had been eliminated at 57 of about 80 newspapers since the current round of layoffs began July 29.
The Pensacola cuts come at a time when the PNJ newsroom is already down four positions. Santa Rosa County is covered by freelance writers. Education reporter Erin Kourkounis has left the paper to cover K-12 Hillsborough County schools for the Tampa Tribune. Matt Foster, who once was a clerk in the sports department, is now covering law enforcement, after Eric Heisig left in July for a job with the Wisconsin Law Journal.
Graybiel will be hard to replace. Since she was named managing editor in 2006, Graybiel has worked 60-plus hours a week trying to fill the newsroom gaps and still produce a quality newspaper seven days a week. She has mentored the revolving door of reporters—Kourkounis, Heisig, Jamie Paige, Kris Wernowsky, Thyrie Bland, Kris Thoma and dozens of others.
PNJ employees commented about Graybiel’s dedication on the Gannett Blog.
“Heart and soul Managing Editor Ginny Graybiel is sacked in so-called layoff,” they wrote. “With 37 years at the PNJ, Graybiel’s leadership bringing the powerbrokers and arrogant burghermeisters in this unbelievably corrupt town and county to heel has been legendary and an inspiration to a small but dedicated staff.”
“A tireless editor who logged 80 hours a week shepherding a dismantled Gannett property to greatness week to week with ideas, great editing and lots of bloody verve, she’s rewarded with a lame sacking.”
The daily newspaper had come under fire from business leaders for its aggressive reporting on the Greater Pensacola Chamber and its firing of former CEO Jim Hizer. The newspaper had discovered that the chamber’s executive committee had made the decision without notifying the board and had notified Hizer at an evening meeting held at the McGuire’s Irish Politicians Club.
Their reporting led to a state attorney’s investigation and a report in July that the chamber needed to operate under Florida’s Sunshine laws. Some inside the PNJ believe the firing of Graybiel was due to protests from chamber leaders.
Meanwhile, Gannett reportedly is about to raise print newspaper subscription rates again nationwide in a bid to boost overall revenue when advertising revenue continues to fall.
Hopkins wrote on his blog, “That it would take this step so soon after cutting deeper into the marrow of news production is a sign of desperation.”