CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gazette-Mail Executive Editor Rob Byers is apparently one of the staff members losing their jobs at the paper under the management of new owner H-D Media.
Byers, who has been at the paper for more than 26 years, tweeted Tuesday morning that all rides must end.
“Carry on, colleagues,” Byers wrote.
From intern to executive editor. From Charleston to Columbia for the Pulitzers. Certainly been an enjoyable quarter-century-long ride at this paper. But all rides must end, and I guess my stop is next. Carry on, colleagues. WV needs you more than ever. https://t.co/872AAeMv3j
— Rob Byers (@RobByersWV) March 27, 2018
Byers, a WVU graduate, began at the paper as an intern in the summer of 1991. He became a full-time employee later that year.
H-D Media faced a Monday deadline to let staff know who would stay on as the newspaper emerges from bankruptcy.
A total of 168 people received employment offers from H-D Media on Monday, the newspaper reported.
Eleven people who filled out applications did not receive employment offers, the Gazette-Mail wrote. The newspaper did not name the 11 in its article published Monday evening.
Sportswriter Doug Smock, who has in recent years covered the Marshall Thundering Herd for the paper, tweeted Monday that he also was not retained.
I have been informed that I am not being hired by HD Media, the incoming owners of the Gazette-Mail. I cannot say that I am surprised. Herd fans and other followers, it’s been fun but it’s probably past time for me to find something else to do.
— Doug Smock (@dougsmock) March 27, 2018
Last week, the company named veteran newspaper leader Jim Heady as publisher of the Gazette-Mail. Heady has been over the newspaper’s circulation department and has worked as an advertising manager for the company.
“There’s a tradition the paper has,” Heady told the Gazette-Mail for an article about his promotion. “Especially with the newsroom and all of the accomplishments they’ve had over the past year, it’s going to be challenging to try to keep up the way things have been going. It’s exciting, but it’s going to be challenging.”
Other employees of the Charleston Gazette-Mail earlier this month received an application form asking for basic information, with the option of also attaching a resume.
The order authorizing the sale, which was filed after a March 8 hearing, continues to include a provision where employees designated as key to the newspaper’s operation receive a financial bonus at the time of the closure.
The total bonus payout is $151,250. The portion of that each employee would receive is based on a percentage of their base salary.
The provision was meant to ensure the stability and quality of the operation during the transition period. It specifically says the new owner may or may not decide to retain the key employees after the sale is concluded.
The key employees have included: Byers, Heady, the newspaper’s vice president for circulation; Michael Moncada, vice president for advertising; Linda Hennen, controller; Joel Armstrong, IT director; Dawn Miller, editor of the Gazette editorial page; and reporters Eric Eyre, Ken Ward Jr. and Phil Kabler.
The change in ownership moved ahead early this month when Ogden Newspapers declined to increase its original bid for the Gazette-Mail after H-D Media entered the picture. H-D Media’s bid was $11.5 million, which included a breakup fee for Ogden.
A federal bankruptcy judge gave approval for H-D Media’s purchase early this month.
The newspaper company reported more than $31 million in liabilities, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court.
About half of that, $15.6 million, represented an outstanding United Bank loan balance, plus interest and fees, from 2006.
Much of the debt was from the Charleston Gazette’s purchase of the Charleston Daily Mail.
The two newsrooms continued to operate independently, as a result of antitrust oversight by the federal government, until 2015 when the newsrooms merged. The owners described a more efficient operation as one of the reasons.
Many of the current newsroom employees reapplied for their jobs at that time, too.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for investigative reporting by Eric Eyre focusing on how a wave of pharmaceuticals contributed to West Virginia’s opioid crisis. The Daily Mail, which was owned for many years by the Clay family, won a Pulitzer for commentary written by Jack Maurice in 1975.
The Gazette and then the Gazette-Mail have been closely-held by the Chilton family.
The Chilton family first acquired formal interest in the paper about 1912, and the family has continued to hold the majority interest. Trip Shumate is married to Susan Chilton Shumate, the current publisher. Her mother, Elizabeth Chilton, is president of the Daily Gazette Company.
Brad McElhinny contributed to this story.
Jeff Jenkinsjjenkins@wvradio.com@JeffJenkinsMNThe award-winning native of Pratt, W.Va, took over as head of the news division of MetroNews in August 2000.
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