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"It infuriates me what these people did to a quality newspaper," he said. "If you're interested in chasing prostitutes on the street corner, then Journal Register is your company. If you're interested in quality journalism, then look elsewhere because they ruined The Oakland Press."
Glenn Gilbert, who was hired as executive editor by Journal Register Company, said staff reductions came at corporate directives, which were to be done by cutting from the top down, taking out the more experienced staff and replacing them with "multimedia journalists." And while he said he tried to place a greater emphasis on local news coverage, continued losses in the newsroom and a focus on digital content made coverage difficult.
"From the time I started in 2006 to the time I left in 2014, we eliminated 20 of our 60 positions, just in the newsroom. That was mandated from corporate," Glenn Gilbert said. "As our staff was reduced, we could no longer provide any comprehensive coverage of local government, and that was the thing that hurt us the most.
"There was a lot to it. Simultaneously, we talked about turning the newspaper over to the public and trying to bring the outside in. There was a great emphasis on citizen journalism, but in reality, it was more use of stringers and freelance. I was supportive in that effort because it was less expensive to present the same kind of story and it preserved our staff for more serious journalism."
Despite cuts, Journal Register Company struggled with profits and paying massive debt, much of which came from the purchase of 21st Century Communications. In 2008, the New York Stock Exchange announced it was planning to suspend trading of the company's stock. In April of that year, it was delisted.
In 2009, Journal Register Company declared bankruptcy for the first time.
"After Journal Register went into bankruptcy, it emerged and had a new CEO, John Paton, who had a digital emphasis," Glenn Gilbert said. "It was a totally different attitude. We began treating print as an afterthought. I would frequently joke about it and say, 'Do we still have a print edition?'"
The emphasis on digital did earned the paper some accolades. In 2010, The Oakland Press was named as one of the newspapers in the country that is "doing it right," by Editor & Publisher magazine.
"Few other media companies have set out to tackle digital initiatives the way the Journal Register Company has, so it's no surprise that this category features two Journal Register titles," the magazine stated in 2010....continued on page 14