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December 2, 2020

Telegram loses multiple longtime journalists as part of wide-scale Gannett buyouts

Photo | Grant Welker The Telegram & Gazette offices are based in downtown Worcester's Mercantile Center.

Longtime journalists at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette had their final day on the job Tuesday as the newspaper offered buyouts as a small part of roughly 500 who were voluntarily let go of by parent company Gannett.

Those leaving the Telegram & Gazette include Bill Doyle, a sports reporter for 40 years, Nick Kotsopoulos, who covered City Hall for nearly four decades, Elaine Thompson, a reporter there for 28 years, and George Barnes, a writer for 23 years. Editors Gerard Russell and Lynne Tolman have also left.

The Telegram's leadership announced the buyout offers on Oct. 19, and those interested in taking a buyout had a deadline of Oct. 27, according to a staff memo obtained by the Worcester Business Journal. Those employees' last day was Tuesday, and their health benefits will end Dec. 31.

The buyouts were termed part of Gannett's ongoing integration and cost reduction efforts headed into 2020, according to the memo.

Staff replacements could be coming soon. Dave Nordman, the Telegram's executive editor, told staff in a memo that the newspaper expects to hire four reporters and a copy editor in the next few weeks.

It was already a difficult year for journalists at the Telegram and other Gannett papers, which locally includes the MetroWest Daily News, Milford Daily News, area weeklies, and daily newspapers in Providence, Quincy, Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford and others in Central and Eastern Massachusetts. Employees were required to take three weeks of unpaid time off in the late spring and early summer, a period largely coinciding with the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic across the area.

Each of those local Gannett papers were part of the GateHouse chain until late in 2019, when GateHouse bought Gannett for $1.4 billion and assumed the name of its better-known partner. Gannett's flagship publication is USA Today and is based in Virginia.

Gannett, the country's largest newspaper chain, has since had a series of layoffs, and has slowly integrated the two newspaper companies, including adapting Gannett's website layout. Roughly 500 buyouts across the company were accepted in October, according to the journalism industry publication Poynter. The company employs about 21,000 people, including 5,000 journalists, according to Poynter.

The Telegram, which like many in the industry has suffered from declining advertising and subscription revenue, merged Worcester Magazine into its operations last year, and now runs the weekly publication as an insert. MetroWest Daily News sold its sprawling offices on New York Avenue in 2018 and is now based in a far smaller space on Speen Street. The Telegram moved into its current offices in the Mercantile Center in 2012, leaving a larger building it anchored on Franklin Street.

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