The owner of the Tullytown-based Bucks County Courier Times has made more cuts to its staff.
On Monday, the entire photo team at the Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer, and Burlington County (New Jersey) Times were laid off. In addition, members of the video production team and several newsroom management employees were cut as part of the latest belt-tightening implemented by Gatehouse Media, which is under the control of Japan-based Softbank, according to three sources with knowledge of the newspapers’ operations.
It was not immediately clear if the newspaper plans to rely on more freelance photographers or lean on reporters to capture more images for publication, a trend that had grown in the media business over the past decade.
Sources said the cuts that impacted around 15 employees were unexpected and a blow to the sagging morale at the newspapers.
The layoffs, according to two sources and social media posts in other Gatehouse Media markets across the country, hit a number of newspapers and magazines. At many publications, photographers and sports reporters were cut.
The regional executive editor for Gatehouse Media’s newspapers in the Philadelphia area and the Poconos referred a LevittownNow.com reporter to the corporate public relations team. Phone calls to Gatehouse Media’s corporate office went unanswered and an email to a spokesperson was not returned as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Bucks County Courier Times and Intelligencer had been known for their high-quality artwork and designs over the decades, taking home many awards. Previous staff from the photo and video team had been wiped out in layoffs in 2017 and 2018.
Between summer 2017 and Wednesday, the staff at the Bucks County Courier Times has been reduced by just over 70 percent, one source said.
Since Gatehouse Media bought the majority of family-owned Calkins Media, including the Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times, for $17.5 million in summer 2017, a large portion of the staff have taken buyouts or been laid off by the new owner, a company known in the journalism field for their deep staffing cuts.
The majority of the design, customer service, and copy desk jobs were eliminated and outsourced from the local newspapers over the course in 2017, while a number of longtime reporters who covered local government and other news left the newspaper along with several sports scribes. Cuts were also felt in the sales and business departments.
The layoffs since 2017 have received little coverage in the newspapers.
Last year, the Intelligencer staff moved out of their building near the heart of Doylestown Borough and relocated to the 63,000-square-foot Bucks County Courier Times facility along Route 13 in Tullytown. The newspaper that used to dominate coverage in the central and upper portions of Bucks County recently began operating a small distribution warehouse in the area. The shuttered Doylestown facility and property remains owned by the Calkins family and is expected to be redeveloped into a mixed-use development.
The Bucks County Courier Times is slated to overtake the entire fifth floor of the One Oxford Valley office building in Middletown sometime this year. The move has been delayed over recent months and is needed as Gatehouse Media attempts to sell the newspaper’s roughly 9 acre longtime Tullytown home for $2.4 million.
Gatehouse Media owns and operates the former Calkins Media printing facility on Geoffrey Road in Falls Township.
As there have been recent staffing cuts, the newspapers have jacked up prices and cut down on the size and amount of local content they publish.
Despite the layoffs in its newsroom, the Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times have continued to win awards for their journalism.
The cuts across Gatehouse Media come weeks before the firm that manages the company is set to announce their earnings for the final quarter of 2018.
In recent weeks, the national press has been dominated by layoffs caused by financial woes at large media companies. Verizon Media Group, the owner of HuffPost and Yahoo, has laid off 800 employees, Vice is in the process of cutting 250 jobs, and BuzzFeed eliminated 200 positions. On the local news front, newspaper chain Gannett laid off employees and McClatchy is offering buyouts.