Disappointment And Concern In Worcester As Telegram & Gazette Is Sold

Disappointment in Worcester County this week after news that the Telegram and Gazette newspaper will be sold to a Florida-based media group. The sale comes seven months after Red Sox owner John Henry bought the paper along with the Boston Globe.

Columnist Dianne Williamson has been at the T&G for thirty years, through several ownership changes. But she says unlike past sales, this one includes layoffs, not buyout options.

“We’re all going to get an envelope next Friday telling us we’re either hired or fired. So that’s a little daunting for everybody,” says Williamson. “I mean, we’ve been paring down the staff for years now, and I don’t even know, in the newsroom anyway, where they would even find the cuts.”

Tim Murray, head of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the state’s former lieutenant governor, says he’s disappointed by the layoffs.

“When that footprint shrinks, it means less news, less advocacy, less public interest, and that’s concerning,” says Murray.

Newsroom cuts could affect coverage of smaller cities and towns in central Mass., but Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke says he’s guardedly optimistic.

“There’s a lot of interesting and good things going on, and the Telegram’s always found a way to get someone out there and cover these events,” says Hawke. “So I’m hopeful that that’s going to continue and perhaps flourish.”

Murray says two local groups had expressed interest in buying the paper, but did not follow through, possibly because the asking price was too high. Instead, the paper will be sold to Halifax Media Holdings, a company based in Daytona Beach, Florida. Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus says he’s anxious to hear the company’s long-term plans for the T&G. He says keeping the paper alive has greater importance, beyond just journalism, for the city.

“We don’t have network-affiliated TV stations in Worcester. So in order to continue to have our own sense of identity, having a daily newspaper is really a critical part of that,” says Augustus.

Meanwhile, columnist Dianne Williamson says many in the Telegram & Gazette newsroom are somber and apprehensive as they wait for layoff announcements next Friday.

“Of course people are on edge, but we’re all kind of putting our nose down and still doing our job and reporting the news, because that’s our job. At least that’ll be our job for another week, and after that, who knows,” says Williamson.

The value of the sale, and the closing date have not been announced.