Journalism and COVID-19: Pennsylvania Newsrooms Affected

This page is part of Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic, PEN America’s project covering the toll of the coronavirus crisis on the journalism industry in the United States. For “Newsrooms Affected,” we looked at five U.S. states with among the most negatively affected newsrooms; Pennsylvania was one of the states. Here are the Pennsylvania newsrooms that have faced furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts, reduced hours, shifts to solely online coverage, suspension of print, temporary or permanent closures, reduced print schedules, or mergers as a result of the pandemic.

Last updated: December 15, 2020

Jewish Exponent

NBC Sports Philadelphia

NBC Sports Philadelphia logo

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1997
Action: Laid off 15 staffers

From a tweet thread by Enrico Campitelli, senior editor at NBC Sports Philadelphia who was among the staffers laid off:
“After 10+ years, my time at @NBCSPhilly is ending as part of layoffs across NBC Sports.

“I’m excited for a brand new challenge. . .

“Worked w/ some great people in the trenches creating things @NBCSPhilly. Salisbury phoned me to talk ball. Would chat w/ Zoo in hallway. Sat next to Michael B in office. Josh complained to me. Tom was always there. Jordan said ‘hello, my guy.’

“Will miss working w/ many of y’all.”

From a video on Twitter by Derrick Gunn, Philadelphia Eagles reporter at NBC Sports Philadelphia who was among the staffers laid off:
“On Monday, I was informed by NBC that my services will no longer be needed, so my tenure at NBC Sports Philadelphia will come to a close in the near future. Twenty-three years is a long time to be at one place in our industry. I’ve been blessed to be able to be here for that long, and I thank Comcast Sports Network and NBC Sports Philadelphia for giving me the platform to do what I love to do, which is talk football. . . Will I be covering football again in the Philadelphia market? Stay tuned, don’t know.”

Quote from Gregg Murphy, Philadelphia Phillies reporter at NBC Sports Philadelphia who was among the staffers laid off, via The Philadelphia Inquirer’s story:
“First and foremost, I’m disappointed in the news, but it’s a tough time for everyone and I understand why this is happening.“I am unbelievably grateful for the time I’ve had at NBC over the last 20 years — nine and a half with the Phillies’ broadcast team. I very much look forward to coming back and finishing the season as soon as I’m cleared to get back to the ballpark.”

From a statement on Twitter by Maureen Quilter, communications director at NBC Sports Philadelphia who was among the staffers laid off:
“After 24 years, thousands of games, and a million memories, my time with NBC Sports Philadelphia/Comcast SportsNet/Comcast Spectator has come to an end. It has truly been a wild ride – a Super Bowl, a World Series, not one, but two, Villanova National Championships, plus Disney on Ice, the Circus, Harlem Globetrotters, and the Rodeo. I have so many people to thank for their friendship, their mentoring, their introductions, their patience, and their sense of humor. More importantly than the memories, are the friendships formed – with my work family, team personnel, broadcasters, and members of the media. I am truly grateful for each and every one of you. I am not sure what is next, but I can only hope it will bring me as much joy as this job did.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer logo

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1829
Action: Closed its printing plant, putting it up for sale and resulting in the loss of 500 jobs

Quotes from Lisa Hughes, publisher and CEO of The Philadelphia inquirer, via the Inquirer’s story:
“While the sale is not yet final, we recognize how deeply unsettling and distressing this is to employees at the printing plant. They have served our readers tirelessly, with dedication and devotion to the craft. Many of them have spent decades with the company — and all performed their jobs valiantly when the pandemic arrived. . .

“I do believe that the decision will ensure our business and our journalism for the future, and that’s what I have to look at. These changes I believe will provide the economic stability to help ensure our core mission, which is to provide vital news and journalism to the community.”

