Monday, January 9, 2017

Commercial Appeal Eliminating Paid Freelance Writers

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 12:10 PM

A lot of bylines are about to disappear from the pages of Memphis' daily newspaper. These are names readers know, too — art and food writer Fredric Koeppel, entertainment writer Jon Sparks, and other freelancers. Writers were informed of the decision to stop paying for out-of-house work Sunday, via an email from Entertainment Team Editor Mark Richens. The straightforward message read, "The Commercial Appeal has ordered that all freelance spending be suspended, effective immediately. Any invoices already submitted will be paid, but nothing from here on out."

Monday morning Koeppel posted the following to Facebook:

"Dear local friends: I was informed by email last night that The Commercial Appeal, the newspaper with which I have been associated for 32 and a half years, will no longer employ freelance writers. This decision means that I will no longer supply the Friday arts and entertainment section with art reviews or longer art-related stories (or the occasional book review), nor will my colleagues Jon W Sparks (performing arts) and Mark Jordan (music) also be so employed. ( Christine Arpe Gang, who has been writing about gardening for the paper since time immemorial, is also affected.) I started at the CA as a freelancer in 1984, joined the paper full-time in 1986 and continued as a full-time reporter and critic until March 2009, thereafter writing freelance again until last week. Even though many changes have occurred at The Commercial Appeal since it was acquired by Gannett and this development should not be too surprising, it comes as a shock to me and feels like the end of an era. Thanks to all of you for reading my words for so many years and for your support and encouragement."

Details to come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Another Round of Layoffs Begins at the Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 12:45 PM

Memphis Newspaper Guild President and Commercial Appeal Reporter Daniel Connolly is hopeful, but not happy.

"Today's cuts upset me and many others because they're part of a long series of reductions," he says, speaking on behalf of the Guild, and the employees it covers. "But l'm trying to stay focused and get the job done and I see a lot of other people around me doing the same."

Two CA employees were laid off today. They weren't Guild-covered and their names haven't yet been released. More layoffs are expected.

Gannett's newspaper products will be shrinking, even as the Commercial Appeal's parent company looks to expand its holdings. In advance of its third-quarter earnings announcement Thursday, and as the media giant appears to be working out details on a billion-dollar deal to acquire Tronc (The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, etc,) Gannett announced it was laying off 2% if its workforce. Politico pegs that number as roughly 350-people, and speculates that harder hit properties may see a figure closer to 10%. 

"Two people were let go today. Neither was Guild-covered so I'm not privy to information about them," Connolly says. "Also, there were cuts at the Gannett newspaper in Jackson, Tennessee. Details of those are unclear, but the CA staff will be picking up some of those functions.Regarding other cuts this fall, [the Guild has] been working with the company on severance packages."

More details to come. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Capitol Hill Reporter Rick Locker Leaves Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 12:23 PM

Locker and Locker
  • Locker and Locker
Rick Locker, the Commercial Appeal's longtime Capitol Hill reporter, has left his post to take a job in communications with the Tennessee Board of Regents. As the Nashville Scene's Steven Hale put it, in a piece bemoaning the dwindling institutional memory in government reporting, there's now a little, "less scrutiny for a legislative body that could always use more of it."

Newspaper culture changed overnight in Tennessee when Gannett added both the Commercial Appeal and The Knoxville News Sentinel to a list of media properties that already included the Tennessean. The CA reporter had become a contributing presence in all of the state's three major publications, and his voice will be missed. 

Check out the Scene's commentary for a brief, pithy overview of the situation.

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