It’s not been the best week for jobs in journalism. Entertainment Weekly laid off seven staffers. Digital First Media shuttered its ambitious Thunderdome project, and at least one local paper in that chain is bracing for more cuts. And today, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Star-Ledger,, based in Newark, NJ, reported that the paper is cutting 167 jobs—40 of which belong to reporters, editors, and photographers in the newsroom.
News of the cuts was not entirely unexpected. It comes a week after Advance, The Star-Ledger’s owner, announced it was forming a new company, NJ Advance Media, that will provide sales and marketing services to the paper and its affiliated website NJ.com by June, and editorial content by the fall.
The changes follow a model Advance has established in other markets, including New Orleans and Cleveland, though in New Jersey, The Star-Ledger and other daily papers owned by Advance will continue to publish seven days a week.
According to the Ledger’s own reporting, the paper currently has 750 employees, including 156 in the newsroom. Thirty-four jobs, including 18 full-time newsroom jobs, were eliminated in a round of layoffs last year. Newsgathering staff at the paper was at a high of 350 before buyouts, attrition, and layoffs began about five years ago.
As in other markets, Advance has reportedly offered some newspaper reporters jobs at the new company, and company officials have said the editorial staff at NJ Advance Media “is expected to be larger than the number now at both The Star-Ledger and NJ.com,” according to a report from the paper last week. Star-Ledger publisher Rich Vezza did not immediately return a call for comment from CJR this afternoon.
Meanwhile, today’s news brought a familiar mix of disappointment, commiseration, and a bit of anger on Twitter. From an LA Times reporter:
From a senior reporter at ProPublica:
Why I should continue subscribing to @starledger when it's gutting its staff? You can't do more with less.— Charles Ornstein (@charlesornstein) April 3, 2014
From a New Jersey-based think tank:
As an organization that relies on good reporting to explain policy complexities to the public, we're saddened by today's @starledger news.— NJPolicyPerspective (@NJPolicy) April 3, 2014
From an editor at Digital First:
Hearing rumors about similar cuts in the @njdotcom newsroom today. It's a hell of a week.— Tom Meagher (@ultracasual) April 3, 2014
From a columnist for The Charlotte Observer:
My heart is with all the journalists past and present at the Star-Ledger. Such a great and ambitious paper, once. http://t.co/vFElwMjLtm— tommy tomlinson (@tommytomlinson) April 3, 2014
And on a more hopeful note, from the director of NJ News Commons, an initiative at the state’s Montclair State University that incubates news startups:
In 2010, CJR took a look at what happened to Star-Ledger journalists who lost jobs in an earlier round of layoffs. Some of our more recent reporting on events at other Advance newspapers is here, here, and here.
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