Tallahassee Democrat Reorganization Results in Key Losses

Tallahassee Democrat Reorganization Results in Key Losses

Executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, Bob Gabordi, informed readers back on September 16, 2014 that he and the publisher of the Democrat, Julie Moreno,  “were charged by Gannett Company executives with being among the first in our company to redesign our news operations to help create the newsroom of the future.”

Less than one month later, this redesign has resulted in key losses of personnel to the paper of record in the capital of the fourth largest state.

The rumors that began to spread two or three months ago  have turned out to be mostly true. It was true that Democrat employees were asked to re-apply for their jobs and it was also true that the “newsroom of the future” would begin with retirements and layoffs.

The casualties to date include reporters, photographers, and editors.

The redesign of the newsroom began a week after Mr. Gabordi’s blog with the resignation of the Policy and Politics editor, Paul Flemming.

On September 25th, Tallahassee Democrat reporter Tamaryn Waters posted on her facebook:

“Another great newsman leaves the Tallahassee Democrat, my editor Paul Flemming. Today we got news Paul will be leaving us for a communications job with the Florida Legislature. He’s been the newsroom’s rock taking on yeoman’s work to bring depth, context and expertise to our daily and project coverage. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Mr. Flemming had been with the Democrat since 2004.

This was followed by the retirement of Mike Ewen.

On September 28th, Michael Ewen, a Democrat photographer posted on his facebook:

“I wanted to share some of my favorite photos with my Facebook Friends. I thank all of you for your friendship and good times. It’s been a fun ride and I sincerely hope our paths will cross again. God bless you for your words of encouragement and kind words. I will never forget.”

Mr. Ewen had been with the Democrat for 33 years.

On October 2, Natalie Pierre, a sports writer with the Democrat, resigned due to a plagiarism issue, but on her personal website wrote this:

“My decision to resign from the Democrat came in part because of the current climate of the newsroom. The majority of my former co-workers were all required to re-apply for their positions on Monday and Tuesday, while I was exempt from the process that will result in a number of great journalists being laid off.”

It appears the layoffs began on October 7th.

On October 7th Mark Hohmeister posted on his facebook:

“A wise man I know said, ‘You’re nobody until you’ve been fired.’ Never happened before, but today I was told that, under the latest reorganization, the Democrat no longer has a place for me. I’ll probably help them out through the election, but in the meantime, if anyone out there needs somebody who can write, think, edit, publish, advocate or scrub toilets, send me a Facebook message.”

Mr. Hohmeister had been with Democrat since 1991 and was part of the editorial board when he was relieved of his duties.

On October 8, Dave Hodges, the Democrat business writer, posted on his facebook:

“News flash – My business editor position at the Tallahassee Democrat officially ends Oct. 17 and I will become a free agent [sounds better than “unemployed”]. All job leads and inquiries are welcomed, and I have a fresh resume ready to go. Thanks to all of you in social media land who have helped me cover the Big Bend’s business news and the fascinating people and firms here.”

Mr. Hodges had been withe Democrat since 2007.

Also, other sources have confirmed that sports writer St. Clair Murraine was also laid off. Mr. Murraine covered FAMU and had been with the Democrat since 1988.

Based on the changes detailed above, approximately 99 years of institutional knowledge and experience with the Tallahassee Democrat was lost during the redesign of the newsroom.

18 Responses to "Tallahassee Democrat Reorganization Results in Key Losses"

    1. Why wasn’t Ensley let go? Simple! He is the Democrat’s principal race-baiter. He would have difficulty writing about spaghetti and meat balls without bringing some racial component into it.

  1. Mark Hohmeister is a class act. I will miss him. The entire community will suffer as a consequence of his departure.

    Hohmeister, with all of his talent, will be fine. I’m not sure that will be true for the rest of us who hoped that the Democrat would hold on to at least a modicum of integrity.

  2. The Democrat ceased serving the average citizens of our area a long time ago. Not surprising that with all the changes going on, so many loose ends dangling. Try placing an obit on line as they require. You do the best you can and when the email arrives for your review, the phone number to call is incorrect. We got a proof Friday evening and were told we had to call between 2PM and 4PM Saturday to insure it was in the Sunday paper. After calling for 1/2 hour beginning at 2PM Saturday, I looked up the week-end editor’s number (I worked for a metro paper before) and at approximately 2:45PM, a young woman answered the phone. She was just coming in and said the number in the email was incorrect. She was apologetic in her explanation that with all the changes they were going through, no one had changed the obit phone number for weekend callers. We got the obit changed and paid and at first I was extremely disappointed in how thoughtless of someone – I mean an obit is not an easy thing to do anyway – to just overlook that number in auto emails…..how poor. But then again, it’s the Democrat, why was I surprised?

  3. Seriously? when has the ‘Crat ever been anything more than a second-rate party mouthpiece?
    In my youth I delivered the paper semi-affectionately know as the ‘mullet wrapper’ though everyone knew better than to allow their food to be contaminated by contact with this execrable publication.
    Impossible as it may seem, over the years the paper has managed to degrade further into its current persona of ‘USA Today-lite’. This might be sad, if it had ever held a place of respect in the first place.
    I advocate splitting the paper in two, one morning and one afternoon, one left and one right and both at each others throats. Maybe, by reading both, some truth might accidentally be revealed. At least it might be entertaining. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.

  4. This take is spot-on:
    A newsroom that went from nearly 100 employees in the late 90’s to less than 20 now – an 80% reduction – cannot possibly have your interests at heart.

    How to tell if Gabordi is lying:
    he’s tapping his keyboard.

    Thank God (and Ft. Myers?) he’ll soon be gone from our town.

