Providence Journal Has Shrunk Far More Than Ever Reported Before
Friday, May 05, 2017
The numbers are astounding.
The Providence Journal now has about 20 reporters, according to John Hill, head of the Providence Newspaper Guild, which is down from staffing of reporters and editors at close to 300 back at the height of the paper in the 1980s, according to sources.
Back then, the paper was locally owned and considered one of the best small market newspapers in America. Now, it is one of the hundreds of newspapers owned by media conglomerate GateHouse Media.
The number that may be even more representative of the decline is that of the Guild, which is now down to less than 100. According to Hill, in the 1980s, the total number of reporters, photographers and pre-pub staffing in the Guild was around 500.
“In that heyday, one of the big bureaus had ten or so,” said Hill. The Providence Journal closed the bureau offices around the state approximately fifteen years ago.
Top Management Leaves
The Journal’s parent company — GateHouse Media — recently offered buyouts and Deputy Executive Editor Peter Phipps; City Editor Jack Khorey; Business Editor John Kostrzewa; and long-time reporters Karen Lee Ziner and Gregory Smith all took the offer. Executive Editor David Butler retired and did not take the buyout.
Butler, Phipps, and Khorey were the three top editors in the newsroom. "Their duties are being chopped up and handed out to some of the survivors," said Hill.
The Providence Journal’s State House Bureau has been cut by 75 percent in the past month.
In the 2016 legislative session, the staffing included Katherine Gregg, Jennifer Bogdan, Patrick Anderson, and Alisha Pina, but now after a couple of reshufflings, only Gregg is assigned to the State House.
Pina quit the Projo to take a state public relations job and this week it was announced that both Bogdan and Anderson were being reassigned.
The cuts are not expected to slow. GateHouse Media’s parent company New Media Investment Group registered a weak first quarter performance, the stock has sunk to nearly a 52-week low, and on the quarterly investor call admitted that the company was only realizing 10 percent of its first quarter revenue from digital. The stock closed at $13.55 on Thursday down 31 percent from the 52 week high.
"It's another instance of GateHouse's short-sighted quarterly mindset that [is] just making the paper smaller and more poorly equipped to fulfill the fantasy goals of coverage and ad sales that the company throws out to make outsiders think they have a plan," said Hill.
By contrast, the New York Times Co. announced on Wednesday that while their print ads declined by 17.9%, their digital ads increased to 38 percent and their digital subscribers increased to 2.2 million. The New York Times' shift to a digital strategy garnered the attention of super investor Warren Buffett.
In a sweeping interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box in March, Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway said that while he owns 31 newspapers, he believes only two or maybe three will continue to operate.
The most celebrated American investor said, “…there are only two papers in the United States that I think have an assured future because they have a successful internet model to go with their print model, and that's The [Wall Street] Journal and The New York Times. And I'm not saying it'll even be easy for them,” said Buffett. He also mentioned that the Washington Post could also survive.
The implications for the changing media landscape are profound — the Providence Journal, which has claimed the position as the oldest continuously printed newspaper in the country, has seen its daily circulation drop to about 55,000.
The company is rumored to be considering more layoffs.
Updated May 31, 2017
Editor's Note: A previous version incorrectly had Butler as Managing Editor and taking the buyout; it has been corrected to state he was Executive Editor and that he retired.
Related Slideshow: Where the Former Projo Stars Are Today
Take a look at where the top Providence Journal writers and reporters from the 1990s and 2000s are now reporting. UPDATED April, 2017
New York Times
Barry was part of the young gun investigative group at the Journal in the early 1990s that won a Pulitzer for the investigation into Chief Justice Thomas Fay, and also investigated Cianci’s Nick Ricamo and others.
He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist at the NY Times for his portfolio of "closely observed pieces that movingly capture how the great recession is changing lives and relationships in America.”
LA Times (formerly)
Teaching in Hungry
Starkman previously was an editor at Columbia Journalism Review, Wall Street Journal and GoLocal. Starkman was part of the investigative team in 1994 at the Projo that won a Pulitzer.
An award-winning journalist and media critic, he is the author of 2014's “The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism.” Before leaving for Europe he was the Wall Street reporter for the LA Times.
USA Today (formerly
Since leaving the Providence Journal, he has had stints at Long Island's Newsday and The Denver Post.
At USA Today, Frank was a 2012 Pulitzer finalist "for his sharply focused exploration of inflated pensions for state and local employees, enhancing stories with graphic material to show how state legislators pump up retirement benefits in creative but unconscionable ways."
The Weekly Standard
The Weekly Standard
Terzian is literary editor of The Weekly Standard. In the 1990's he served as the editorial page writer for the Providence Journal. In his career, he has been a writer and editor at Reuters, newspapers in Alabama and Kentucky, the New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times.
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
She was a pitbull State House reporter at the Providence Journal and has made a mark at the New England office of the Wall Street Journal.
She was part of the reporting team that was a Pulitzer Finalist in 2014 for a series called "Deadly Medicine," a stellar reporting project that documented the significant cancer risk to women of a common surgery and prompted a change in the prescribed medical treatment.
Once the State House reporter at the Providence Journal, today at the Post, Kevin is a longtime foreign correspondent who has been based in Tokyo, Mexico City and London, and also served as the Post’s Sunday and Features Editor.
He won a Pulitzer for international reporting with the Post in 2003, along with Mary Jordan, for their "exposure of horrific conditions in Mexico's criminal justice system and how they affect the daily lives of people."
New York Times
Pulitzer Prize winner in 2017.
Chivers is a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, where he "contributes to the Foreign and Investigative desks of The Times on conflict, politics, crime and human rights from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, Georgia, Chechnya and elsewhere on a wide range of assignments."
His assignments are far from his political coverage in Providence City Hall and the State House.
Executive Editor, News and Strategy at Computer World
Mingis has risen through the ranks at the high tech pub and has served as the Apple expert and the online editor for Computer World, which is a different world from being the lead city reporter cover Buddy Cianci in the 1990s. He was the reporter who broke the infamous DiPrete Cranston Land Deal.
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