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Gannett layoffs have impacted at least one northern Michigan newspaper

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Roman Kraft
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The Petoskey News-Review has lost one of its journalists in the latest round of layoffs by Gannett, the paper’s parent company. Gannet owns more than 200 newspapers across the U.S.

Sean Miller made the announcement he had been let go on Twitter. In the announcement, Miller asked people to "please support local journalism and consider getting a subscription so more journalists don’t lose their jobs.” Miller did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Miller is one of at least 400 journalists across the country impacted by Gannett’s layoffs after the company reported a second quarter loss of $54 million on revenues of $749 million.

Before the Gannett layoffs, the News-Review had nine reporters on staff who cover the greater Charlevoix-Petoskey area. According their website, the staff also includes two sports reporters based in Gaylord.

Ryan Bentley, lead planner for Gannett's Michigan Planning Hub, along with several other members of the newsroom, did not respond to our request for comment if more staff besides Miller had been impacted by Gannett's layoffs. It's also unclear if other northern Michigan newspapers owned by Gannett, the Cheboygan Daily Tribune and Sault News, also suffered layoffs.

According to the Cheboygan Daily Tribune's website, the lone news reporter on staff, Kortny Hahn, has not published an article on their website since August 16. Gannett announced the layoffs on August 12. Hahn did not respond to our request for comment.

Katherine Kokal is a reporter for the Palm Beach Post in Florida. She’s been helping Gannett journalists impacted by the layoffs. Kokal, along with several other journalists, have been helping people access resources like food assistance, job boards and insurance options. Kokal said at least 31 journalists have requested assistance.

"People are just devastated," said Kokal. "We asked in our layoff form, how many years they've worked for the company. And what's surprising to me is that it really ranges, there have been people who have been there for under a year. And there have been people who have been laid off after working there for 15 years."

Kokal said Gannett’s actions speak to a growing problem in journalism and that layoffs like this are becoming the unfortunate reality for journalists. The New York Times reported that over 360 newspapers have closed since just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When those small checks on our local governments and local school boards and local agencies aren't there, the bigger checks get fewer and far between," said Kokal. "I think that's what keeps all of us up at night. Local journalists don’t get into this for the great hours, or the admiration from the community. But we get into it because you care about democracy."

In a written statement, Gannet said "we've been transparent about the need to evolve our operations and cost structure in line with our growth strategy while also needing to take swift action given the challenging economic environment. These staffing reductions are incredibly difficult, and we are grateful for the contributions of our departing colleagues."

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.