The Peoria Journal Star is cutting several newsroom veterans.
Phil Luciano, a columnist with the Journal Star, said reporters Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson were terminated today. Copy editor Shannon Countryman was also laid off. A fifth employee, copy editor and page designer Wes Huett, will be laid off on September 21.
The layoffs comes after Sports Editor Kirk Wessler accepted a buyout offer. Veteran reporter Pam Adams, editorial page editor Mike Bailey and assistant city editor Brad Erickson also recently left the paper.
Luciano said the Peoria Newspaper Guild, the union representing editorial employees at the Peoria Journal Star, "tried to find reasonable alternatives and compromises," including transitioning the employees to other work. However, Luciano claimed the union was told five employees must go.
"Not only do these cuts decimate our ability to cover and report local news, but we do so now (among a great many other losses in recent times) with no sports editor, city editor or opinions editor — and this at the largest newspaper in downstate Illinois," said Luciano. "There was no need for these terminations, except to increase the bottom line of a corporation already solidly in the black. This is a dark day not just for the Journal Star and our Guild, but for anyone who cares about communities, public discourse, and justice."
25 News left a message seeking comment for Paul Gaier, the president and publisher of the Peoria Journal Star, as well as its GateHouse sister papers in Rockford and Freeport.