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Published Thursday, February 29, 2024 in The Everett Herald

Everett Herald Journalists Stage One-Day Strike After Layoffs Announced

Reporting from the Herald said the layoffs will cut its newsroom in half.

Video courtesy of King 5 News

EVERETT, Wash. — On Monday, Everett Herald staffers, supported by community members and elected leaders, protested layoffs by Carpenter Media Group.

The Mississippi-based company took over the paper in March. Last week, a dozen journalists learned their jobs had been eliminated. According to a story published by the Herald, the employees laid off encompass half its newsroom.

"We're fighting to protect the future of our newspaper," Sophia Gates said. Gates, a former City Hall reporter for the Herald, is one of the 12 staffers being let go. "Without us here, there are so many issues, events, high school sports games that would go uncovered."

Through stories published by the Herald, Carpenter Media Group has called the layoffs "part of a larger plan to improve the economics of the newspaper and better serve the community." Gates, and others, don't see how eliminating newsroom positions will better serve the community.

"This is a real personal tragedy for us but it's also a tragedy for the whole county," Gates said. "Whether you know it or not, much of the news you're getting from this county comes in some way or another from the Herald."

Gates said Everett and Snohomish are losing their local watchdogs.

"To keep law enforcement accountable, to keep school district officials, city officials, politicians accountable," Gates said. "We care about what we do and we care about producing accurate news."

According to the Herald, the following newsroom staff were given layoff notices:

Phillip O'Connor, executive editor; Caleb Hutton, local news editor; Annie Barker, photographer; Jenelle Baumbach, politics reporter; Ryan Berry, photographer; Aaron Coe, sports reporter; Aina de Lapparent Alvarez, general assignment reporter; Kate Erickson, digital news producer; Sophia Gates, City Hall reporter; Nicholas Johnson, page designer; Maya Tizon, breaking news reporter; Evan Wiederspohn, sports reporter.

According to the Herald, one photographer, one breaking news reporter, five other news reporters, two sports staffers, and two news editors will be left in the newsroom. Digital and news page design staff members are part-time.

Jerry Cornfield, a former Herald staffer for 20 years, said the community will feel the impact of a smaller newsroom especially during election season.

"That kind of nuts and bolt coverage that the Herald has long provided, with half the people, it means they can't provide as much," he said. "With a smaller newsroom, you're going to have to pick and choose which election is more important than the other. Maybe two people running for a state legislative seat will be ignored and two others might get coverage."

Cornfield said what's happening at the Herald has implications for all media outlets. If the community wants a vibrant, local news scene, individuals must support media outlets that depend on subscriptions, readers, listeners, and viewers.

The Everett NewsGuild has demanded Carpenter Media Group reinstate the 10 newsroom jobs. The two editor positions do not fall under the union.

;According to a Herald article, the union also filed an unfair labor practice "charge" Friday with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging Carpenter used questionable performance metrics to make layoff decisions, without giving the union any warning.

In the days since the layoffs were made public, there's been a public back-and-forth between staffers and management. The community has also thrown its support behind the Herald by writing Letters to the Editor speaking out against the layoffs. A GoFundMe set up to support the laid-off workers has raised more than $12,000.

Reporting from the Herald said the layoffs are set to take effect in early July. However, the union is pushing back.

"Carpenter Media cannot enact layoffs without first bargaining with the unionized workers of the Everett NewsGuild," Kaitlin Gillespie, executive officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents the Herald union, said. "The reporters, photographers and designers of the paper organized two years ago to protect workers and preserve local journalism. We intend to do just that at the bargaining table in the weeks to come."

Carpenter Media Group Chairman Todd Carpenter has been quoted several times in Herald reporting. Carpenter called the layoffs difficult business decisions to ensure the Herald's journalism has a future.

"We have deep sympathy for those affected by these changes and will work hard with each of them to see they are well-compensated through a transition period that helps them move forward in a positive way," Carpenter said.

On Monday, he said the following.

"We must organize with the right number of people to do this work, train them well and pay them well. We are new to Everett and the union and wage problem but committed to work our way through it to build an excellent team and excellent work culture for our staff and readers. We welcome all who share those aspirations."

Journalists who went on strike plan to be back at work on Tuesday.