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.