- The San Antonio Express-News building houses the paper's newsroom, printing operations and support staff.
The layoffs follow the departure of Editor-in-Chief Mike Leary, who retired two weeks ago, and Managing Editor Jamie Stockwell, who recently was hired as the New York Times’ deputy national editor.
Attempts to contact Express-News Publisher Susan Lynch Pape were unsuccessful. So were attempts to reach Vernon Loeb, the paper›s interim editorial chief and current managing editor of the Houston Chronicle, Hearst’s largest Texas newspaper holding.
The job cuts aren’t the first at the Express-News and certainly are in character with the deep cuts at daily papers around the country, which have suffered as readers and ad dollars flee to online sources. The Express-News’ biggest bloodletting came in 2009, when it slashed 75 positions, or about a third of the newsroom. At least one smaller cut followed.
While several Express-News employees said to be caught in the layoff declined comment to the Current, some have taken to social media to discuss the cuts.
Longtime reporter Zeke MacCormack tweeted that he and “several other” longtime Express-News employees had been laid off and thanked his readers and sources.
Folks, I was laid off today, along with several other longtime Express-News employees. Thanks to all the sources who helped me report the news, and to readers. Also, sorry for the errors that made it into print despite our best efforts. Good luck, zeke— Zeke MacCormack (@ZekeMac) May 24, 2018
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith tweeted praise to veteran Express-News Austin Bureau Chief Peggy Fikac, who he said is “part of the involuntary exodus” from the paper.
If you’ve been around the Texas Capitol for any period of time, you can’t help but know and admire Peggy — one of the best reporters to cover politics and policy over the last several decades 2/x— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) May 24, 2018
I've got some bad news to report, at least from my perspective. I was laid off today by the @ExpressNews. I enjoyed telling stories about San Antonio high school sports. Thanks to everyone who helped me do that.— Adam Zuvanich (@AZuvanich) May 24, 2018
There’s long been industry (and newsroom) speculation that Hearst, which owns a couple dozen daily papers, would look for ways to consolidate its Texas operations, especially the Express-News and Chronicle.
In March, E-N publisher Pape emailed employees to let them know that Houston Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Nancy Barnes would oversee editorial for all of Hearst's Texas newspaper properties and Express-News Executive Digital Media Producer Cory Heikkila would oversee web content from a post in Houston.
And with Loeb’s recent arrival in the Alamo City as interim editor, the Houston connection has grown even stronger.
In a January letter to employees, Hearst CEO Steven R. Swartz painted a relatively rosy picture of the privately-held company’s performance. If it hadn’t been for Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Houston and Beaumont papers, Hearst Newspapers would have recorded its sixth straight year of profit gains, he wrote.
The thinning of the San Antonio ranks grabbed the attention of former Mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who tweeted his disgust.
So today the penny pinchers at @Hearst corporation gutted the San Antonio @ExpressNews newsroom, basically turning it into the SA bureau of the @HoustonChron . Consolidation. This despite record profits at @Hearst. Terrible for the local community.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) May 24, 2018
Loeb’s response to that call for transparency was anything but.
Thanks, Vernon. How many people got laid off today? And what percentage of the newsroom do they constitute? Also, which positions will now be consolidated to Houston? Some basic transparency is the only way to back up your claim.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) May 24, 2018
And call the Express-News a bureau of the Chronicle is just wrong. Watch us work together!— Vernon Loeb (@LoebVernon) May 24, 2018
“It seems like a lot of jobs to be eliminating,” he said. “I thought that newspaper staff sizes might have stabilized at this point, but it’s disappointing to see that the fiscal issues continue.”
For the paper’s staff, especially those who endured the 2009 massacre, the cuts have evoked a devastatingly familiar sensation.
“People are in shell shock,” said a person familiar with the current environment in the Express-News newsroom. “It's like, 'Oh, no. Not again.'”
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