Last week, the Austin American Statesman’s owner Gatehouse Media, announced that all 200 employees of the newspaper would be offered “voluntary severance package(s)”

Voluntary as in “We have a pittance we’d like to offer you, and if you don’t take it you will get nothing”

We saw this one coming back in March when the Statesman was purchased by New York-based hedge fund GateHouse Media.

It’s no secret what Gatehouse does when they buy a media property. They gut the masthead then source out all the work that used to be done by writers local to that particular community back to New Media Investment Group, which runs GateHouse.

Currently, all the editing is done in-house back in Austin at the soon to be empty Statesman headquarters.

Once all the writerly and editorial talent at the Stateman take their buyouts who will run the nuts and bolts of getting the news out for New Media?

Journalism students. The University of Texas has a large, well-respected J-school and we’re certain that there are dozens of 18-23 year old would-be “cub” reporters who’d be happy to launch their careers for $10-12 per hour.

And what will happen to the Addie Broleses, Ben Wears, and Michael Barneses of the Statesman’s journalism crew? Job free and Austin, Texas don’t exactly go hand in hand. The city is crushingly expensive but there is plenty work to be had particularly if you’re computer savvy.

If the journalists currently earning a check opining on pressure cookers, toll roads or social affairs can land nimbly they’re certain to begin earning a (better) living under the aegis of Oracle, Microsoft or Google.

And how will the new Statesman look? There will certainly no longer be a print edition. The cost of newsprint went up 30 percent with recent tariffs, and Austin is one of the most digital cities in the US. Perhaps we will also see the ‘pay to play’ mode on reading the newspaper’s website vanish. It was never a success and it should be put to bed as a failed experiment.

Gatehouse is not averse to spending money. After plunking down $47.5 million for the Statesman, they went ahead and bought the Palm Beach Post and Daily News in Florida for $49.3 million, and the Pueblo Chieftain in Colorado for $5 million.

They are definitely averse to paying seasoned journalists reasonable wages to practice their craft.

“The thing that we always have to think about and remember is that our first objective is always what’s the best thing for our shareholders, since we’re a public company.” Mike Reed, CEO at Gatehouse Media

Mike Reed interview

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