Big layoffs at Everett’s Herald, Sound Publishing | The Free Press Initiative

More than 60 people are being let go.

The other shoe has fallen after Carpenter Media Group’s huge push into the Northwest.

Carpenter, a Southern newspaper chain, this week informed a union that it will lay off 62 people at Sound Publishing newspapers in Washington state that it acquired in January.

The cuts include more than half the unionized newsroom employees at The Daily Herald of Everett.

“It’s pretty concerning,” said Kaitlin Gillespie, executive officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. “These little Sound Publishing papers, it’s bad news for journalism in the Northwest.”

Carpenter was formally spun out of an Alabama newspaper group, Boone Newsmedia, last year, launching as the operator of around 30 papers.

Since then Carpenter embarked on an acquisition spree, especially in the West. It quickly became one of the country’s largest newspaper publishers, by masthead count, with around 200 titles.

Yet the company’s plans for sustaining the newspapers and their journalism are unclear, with observers looking for signs of how it will operate.

Layoffs at already thin Washington papers are an ominous sign in an industry that’s been gutted over the last decade by debt-encumbered consolidators.

Carpenter’s surge began with its January expansion into the West. Financiers reorganizing the near-bankrupt Black Press chain named Carpenter as a partner and operator of the group’s roughly 150 newspapers from Alaska to Hawaii and across western Canada.

That included 43 papers in Washington state, operating as Sound Publishing.

That was just the start.

On June 3, Oregon’s Pamplin Media announced that it was selling its 24 newspapers to Carpenter.

“They’re really building with the goal of keeping these newspapers alive and a going concern into the future,” Pamplin Vice Chair Mark Garber told me at the time.

Over the last month Carpenter also acquired 10 papers and a printing facility in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. It also bought out Boone’s interest in eight other Southern publications they jointly owned.

Carpenter could also bid on another Oregon newspaper group, EO Media, that is now looking for a buyer.

Sound Publishing papers were already thinly staffed, with some employing just a single reporter, so cuts may be into the bone.

Carpenter has not replied to my requests starting in January for an interview with Chairman Todd Carpenter, who works out of Tuscaloosa and Natchez.

Sound’s president, Josh O’Connor, declined to discuss the layoffs.

“I’m not commenting on our operations,” he said.

Sound notified Gillespie that it would be laying off 62 people, including 10 bargaining unit members and several managers at The Herald.

The guild represents 18 or 19 journalists in the Everett daily’s newsroom but has yet to finalize a contract.

Gillespie was told that affected employees will be informed starting Wednesday.

“To me that doesn’t look like preserving local journalism,” Gillespie said, “but what do I know?”

Trust and fake news: Concerns about what’s real news and what’s fake online are rising globally and especially in the United States, where 72% are concerned, up 8% from the previous year, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2024.

The new report, based on global surveys, also found that most respondents are uncomfortable with AI-produced news.

Trust levels remain low, with just 40% globally saying they trust news most of the time.

Only 32% of U.S. respondents mostly trust news overall, which the report said is “partly linked to high levels of polarization and divisive debates over politics and culture.” Digging further, the survey found 58% trust their regional or local newspaper.

The report found trust was particularly high in Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, all countries where people mostly get online news by going directly to news organizations.

Globally, more people find news online via search engines (29%) and social media (25%) versus the 22% who mainly go direct to news outlets.

Bezos message: Amid the drama at The Washington Post, where staffers are concerned about the standards of the new CEO Will Lewis and editor Robert Winnett, owner Jeff Bezos sent a message to newsroom leaders Tuesday.

The message seems intended to reassure staff, defend Lewis and remind employees that big changes are inevitable as the paper evolves and tries to stabilize its business.

“Team — I know you’ve already heard this from Will, but I wanted to also weigh in directly: The journalistic standards and ethics at The Post will not change,” Bezos wrote, according to a copy shared Tuesday on X by Brian Stelter.

Bezos reiterated that The Post’s high standards can’t change. This came after a flurry of stories in The Post and The New York Times about the past involvement of Lewis and Winnett in controversial reporting practices in Britain.

“You have my full commitment on maintaining the quality, ethics and standards we all believe in,” Bezos wrote, apparently during a yachting vacation in Mykonos, Greece.

Coincidentally, The Post owned The Herald in Everett from 1978 to 2013, when it sold the paper to Black Press. The Herald then employed 67 reporters, editors and photographers and around 200 people overall, according to The Post.

This is excerpted from the free, weekly Voices for a Free Press newsletter. Sign up to receive it at the Save the Free Press website, Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley is the editor of the Free Press Initiative, which aims to inform the public about issues facing newspapers, local news coverage, and a free press. You can learn more about the Free Press Initiative, or sign up for a newsletter, at