Gatehouse, the parent company of the Peoria Journal Star terminated five more people Friday.
It’s the last day at the Journal Star for Chris Kaergard, Shannon Countryman, Thomas Bruch, and Aaron Ferguson. Wes Huett will be terminated Sept. 21. This staff reduction constitutes about 20-percent of the Peoria Journal Star’s newsroom and included people with 15-years of seniority.
Sports editor and long-time writer Kirk Wessler also took a buyout option. That leaves the paper with no sports editor, no city editor, and no opinion page editor.
Peoria Journal Star Writer’s Guild president and Journalist Phil Luciano says the terminations only serve to increase the bottom line of a corporation already in the black.
The union says Gatehouse has demanded to send the paper’s copy desk to Austin, Texas. Luciano says the union asked instead for compromises, including moving some of the employees to unfilled jobs. Some union members believe Gatehouse is dead set on the move and four to five more newsroom terminations are possible before the end of the year.
Luciano calls it a dark day for the Journal Star and anyone who cares about communities, public discourse, and justice.
These job cuts come weeks after three other layoff-prompted departures. One reporter says it’s already been hard to maintain daily news coverage and calls this move is crippling.