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A longtime editor for the Beaver County Times was laid off this week, the latest move by the paper’s parent company to downsize its operations.
Tom Bickert, who served as editorial page and investigative editor, was informed by Gatehouse Media on Thursday his services would no longer be needed.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ve seen this coming for a while, given the state of the industry,” Bickert wrote in a post to social media.
“I will miss the talented, dedicated people that I’ve worked with over the years, and I wish the best for those who remain.”
Bickert had worked at the paper for 35 years, and has spent 40 years in the news business, according to his post.
Nearly 200 people wrote wishing Bickert well, including Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio, who said he was sorry to hear the veteran journalist was leaving the paper.
In the past several weeks two of the paper’s staff reporters resigned to take other jobs, including business reporter Jared Stonesifer and courts reporter Rachel Wagoner.
In February, GateHouse laid off seven employees at the paper, including all of its remaining photographers and videographers. Gatehouse had previously axed the Times’ entire design staff, outsourcing that work to a hub it runs in Texas.
Bickert appears to have fallen as part of a nationwide restructuring effort by GateHouse, which publishes 156 daily newspapers and 464 community publications in more than 615 local markets across the country.
Mike Reed, CEO of New Media Investment Group, GateHouse’s parent company, told the Poynter Institute Thursday that the move primarily affected editorial staff.
“We are doing a small restructuring — at least that’s what I would call it — that I’m sure will be misreported,” Reed told Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.
“We have 11,000 employees. This involves a couple of hundred.”
The Times is down to a total newsroom staff of 12; it had 60 in its heyday according to Poynter. The majority of the hard news bylines appearing in the paper now originate from just 2 reporters, J.D. Prose and Daveen Rae Kurutz. Along with Prose and Kurutz, the paper lists two sports reporters, a features reporter, and an entertainment reporter.
The paper has been advertising for a replacement business reporter, although it is unclear when the position may be filled.