Asheville Citizen-Times puts 8 more on the street in latest round of layoffs

| August 22, 2013 | Comments (46)

asheville_citizen_times_2013The Asheville Citizen-Times laid off eight employees on Wednesday, including six in the newsroom alone, including well-known local columnist Susan Reinhardt. The others included: the newsroom’s best copy editor, Rob Mikulak; photographer John Fletcher; web developer Jaime McKee; night-side editor Thomas Fraser and me, Jason Sandford. I don’t know the names of the other two let go.

Gannett, which owns the Citizen-Times, has been quietly laying off employees at its newspapers around the country. Earlier this month, Romenesko reported that more than 100 employees were being laid off at Gannett properties.

So layoffs really aren’t a surprise. But then again, it’s always a surprise. Without warning on Wednesday morning, the individual employees began getting called to the human resources office on the downtown building’s third floor. There, the HR director from the  Citizen-Times‘ sister newspaper in Greenville, S.C., straightforwardly delivered the bad news. She hit the highlights: file for unemployment, COBRA, employee assistance program, etc.

I watched as Jaime came back from receiving the news. Then Rob. Then I got my call. There were tears, hugs and well-wishes all around. It was clear that my colleagues remaining at the newspaper felt worse than I did. Jaime, Rob, John and I rallied at Jack of the Wood for a beer and to be together. My best friend in the world, Melissa, joined us, as did Rob’s wife, Leslie, and colleagues Stacy, Sabian and Todd.

I grabbed my laptop and began telling folks via FB and Twitter. I met with David from Mountain Xpress and Emma from WLOS to talk with them for their stories. (Mountain Xpress story here and WLOS story here.) Reaction to the news has been overwhelmingly negative regarding the layoffs, and overwhelmingly supportive of me and my friends.

I’ve left and come back to the newspaper several times over the years, but I’ve never been laid off, so it’s taken awhile for the new reality to settle in. The one other time I had a similar experience was back in 2011, when the newspaper laid off 10 people in the newsroom and forced those of us left to reapply for our jobs.

I’ll be writing additional posts soon about my plans. For now, I just want to thank you, loyal readers, my family and friends for the kind thoughts and well-wishes. Everything for a reason. Onward to new adventures.

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Category: Asheville News

About Jason Sandford: Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville. View author profile.

Comments (46)

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  1. [...] jobs in another round of wide layoffs. Those job losses arrived in Asheville two weeks ago when eight people, including six newsroom employees (including me) were shown the door. Perhaps the newspaper’s best known personality, columnist Susan Reinhardt, was among those [...]

  2. Julie says:

    I hope you are considering a local online daily with all the local news we should be reading in the Asheville Citizen Times (as well as the usual fun stuff).

    I am a long time subscriber as well, but the only reason why I do subscribe is for the local info.
    I have already read most of the national news somewhere online, which is generally reprinted word for word in the ACT.

    If you can get a daily going I will want to subscribe. Bye bye ACT.

  3. Bill Stanley says:

    Jason,
    Sorry to hear of your departure, would seem, citizen does not appreciate good longtime service and dedication. You were good at and getting better every time you published something.
    The Scene is one of the best things the paper has done in many a day.
    Best of luck to you.
    Bill

  4. Jackie Simms says:

    I have never liked the moniker, Ashvegas – I don’t want to live in a town that is similar to Los Vegas. I hope now you will stop denigrating our town with that name. I am, however, sorry that you have lost your job at the Citizen-Times. Thanks for your articles. Good luck with future employment.

    • Jackie, thanks for your note. The name “Ashvegas” was never meant as some sort of aspirational term. It was a nickname my friends and I used when we were at UNC Asheville back in the day, an irony-filled nickname, because at the time, there was nothing in Asheville. Now the town is moving and growing and yes, starting to show a little vegas-like bling.

  5. Curtis Hipps says:

    Unfortunately, until someone at Gannett figures out that the problem is quality, lots of good newspaper people will continue to suffer. The problem, at least a good part of it, is trying to be all things to all people, instead of concentrating on first and most importantly being a consistent, ACCURATE, timely source of news. First off, people, internal & external have to believe in you. Sadly that went out the window about the time Gannett replaced the need to be accurate and consistent with the need to be young, new and cheap. (ie; less expensive) Quality costs.

  6. Ed Kizer says:

    Seems like they laid off a number of people a while back, kind of makes me wonder who is still there producing the ACT. I also thought they purchased or had some financial relation with this blog. Obviously you weren’t laid off from Ashevegas?

  7. Beth Chester says:

    Very sorry Jason! You have done a great job with this site – it allows readers to share their projects, etc. – even if many cannot afford to purchase what would otherwise be a very expensive ad. That’s an incredibly important service to the community! I hope you are able to continue to grow Ashvegas, realizing you will likely need to develop a steady revenue stream to do that. I would think that even new businesses would be happy to pay a small fee to post and/or readers to pay a very small fee to read? I hope so…both for your sake and for the benefit to Asheville’s residents! Good luck!

  8. doghaus28815 says:

    so long asheville-citizen times. take off the life support and turn the building into a brewery.

  9. [...] we’re not, even though sometimes it feels that way. Journalism is still a thing. Journalism and journalists’ enduring drive to report all of the [...]

  10. Media Watcher says:

    Was there any rationale to who got laid off? Longest term workers with high(er) salaries? Dissatisfaction with quality of work? (That one wouldn’t make sense, given that Sandford and Reinhardt were well-known media personalities with large followings.) The Reinhardt firing is particularly hard to understand, given her high profile. Any insight from the ultimate insider, Jason Sandford, or will we have to wait for your tell-all memoirs, “Asheville Confidential?”