Philadelphia Magazine

Philadelphia Magazine logo

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1952
Actions:

From a statement by Metro Corp, publisher of Philadelphia Magazine, on Philadelphia Magazine’s website:
“Metro Corp, publisher of Boston and Philadelphia magazines, announces today a restructuring plan to ensure successful operations during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Metro Corp entered this pandemic with a solid foundation of fiscal stability while committing resources to assist our audience in their understanding of this unprecedented health and economic crisis. We will continue to provide the highest level of journalism, storytelling, and service to our valued readers both online and in print. But in doing so, we must address this new financial reality, especially as we and other businesses brace for a potential second COVID-19 surge.

“With long-term success and viability in mind, Metro Corp has been forced to eliminate eight company positions and institute 13 furloughs total in its Boston and Philadelphia offices. This difficult decision will allow us to devote resources to produce our trusted brand of quality journalism and reader service that our audiences have come to expect and count on. Our company mission is simple. We want to educate, entertain and increase the joy of living in our dynamic and diverse cities today.

“Metro Corp is determined to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. We know that now is not the time to retreat from providing insightful local news coverage, compelling storytelling, and the very best of what our regions have to offer. We thank our readers and advertisers for continuing this journey with us during a difficult time for all.”

Philadelphia Public Record

Philadelphia Public Record logo

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1877
Action: Suspended publication and went on hiatus

From Philadelphia Public Record’s last issue on April 1, 2020:
“There is no way to ease into this, so let’s just rip that Band-Aid off: The Philadelphia Public Record is going on hiatus after this issue.

“The unprecedented effects from the coronavirus pandemic have impacted all of our lives in a myriad of ways. For this newspaper, the political life of Philadelphia and its citizens is our mission, the reason that this paper has managed to survive and thrive ever since its founding by legendary Philadelphia politician Jimmy Tayoun. Covering events, legislation, policy and the politicians making that policy is what we do. . .

“While the decision to suspend production was not arrived at lightly, in the end, it became clear that doing so was necessary to give the Public Record the best chance to come back once life begins returning to normal in the Philadelphia region.

“And we hope that is sooner rather than later. We expect that the combination of flattening the curve and the range of loans and grants being made available to businesses through federal, state, and local government, as well as the $2-trillion coronavirus relief act’s focus on helping Americans get back on their feet, will catalyze a quick turnaround for the city – and a quick return of the Public Record.

“We know we are not alone. You, our fellow citizens, are likewise coping with urgent, life-changing challenges. We pray for you all to pull through along with us. As a community, we can make it together.”

Pittsburgh Catholic

Pittsburgh Catholic logo

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Founded: 1844
Action: Shuttered completely and laid off all staff

Quotes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s story on the closure of the Pittsburgh Catholic:
“We didn’t really expect to completely lose our jobs. The operations manager and I knew that our general financial situation at the newspaper was difficult. We’ve known that for months and years. . . We were thinking it would be more of a temporary thing, something like a hiatus. Now, they’re saying it could be months before the diocese itself is able to get back to normal with people going to Mass.

“A lot of people pulled out of newspapers, especially print. With parishes as the lifeblood of our funding, we knew that when the bishop ended all the public Masses due to COVID-19, we would face even greater financial issues. A lot of people in the parishes pick up their papers in the back of the church. So when they go to Mass, that’s where they get their newspapers. We knew this past Monday there would be an issue with people receiving a paper, because they’re not showing up for church.”
—Bill Cone, Editor, Pittsburgh Catholic

“This is more than a job — It’s a vocation for most of the staff. It gave us a chance to live our faith. But it’s difficult. I don’t have children like others do. The people here are great people. I believe God opens new doors, so this just gives me an opportunity to continue seeking.”
—John Franko, Reporter, Pittsburgh Catholic

Pittsburgh Magazine

Pittsburgh Magazine logo

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Founded: 1969
Action: Laid off most of the staff

Statement from Betsy Benson, publisher of Pittsburgh Magazine, via Pittsburgh Business Times’s story:
“Pittsburgh Magazine is operating with limited staff until things get back to normal. It’s difficult but no different than what thousands of local companies are going through. This is what small businesses do to survive tough times.”

From a tweet thread by Sean Collier, associate editor of Pittsburgh Magazine who was among the staffers laid off:
“Most of the Pittsburgh Magazine staff, including me and the vast majority of my editorial colleagues, will be laid off after tomorrow. Our parent company on Friday informed us of significant problems relating to y’know, {gesticulates wildly at the entire Earth}.