  5. I was a loyal Tallahassee Democrat subscriber for 45 years—-until July 30, 2014. I saw the Democrat go from being a newspaper to an irrelevant little social-engineering newsletter. I saw front page articles–with photos—covering go-kart racing in Monticello. Riveting! I saw a front page article—with photos–covering some poor soul who could not decide whether he/she wanted to be a male or female. There was Karl Etters’ maudlin little “Rachel Hoffman Was my Friend” tribute to a street-level drug dealer. When I questioned the publication of such, I was immediately criticized (by Hohmeister)for being “negative.” I asked Gabordi and Hohmeister to enlighten me as to the honorable, admirable aspects of being a drug dealer. No response! Gabordi and Hohmeister have, in my opinion, defamed the term “Journalist.”

    It is way past time that the Grub Street Democrat was “put to sleep!”

  6. I haven’t lived in Tallahassee for three years, largely because my position with the Democrat was eliminated. I never forgot that on the day it happened the paper posted a story on tallahassee.com noting the staff reorganization minutes BEFORE I was officially told my efforts were no longer needed.

    The people who were let go this month were some of the kindest, most dedicated and professional people I met in the journalism business. I just wish they were treated with the respect they afforded so many other throughout the years. As an outsider looking in, it appears they were not, which, sadly, does not surprise me.

  7. Some reasons from my personal experience for the continuing, gradual demise of Tallahassee Democrat:

    1. For over a dozen years, I prepaid a year’s subscription at the counter in the Democrat office. Then one year, my rate doubled because I would not give them free access to debit my credit card for a subscription. Prepayment was no longer acceptable to them. I wrote and cancelled my subscription. They refused to cancel it, and kept billing me at the doubled rate. I went into their office and demanded it be cancelled. I was told they do not accept written cancellation requests–it has to be done online. What utter foolishness.

    2. My business depends on classified advertising. The Tallahassee Democrat’s advertising charges kept going up to try and make up the fall-off of advertising revenue. My last advertising attempt involved nearly $5000 in charges with only two calls in a several month period. No one was reading the classified ads, because so few people were continuing to place ads with them. I put a free ad in Craigslist and had nearly instant successful results. The Democrat could have competed with this by having free classified ads, because a lot of people buy the paper for the advertising. The maintenance of their distribution would have kept their profitable, paying display ads relevant. Instead, they killed the goose.

    3. When the massive attempt to usurp control of all the properties in Lafayette Park through the puppet foundation known as Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation was being manipulated and orchestrated by the Tallahassee City Attorney’s office, the Tallahassee Democrat refused to even acknowledge the existence of the event. Hundreds of people were ready to converge on City Hall with pitchforks and torches, and Mr. Gabordi’s crew had their heads in the sand. Fortunately for all of Tallahassee, this crooked enterprise was exposed through Tallahassee Reports and the publishing of two articles which outlined what was happening very clearly. When news of this magnitude is not reported by the City’s only daily newspaper, and thousands of people know it is not being reported, credibility will suffer permanently and irreversibly.

    There are many more reasons why the Tallahassee Democrat is shrinking. These are just three reasons that touch me personally. I would welcome reading others’ viewpoints on why our only daily paper grows smaller and less relevant.

  8. You know, there can be a Tallahassee Democrat AND a Tallahassee Reports without all this animosity. I think Steve hits on some important issues, and we do, too. Shout-outs to WFSU, WCTV, WTXL, Preston and everyone else. Pardon my optimism, but we should all just go out and do the best job we can do reporting the stories that are important to all of us.

    1. Well said, Jeff. In our city, rife with allegations of pandemic corruption, having multiple news source’s should be viewed as essential to our Democracy. Asking any one person or news produced to attempt to navigate this landscape alone is highly dangerous. It would immediately be followed by public distrust; considerably more than exists already. Together we can do anything. Divided and at each others throats’ it’s already over. I vote we continue to grow together and change what should be changed and always celebrate all that is good with Tallahassee.

  9. Where the problem resides was in Executive Editor Bob Gabordi’s explanation, which Mr. Hohmeister’s comments bring to excellent clarity.

    Never was the word “layoff” mentioned; though the result was layoffs.

    So Mr. Gabordi was disingenuous—either as matter of propriety, taking an unsettling trend for his industry with graciousness, or a sop to the Gannet corporate hierarchy.

  10. You really want to know how to upgrade the Tallahassee Democrat to a real newspaper: Hire Steve Stewart as Executive Editor and his worthy staff of contributing writers, rename the outfit “Tallahassee Reports”, and we would have a fair and un-biased quality NEWSpaper !

  11. Tallahassee Reports is now the newspaper of record for Florida’s Capitol City. Good Job, Steve! Now, would you please start publishing more frequently?

  12. Semantics, maybe, but employees were not asked “to re-apply for their jobs.” We had the opportunity to apply for entirely new jobs. In my case (and for Dave, too) there was no job resembling what I do now, which is why being laid off was not a surprise. Or, an especially great disappointment.

  13. I’m just not sure that the Tallahassee Democrat is relevant anymore. There was an opportunity to jump into the Internet scene ten years ago. It doesn’t seem that the Domocrat took advantage of that opportunity and is now playing catch-up. It’s a shame, since Tallahassee is the political Mecca for Florida, I believe that there was a need for some real conversations about local and state politics and the Democrat just didn’t get it. Maybe they are too old, maybe too liberal, there just doesn’t seem to be any drive, motivation, or unbiased reporting. I think the Tallahassee Democrat panders too much to the political status quo and there is not enough diversity in employment. A few conservative voices would be nice. I don’t want sensational news, but it would be nice to read some opposing views….like the liberal vs conservative…and let me make up my own mind. But that ship has sailed.

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