    • Media Watcher, there’s no rationale that I’m aware of. Randy Hammer gave his corporate bosses a list of 20 people that he said could go. I don’t know if he ranked those employees in any way or not, but there’s nothing else I’m aware of. In Pensacola, the publisher, executive editor, managing editor and star columnist were all eliminated. Really, it makes no sense at all.

      • Media Watcher says:

        Thanks for you insight. Randy Hammer should have given them a list of “20 employees who should not be let go,” and let corporate pick from all the rest. This seems to be behind his retirement. He didn’t want to wield the axe.

  11. Ben Atkins says:

    I am very sorry Jason. Their loss.

  12. indie says:

    The ongoing structural change in the newspaper business is remarkable. So many new types of competitors and declining traditional revenue streams makes for a bad combination.

    Ordinary folks generally lament the layoffs and the loss of local focus, but also increasingly, don’t actually buy the product. It doesn’t just make itself, unfortunately.

    Best of luck, Jason, in your next endeavor.

  13. FDR says:

    Do you think the sale of the building is in the future? The real estate is worth a lot, and now that there again is fewer employees couldn’t they do the same out of a smaller facility. The paper has gotten smaller, why hasn’t everything else.

    • FDR, I think the sale of the downtown building is definitely in the future. I’m not sure when. My prediction is that the newspaper will stop printing a daily paper within the next 8 to 12 months. You’ll see a print product three or four times a week (Wednesday, coupons; Friday, Asheville Scene; Sunday). The sale of the downtown building might be more like two years down the road, imho.

      • Jeffey Green says:

        What’s interesting and sad is that I had interest in the building when I was Publisher 6 years ago at the peak of the real estate boom and Gannett corporate would not let me sell it.

  14. FreePressGuy says:

    I subscribe to the CT. Not surprised, but very concerned about what is happening around this country with journalists and reporters. We need accurate reporting especially now of politicians locally and nationally. Our rights and freedoms have never been more threatened than now. I understand that less and less people subscribe to newspapers and the business model it is built upon is in the toilet. An independent press is absolutely needed NOW, I am so sorry for the citizens of Asheville to have this taking place in such a vibrant community.

  15. Shawn says:

    Wow, Looks like they let go a whole team who could start publishing their own material. Keep your heads up. Maybe you should all work together, come up with your own gig.

  16. John Tripp says:

    I still subscribe to the print version of the Citizen Times and enjoy reading it with my morning coffee, along with my 86 year old mom. We are a dead or dieing breed. I’ll give the Citizen Times five years max and it’s history. The age of newsprint is nearly over, now we have billionaires like Jeff Bezos (who also has a $600 million contract with the military) calling the shots. Or Rupert Murdoch. My feeling is that true journalism will go on, but journalism as a profession will be cast to the trash heap. With so many self declared journalists out there, it’s not any different than my profession of layout & design. If anyone can do it, everyone will do it. It’s seperating the wheat from the chaff that legimitate news papers used to do. Now it doesn’t seem to matter. I have hope though. I think Gannett needs to die and from its ashes rise true local news, most likely via blogs. I think all of those that were laid off can find ample opportunities just by tapping into the interest that exists about Asheville. I’m doing it now with my own projects. Being indepedent might seem terrifying at first but it’s actually liberating. I look forward to seeing what these talented people do next.

  17. Julio says:

    Reminds me of the gabordi era. He always looked up to you, Jason. Of course, he had no choice. He only stood 4’9″.

    Much luck to you, brother.

  18. Leslie says:

    I am so sorry Jason, that all of you are going thru this. My gut tells me that you, Susan, and the rest, are strong enough to survive this. But the news itself is devastating, let alone trying to figure out what to do next. I’ve been reading your blog for years. Even once attended The Blog Awards that were held in downtown Asheville a few years ago. My sister’s blog won an award that night! And I do believe you were there too, making the rounds. Just know that you have unconditional support from your readers. That may not help much, but at least you will know we truly care!

  19. Underground Steve says:

    Jason, you’re a talented reporter and writer. Everybody here at the Jackson Underground Cafe wishes you, and your co workers the very best. If there’s anything we can do, you know where to find us!

    Best,
    Steve & Elizabeth

  20. Jack says:

    Stay up! You’re too good for them

  21. DC says:

    Sorry they let you go. I found it interesting the ACT would not name those let go. Best of luck to you.

  22. Lexingtonian says:

    So sad to hear this!
    Citizen Times has just lost the only reasons I ever checked in with them online….Jason and Susan!

  23. Eric S says:

    That is so horrible!! Shame on the Gannett laying of so much talent, some that who have been there 20+ years. I wish everyone luck to get a job fast. A severance package would have been nice for everyone with all the dedication and hard work you all serve to us! Thank you!

  24. So sorry Jason about what happened! and the suddenness of it all.

    You are brilliant in what you do, and have great gifts and strengths to offer the world. There will be amazing beauty that arises from this chaos.

    Looking forward to hearing more about what’s next – let me know how I can help! (serious)

  25. Leslie Boyd says:

    Y’all will land on your feet, and it is Gannett’s loss.

  26. Kdog says:

    According to Governor Pope, Deputy Assistant Governor McCrory, Tim Moffitt, Jim Davis, Michele Presnell, Tom Apodaca, Ralph Hise, Nathan Ramsey, and the rest of the Radical Republicans, the 8 laid off at the AC-T were obviously lazy and incompetent employees. Why else would they be unemployed? They need to go compete with laid off teacher assistants and community college instructors for minimum wage jobs. But don’t expect Medicaid to help you out – you can always show up at the Mission ER.

  27. PBnJ says:

    Sorry to hear the bad news. Best of luck!

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