“There’s a plan in place to push things in the general direction of normalcy fairly soon. While 2020 is a notoriously tricky year for plans, I’m going to remain optimistic and hope, in time, I’m headed back to work. . .

“I’m doing fine. I will absolutely still be doing all of my normal movie stuff, including new reviews and podcasts; you’ll see all of that here as usual. Maybe more/new movie stuff, depending on how things shake out. . .

“I’d like to conclude with an invocation from Saint Warren Zevon: Don’t let us get sick, don’t let us get old, don’t let us get stupid, all right? Just make us be brave, make us play nice and let us be together tonight.”

Press & Journal

Press & Journal logo

Location: Dauphin County, PA
Founded: 1854
Action: Shuttered completely

Excerpt from a farewell letter to readers, advertisers, staff, friends, and family by Louise and Joe Sukle, owners of the Press & Journal:
“Today, you hold in your hands the final edition of the Press & Journal. In last week’s paper we shared all the reasons we’re closing down our newspaper business. Factors include advertising losses to the internet and the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on local businesses. But this week, we’re taking space and time to express our sincere gratitude.

To our community: When we asked for help during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, you came through with donations and subscriptions. We surely wouldn’t have been able to hold on for as long as we did without that help. 166 years is a long time to be intimately connected to one place, and we’re honored to have served you.

To our advertisers: As some advertisers began to drift to the internet giants, many local businesses, organizations and municipal governments steadfastly stayed with us. You believed in the value of local journalism and were willing to support us with advertising dollars. Your success was our success.

To our staff: You may never know how much we respect what you’ve accomplished — especially during this difficult time. Some of you have been with us for more than 30 years, and we treasure such loyalty. Our readers saw our final product every week, but what they didn’t see was the hard work and dedication it took by a lot of good people to bring it to the public.

To our family: This newspaper at its core is a family business. Five generations of grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of the Fox, Graybill and Sukle families have worked here. We laughed together, argued together, celebrated together and cried together. Through good times and bad, we preserved our paper’s long tradition of providing independent journalism to this community. We leave behind a reputation for fearlessly speaking truth to power and a proud legacy of watchdog reporting that served all its citizens. We had high hopes our daughter, Julianna, would usher the family business into the future. That can no longer be. It will be our deepest regret.”

Reading Eagle

Reading Eagle logo

Location: Reading, PA
Founded: 1868
Action: Laid off 19 staffers

The Sentinel

The Sentinel logo

Location: Harrisburg–Carlisle metropolitan area, PA
Founded: 1861
Actions:

  • Laid off one staffer
  • Eliminated two open positions

Times Leader

Times Leader logo

Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
Founded: 1879
Actions:

Excerpt from a letter to readers by Mike Murray, publisher of the Times Leader:
“The health and safety of our employees, advertisers, subscribers and members of the communities we serve remains our number one priority during this unprecedented time present by the COVID-19 virus. We closed our building to the public in an early effort to keep our employees safe. We installed a drop box outside our front entrance for customer convenience and today most of our employees are working remotely. In addition to our print product, each day we are utilizing our digital platforms of timesleader.com and our e-edition to continually deliver breaking news, regular local news stories and advertising messages.

“We understand our responsibility to you as a leading provider of your news every day. We are committed to continuing to meet your expectations. However, we, like so many other businesses have been affected by the spread of the virus. As we move forward, we need to make some changes in how we do business to remain a viable resource for you.

“Beginning Saturday, April 4, we will cease publication of the printed edition of the Times Leader on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. We will, however, continue to publish a digital replica seven days a week. Every Times Leader subscriber has 24/7 access to the electronic edition and all past editions.”

Trib Total Media

Trib Total Media logo

Location: Southwestern Pennsylvania
Founded: 1889
Actions:

  • Combined its two print editions—the Westmoreland edition based in Greensburg, and the Valley News Dispatch based in Tarentum—into one edition
  • Laid off staff, including many sports reporters