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SJ-R Reporters Rally, Warn Of Cuts In Face Of Newspaper Company Merger

State Journal-Register employees rally outside their office Thursday.

The potential merger of two newspaper giants – Gannett and GateHouse Media – has newspaper reporters in Springfield and around the country worried about additional cuts.

Reporters with the State Journal-Register, which GateHouse owns, demonstrated outside their office on Ninth Street Thursday. It’s part of a nationwide effort of unionized newsrooms to bring attention to the merger.

“We think GateHouse should re-invest in the newspaper and preserve the staff, and even expand the staff because we know that’s what our readers crave – local news and local stories,” said Dean Olsen, a healthcare reporter and head of the Media Guild unit representing SJ-R news staff.

Olsen said the paper has gone from a news staff of 15 or 20, down to 5 or 6 since GateHouse bought the paper in 2007. “Because so much of the staff has been hollowed out, readers are complaining, not just in Springfield but across the country,” Olsen said.

Meanwhile, the companies have said they can cut $300 million in costs with the merger, according to a report in the online news publication Nieman Journalism Lab.

The SJ-R reporters joined journalists from newspapers in Rockford, as well as Wisconsin and Florida in the day of action. They’re asking readers to contact the CEO of New Investment Media Group, the parent company of GateHouse, to advocate for stopping staff cuts and investing in newsrooms.

GateHouse did not respond to a request for comment. The company owns more than 150 daily newspapers across the country, including the Rockford Register Star, the Peoria Journal Star and The Register-Mail in Galesburg.

After the merger, slated for the end of the year, Gannett would own more than 260 newspapers.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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