New Media Investment Group/GateHouse Media keeps buying, slashing newspaper properties

The vulture capitalists at New Media Investment Group/GateHouse Media are at again.

The same folks who built the GateHouse Media empire — before running it into bankruptcy and blowing through $1 billion in debt — are building an even bigger media empire. In their latest move, the company bought the Halifax Media Group for $280 million.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, in particular, will be a huge addition for the company. It will help New Media/GateHouse to control much of Massachusetts outside of Boston.

Although Halifax has been a relentless cost-cutter, this acquisition could cost even more journalists their jobs due to the inevitable consolidation of Halifax and New Media/GateHouse operations. New Media/GateHouse will continue outsourcing local jobs to its central design house in Austin, Texas.

While the Halifax deal was going down, long-time Gatehouse executive Brad Dennison abruptly resigned his post as Senior Vice President of Publishing.

Dennison supported quality journalism on his watch and made some outstanding managerial hires. Earlier this year he brokered a peaceful contract extension with our members at the Peoria Journal Star — a deal which allowed the newspaper to keep its copy desk through the length of the extension.

The United Media Guild was sorry to see him leave the company. There was no doubting Dennison’s passion for the media business. With Dennison gone, we’re guessing the company will become even more committed to funneling money out of its markets at the expense of good journalism and community service.

So we’re advising the folks working at Halifax properties to be wary of the happytalk GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis offered up to employees:

Your reputation for journalistic excellence is inspiring to us; the Pulitzer Prize winning series in Tuscaloosa and Sarasota set a high bar. We also believe that the strength of your brands will support and add depth to our community publishing model. We look forward to partnering with you to leverage our respective strengths, so that together, we may continue our commitment to community news and service.

With this acquisition, we will operate newspapers and associated websites across 31 states in over 400 markets. We are committed to investing in our markets; recent research initiatives are informing changes to our local news products, both print and digital. We launched Propel Marketing, our fast growing digital marketing services agency, to provide a broader range of solutions for our small and mid-size business customers.

I’m certain you have many questions about benefits and the transition process; we will provide more information over the coming weeks. There is also much to share on programs and resources we can provide and collaborate on. Prior to completing the purchase, we expect to engage with your senior management team as we think about the transition and evaluate current priorities, trends and ideas.

We’re looking forward to working together!

Until you’re laid off or you quit in exasperation, that is.

Check out some recent comments former GateHouse employees left on the Glassdoor website:

“Pay is below industry standards, especially for location. Lots of turnover, low morale. Directives from national corporate are tone-deaf to regional consumers, workload of staff. Equipment and technology embarrassingly inadequate, outdated.”

“This is a turn and burn place. Everybody comes and leaves like crazy. They do not give raises and will treat you like nothing at all. The do not care at all about you. They have products that do not work and would rather sell to new customers than retain old ones. I have actually seen high ups from this company lie under oath to protect the profits of this company.”

“Many employees will do everything it takes to get their jobs done, even when they are visibly given too much to do (as the company continually cuts positions). They take their work home. They blur the lines for hours worked overtime, because management will harass them if they log any overtime hours.”

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