Gannett, parent company to the Arizona Republic, will commence layoffs and diminish salaries following a poor second quarter last week.
Gannett, which also owns half of the Arizona Daily Star, said in a press release that this “significant cost reduction program” would help pay down $150 to $200 million of their debt. The media conglomerate reported a net loss of $53.7 million, or over 7 percent of its margin. Gannett also experienced a 7 percent decrease in revenues, despite digital revenues increasing 1.5 percent to make up 35 percent of total revenues.
The Tucson Sentinel said that its sources confirmed that Gannett tasked managers with layoffs. Poynter sources clarified that salary cuts will have a 10 percent minimum, and that layoffs begin on Friday.
These layoffs will come, despite Gannett’s participation in initiatives like the Big Tech-funded program, Report for America, which supplied and covered portions of reporter salaries at 21 of its papers, including the Arizona Republic. The paper has hired three Report for America reporters so far. Report for America received an undisclosed sum of $5,000 to $50,000 from Gannett.
Report for America covers at least half of its reporters’ salaries the first year, a third of their salaries the second year, and just under a quarter of their salaries the third year, with the offer to cover the remainder of these salaries through fundraising.
The Arizona Republic subscriber base has declined over the years. According to their latest Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, their daily circulation was just over 109,000, with a Sunday circulation of over 320,200. That’s about 1.5 percent and 4 percent of the total Arizona population, respectively, and marks a decline of over 7,000 from 2020.
In 2019, their circulation numbers fell below 100,000, marking the steepest decline among Gannett papers.
The SEC filing reflected that the Arizona Republic is Gannett’s fourth-largest major news publication, with the third-largest daily and Sunday circulations.
USA Today has a daily circulation of nearly 781,200 and a Sunday circulation of nearly 534,600; Detroit Free Press has a daily circulation of over 83,700 and a Sunday circulation of over 896,600; and the Columbus Dispatch has a daily circulation of nearly 137,800 and a Sunday circulation of over 134,700.
Comparatively, the New York Times reported a $76 million profit for their second quarter despite being a smaller company than Gannett.
Gannett’s report inspired new criticisms from its journalists and their unions across the country. The Media Guild of the West indicated that Gannett’s recent decline occurred because the conglomerate was more concerned with corporate lobbying than sustaining newsrooms.
The guild cited Gannett’s network-wide advertising and editorial campaign in support of the Journalism Competition and Protection Act (JCPA) to remove antitrust restrictions preventing Gannett from being paid for content to appear on the platform feeds of social media giants like Google and Facebook.
The guild noted that Gannett authorized its CEO to buy more company stock rather than invest in retaining journalists.
Arizona’s largest newspaper, the Arizona Republic, doesn’t put up a paywall for any articles on its Spanish sister publication, “La Voz” — even if they’re translated versions of subscriber-only articles on its main page.
When AZ Free News reached out to Gannett’s customer service, one of their agents insisted that readers needed a subscription to access any version of a paywalled story. AZ Free News then reached out to spokespersons with Gannett, Arizona Republic’s parent company, to ask about the rationale for not requiring Spanish readers to pay subscriptions. They didn’t respond by press time.
La Voz launched in 2000, the same year that Arizona Republic was acquired by Gannett, a Virginia-based mass media company that owns USA Today, a national paper, along with over 250 papers across 44 states. The only states that Gannett listed no paper ownership in: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Though there isn’t an explicit reason given for the free access to La Voz, a plausible explanation might have to do with the newspaper chain’s social justice commitments.
Gannett is one of many companies across the globe committed to “ESG,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance” criteria that amount to a “social credit score.” Internationally, there are over 70 major companies committed to ESG criteria. The world’s greatest asset manager, BlackRock, serves as one of 100 strategic partners behind the globalist lobbying organization that invented ESG, the World Economic Forum (WEF); BlackRock is the largest shareholder in Gannett by far.
As part of those ESG criteria, Gannett has committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in hiring and media coverage. Last September, Gannett also announced that it created 20 national and 40 regional positions exclusively focused on social justice issues, with more to come.
The company pledged to reshape its workforce to mirror the nation’s demographics and communities where its papers exist by the end of 2025. Per Gannett’s latest data, the Arizona Republic successfully neared this goal in several demographics last year. From 2020 to 2021, the newspaper reduced its White journalists from 66 to 62 percent, gaining on its community makeup of 55 percent; reduced its Black journalists from 7 percent to 5 percent, matching the 5 percent community makeup;
However, the Arizona Republic fell short in several demographics. Though it increased its Hispanic/Latino journalists from nearly 15 percent to 18 percent, the community makeup totals 30 percent. And, it barely reduced its Asian journalists, hovering around 7 percent when the community makeup is just under 4 percent. It actually increased its Native American journalist hires, from just over 2 percent to nearly 3 percent, though the community makeup is just under 2 percent.
Gannett was acquired by New Media Investment Group in 2019. The firm is controlled by Fortress Investment Group, another private equity firm, who is owned by Softbank, a Japanese conglomerate.
The largest newspaper in Arizona hired two new reporters with the help of a group funded by some of the country’s most powerful Big Tech corporations and liberal companies.
