Less than a month after a national newspaper chain purchased the Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer and Burlington (New Jersey) County Times, local jobs are being eliminated from the former Calkins family-owned newspapers.
Multiple employees confirmed to LevittownNow.com that cuts have been announced in the design and copy departments at the newspaper. Many of the jobs that will be lost are based at the Bucks County Courier Times building along Route 13 in Tullytown. In addition, buyouts for a select number of employees are being offered by new parent company Gatehouse Media, which has its headquarters in New York and is owned by a holding company that is managed by Japan’s Softbank.
The exact number of the jobs that will be lost and the amount of buyouts that will accepted were not confirmed as of Sunday morning, but it is clear from current company employees that cuts will mean numerous employees, including veterans of the newspapers, will be out of a job by fall.
“The newspapers formerly published by Calkins Media now have the opportunity to streamline some aspects of our operation which will enhance our ability to focus and deliver on the mission of our company and its employees: Provide Bucks, Burlington and Montgomery counties with high-quality, deeply local and timely news and information,” said Amy Gianficaro, director of communications for the newspapers.
As is standard with acquisitions, several administrative positions are expected to be cut due to redundancies created when Calkins Media was purchased by Gatehouse Media in June for $17.5 million. The chain purchased the three Philadelphia area papers and the Beaver County Time and Ellwood City Ledger in western Pennsylvania. In addition, Calkins Media’s Uniontown Herald-Standard, The Greene County Messenger and a Western Pennsylvania real estate company were sold to Ogden Newspapers.
In the days after employees learned the newspapers were sold, Calkins Media CEO Mark Contreras announced a new job as the dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University.
Many of the design and copy desk jobs are being replaced by Gatehouse Media’s hubbed Center for News and Design in Austin, Texas. The facility designs front pages for hundreds of daily, weekly and monthly publications from its offices that are often thousands of miles from the towns the publications serve.
“Basically, I understand that they’re going to take the local out of the newspaper design and have a team do it in Texas,” one local Gatehouse Media employee said.
The Gatehouse Media employee also said the buyouts are expected to shrink the newsroom headcount in the coming months.
Gianficaro was unable to offer further details on the changes to the newspapers and a Gatehouse Media corporate spokesperson was not available for comment Friday.
The regional newspapers now owned by Gatehouse Media employ dozens of Bucks County residents in offices in Burlington County, Doylestown, Tullytown. At its printing plant in Falls Township, workers put the newspaper to press six days a week and contractors go out and deliver the product in the pre-dawn hours.
Gatehouse Media noted at the time of the sale that Bucks County Courier Times serves 23,000 readers on weekdays and 35,000 on Sunday; The Intelligencer serves 19,000 readers on weekdays and 27,000 on Sunday; and the Burlington County Times has 15,000 readers on weekdays and 22,000 on Sunday.
Calkins Media sold their newspapers after 80 years in the newspaper business due to financial conditions. The Calkins family formed the Bucks County Courier Times after merging the Bristol Courier and Levittown Times in the mid-1950s.
Gatehouse Media’s purchase of Bucks County’s two only daily newspapers means the end of local ownership and overall control of the publications that thousands of locals rely on to start their day.
The chain newspaper company that owns 130 daily newspapers has garnered a reputation in recent years for purchasing local newspapers and making cuts to staffing. Earlier this year, cuts hit publications owned by the chain.
“Their goals can be short-term, and if they can make a good return on their money by milking the profits of a declining business over the next few years, they don’t necessarily care what happens to the newspaper after that,” Matt DeRienzo, the executive director for Local Independent Online News Publishers and a former publisher at the Digital First Media newspaper chain, said earlier this month.
Despite a harsh business climate for newspapers, the Bucks County Courier Times won numerous awards for their work in recent years and has experimented with video offerings.
Bucks County Community College journalism professor and former newspaper reporter Tony Rogers said recently that he wasn’t sure if Gatehouse Media would make a good steward for the newspapers, but cuts to the newsroom are never a good thing.
“Owners who live in that community will naturally have a stake in maintaining that quality of life. That commitment is something that develops over time, and it won’t come naturally to outside owners,” he said.