The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press were recently appointed a new publisher and editor to oversee both weekly publications, but at the same time laid off half their reporters and demoted the previous editor.
Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press is owned by News Media Corp., a Chicago-based company that owns more than 75 publications nationwide, according to its website. The corporation decided to bring publisher Kevin Davis to the two San Luis Obispo County papers to increase profits, Davis said.
“My role is not so much the editorial side, but more on the business side and helping the papers be profitable,” Davis said.
Davis named Brian Williams as the editor of the two papers, it was announced in both publications on June 29. Williams, a former editor of the publications, has the "experience and skills" that Davis was looking for, Davis said.
The small publications had previously staffed four writers and editor Luke Phillips, who is now associate editor, according to former columnist and reporter Beth Giuffre. They had not had a publisher for several years.
Giuffre, who had worked at the publications for a year, said she and a part-time staff reporter were laid off the same day. And a few months prior, when a full-time reporter left, the company never filled her position.
"(The paper's staff) started to get less and less," Giuffre said.
Giuffre was told the paper could no longer afford her full-time position, but they offered her freelance opportunities instead. The mother of three declined, saying that she needed a full-time job.
Davis said that the editor, associate editor and sports editor are currently the only full-time employees and will help produce content. The newspapers will also rely on freelance journalists, columnists and other content partnerships for their articles.
"It's unfortunate what's happening with the content because we were writing actual stories and meeting with people, not just relying on press releases," Giuffre said. "Now the community will have to settle."
Davis said his goal is to continue to serve the two communities well, despite the changes.