The new Arizona Republic reporters came from Report for America, a program launched by the Big Tech and liberal-funded GroundTruth Project to place their hand-selected journalists in newsrooms across the world. The not-for-profit receives millions from the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the Ford Foundation for its mission to “restore journalism.”
The program offers a major financial incentive for news outlets to take on its reporters. Report for America pays 50 percent of their reporter’s salary the first year with a cap of $25,000 for reporters with less than eight years experience or $30,000 for reporters with eight or more years of experience, then 33 percent of the salary the second year and 20 percent the third year with no cap.
Outlets don’t even have to worry about paying for the entire remainder of those reporters’ salaries. The program pledged to help fundraise half or more of the remainder of each salary. High turnover wouldn’t be an issue, either — the program requires reporters to commit to working at least two years in the newsroom to which they are assigned.
News outlets must relinquish some of their freedom when it comes to hiring the program’s reporters, however. Outlets don’t get to choose from all of the program’s reporters. Report for America hand-selects three to five candidates from which the outlets may choose.
The owner of the Arizona Republic, the mass media holding company Gannett, has given thousands to the program: an undisclosed sum ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
In addition to the Arizona Republic, Report for America journalists are working for Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting and Tucson Sentinel.
Report for America claimed that its reporters are committed to non-partisan, non-ideological local reporting. Over 200 news outlets across each of the 50 states house at least one of the over 300 Report for America journalists. Two-thirds of those reporters are women, and nearly half are “journalists of color” according to the program.
GroundTruth’s editorial partners include The Washington Post, Time, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today, PBS, NPR, NewsWeek, TeenVogue, CNN, Cosmopolitan, ABC News, and USA Today.
A report from NewsGuild, the newspaper union, assessed that The Arizona Republic and 13 other newsrooms had gender and racial pay gaps. Outcry arose after it was claimed by the study that not only were those findings true, but The Arizona Republic had the largest gender and racial pay gaps of all the papers researched.
Women and people of color at @Gannett are underpaid by as much as $27,000, a @NewsGuild pay equity study has found.
Gannett has pledged to diversify its workforce. But you can’t do that without fair pay.
The research summarized that under The Arizona Republic, women made nearly $30,000 less than their male counterparts, whereas people of color earned $25,000 less than white employees.
On Thursday, Gannett issued a response saying that the NewsGuild research was a “misinformation campaign.”
.@Gannett issued a response to @newsguild and their misinformation campaign re: the ‘study’ of 14 out of our 250+ newsrooms. We address the facts that were not disclosed. Gannett is on a journey. We’ve been transparent about our goals. #facts[,]” wrote USA Today Network PR.
.@Gannett issued a response to @newsguild and their misinformation campaign re: the ‘study’ of 14 out of our 250+ newsrooms. We address the facts that were not disclosed. Gannett is on a journey. We’ve been transparent about our goals. #factshttps://t.co/UNnXqqeeAM
Gannett explained that the research conclusions were made through a small sample size, and not the full set of the population. Further, information like job titles wasn’t included in the study.
“The sweeping generalizations used in your document are misleading,” wrote the company. “The fact is that data can be skewed to support any narrative – which is the tactic the Guild is using to share misinformation,” stated Gannett.
Indigenous affairs reporter Shondiin Silverman complained that The Arizona Republic that she should be earning more than $40,000 because of her master’s degree and decades of experience.
“It’s infuriating to see that the newsroom I have dedicated so much time and energy to doesn’t see my work as valuable as the other journalists in the room,” wrote Silversmith. “I have given more than enough to prove my worth. The fact that this newsroom does nothing to respect that is ridiculous.”
Some white reporters who’d previously worked for the paper confirmed what Silverman said.
Previous Arizona Republic reporter Bree Burkitt attested that she was earning $10,000 more than Silverman did to do the same job, despite not having a master’s degree or more years in job experience.
Other journalists with The Arizona Republic testified that the newspaper wasn’t diverse or inclusive.
Investigative reporter and The Arizona Republic Diversity Committee Chair Dianna Náñez said that in just over her dozen years, she’d never seen more inequality for minority reporters than under their paper’s current editor.
“Spent 15 yrs w/@azcentral. I love journalism/truth/my communities.Worked for 4 exec editors & w/all @gannett equity/inclusion efforts to make a diff[erence]. Believe me: Under current top editor, I saw [Silversmith], too many POC, women, LGBTQ journos devalued/discriminated against,” wrote Náñez.
In mid-April, The Arizona Republic Executive Editor Greg Burton issued a report stating that the paper is nearing its goal of matching community diversity. Burton described how over 75 percent of new hires were journalists of color, a great majority of which were women.
This month, Burton reported that The Arizona Republic would have 37 percent journalists of color. In 2016, that number was 20 percent. Additionally, 39 percent of managers are people of color – a nearly ten percent increase from last August.
“Our goal is to match a community that’s 44 percent people of color. We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress, and doing so while hiring the most skilled and promising journalists on the job market,” wrote Burton.
This mirrors a similar initiative announced by Gannett last year when it issued its “2020 Inclusion Report.” The company pledged to match the diversity of each paper’s community by 2025.
Per a 2019 analysis, circulation numbers for The Arizona Republic dropped below 100,000. The research noted that the paper had declined over 30 percent since 2017.
The Arizona population totals around 7.3 million people.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.