Publisher Cites 'Financial Impact' Of Newsroom Massacre, Offers Buyouts

Tribune Publishing announces newsrooms to shrink five months after five employees were killed at The Capital Gazette in Maryland.
Rick Hutzell, right, the editor of The Capital Gazette, is joined by reporter Selene San Felice and photojournalists Paul W.
Rick Hutzell, right, the editor of The Capital Gazette, is joined by reporter Selene San Felice and photojournalists Paul W. Gillespie, center, and Joshua McKerrow as he rings a bell during a moment of silence July 5 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Chicago-based Tribune Publishing is offering buyouts to cut its staff in part because of costs incurred from the mass shooting deaths of employees at the company’s Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot reported Friday.

Five people were killed and two injured when a gunman entered the Maryland building of The Capital Gazette on June 28 and opened fire with a pump-action shotgun. The man charged in the shooting, Jarrod Ramos, had a grudge against the newspaper because of an article about his harassment conviction.

Last month the judge presiding over the shooting case gave Ramos until December to modify his not-guilty plea to an insanity plea.

Tribune Publishing reported a net loss of $4.2 million in its third-quarter earnings.

Company CEO Justin Dearborn attributed the loss to the “financial impact from the Capital Gazette tragedy” — as well as to President Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on newsprint, driving up costs significantly. Newsprint tariffs have since been rescinded. 

The Virginian-Pilot, which is owned by Tribune Publishing, also attributed the loss to “costs” following the shooting deaths. The company did not detail costs linked to the tragedy.

A statement from the company also said it needed to make “some difficult decisions to align our costs with revenue trends” as it transforms into a “truly digitally focused enterprise.” 

Journalists were stunned that survivors of the shooting will now suffer yet another toll with layoffs.

Scott Dance, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, which is also owned by Tribune Publishing, called Dearborn’s comment “an insult to the people who died while simply doing their jobs for this company, and to their co-workers who are overworked as they continue to cope with the loss.”

One reporter tweeted: “This is hard to stomach. This is no way to honor” the dead journalists.

The company, previously known as Tronc, also owns the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, The Hartford Courant, The Baltimore Sun and Florida’s Sun Sentinel, among other newspapers.

It’s offering buyouts to an undisclosed number of workers, but only those who have worked for the company for at least 10 years. Buyouts aren’t being offered to the Daily News, where the staff was cut in half in July.

The buyouts will be voluntary, but there may be further “workforce reductions.” The first round will be offered to non-union workers, but “equivalent offers” will be made to union workers later this month.

Tribune Publishing is currently considering bids to sell the chain from newspaper chain McClatchy, Aim Media and investment firm Donerail, reported the Chicago Tribune.