Gazette-Mail newsroom loses 18 to lay-offs, retirements, departures

Written by Zack Harold

On Tuesday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail announced to employees the results of its rehiring process. As those of you who followed along on Twitter already know, seven employees were laid off.

Those layoffs include longtime Daily Mail photographer Bob Wojcieszak—who just won “Best Photo Essay” at the West Virginia Press Association Awards last weekendDaily Mail cops reporter Tyler Bell, Daily Mail copy editor Samantha Ricketts, Gazette WVU sportswriter Dave Hickman, Gazette copy editors Rob Stiles and Mary Sansom, and Gazette sportswriter Tommy Atkinson.

Several employees including Daily Mail feature writer Charlotte Smith, Daily Mail photographer Craig Cunningham, and Gazette reporter Paul Nyden opted to take retirement. Other employees opted to take severance pay and find jobs elsewhere.

At the time of the merger, the newsrooms employed 77 people. The newly combined newsroom had 67 positions, so only 10 people were slated to lose their jobs. But as of Thursday evening, the newspaper lost 18 employees through the merger.

In response to West Virginia Focus‘s request for an interview about the layoffs, Gazette-Mail publisher sent the following statement:

The Charleston Gazette-Mail has completed the consolidation of its two formerly separate newsrooms, the Gazette and Daily Mail.

The newspaper underwent a re-application process with employees to determine skills and interests resulting in the best newspaper and digital coverage going forward.

Every employee was provided an interview with a three-member committee consisting of publisher Susan Shumate and editors Rob Byers and Brad McElhinny.

Some layoffs resulted while other employees chose to take retirement, new jobs elsewhere and/or severance. The newspaper experienced an overall reduction in newsroom staff of 18 full-time employees, seven of which were employment terminations. This is a trend that has occurred across the newspaper industry during difficult financial times.

Some longtime employees such as reporter Paul Nyden, features writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith, photographer Craig Cunningham and copy editor Charles Reilly opted for retirement.

“Unfortunately, we said goodbye to a number of employees who were talented, dedicated members of our newspaper family,” Shumate said. “The Gazette-Mail will miss them.”

Employees who remained were offered jobs from an expanded array of beats and positions.

Some positions wound up being unfilled, so the newspaper will be looking for skilled candidates for those.

The combined newsroom is expected to have 67 full-time employees — more than 20 above the number that had been in the Gazette newsroom or more than 30 above the Daily Mail’s newsroom.

The reason for the combination, Shumate said, was to provide deeper, stronger local coverage and to preserve as many jobs as possible.

Shumate said the combination has allowed the Gazette-Mail to hit 97 percent of its press times, to get newspapers to doorsteps on time, to expand Monday and Tuesday newspapers to four sections and to provide stronger video and multimedia offerings online.

1 comments

It’s taken me six months to find a good story about the loss of the Daily Mail to the Gazette Company. I know it was a shock to folks but I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

Thanks, Zack, for this insightful and well-written piece. You obviously landed in a good place before the closing.

Mary Childress

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