Puerto Rican journalists who were laid off after Hurricane Maria say they are still struggling to find work in their field more than a year after the storm pummeled the island.
El Nuevo Dia — the newspaper with the highest circulation in Puerto Rico — laid off dozens of reporters because of dwindling economic gains related to the hurricane, according to a report from Columbia Journalism Review.
Digital director Maria Arce Pereira said the news outlet had “zero dollars” in advertising revenue after the hurricane.
Its parent company GFR, which also owns Primera Hora, laid off 59 of its workers — including newsroom veterans — according to the report.
Christian M. Arroyo Santiago was among the reporters who lost their jobs at El Nuevo Dia.
“They used the hurricane as an excuse to fire journalists,” he told CJR. “We had worked so hard and this was their way of saying thank you.”
Most TV and radio stations that were forced off-air by the storm have resumed operations that are less robust than they were pre-Maria and many outlets have made cuts to their content and staff.
“This was a huge blow to journalism and access to information in Puerto Rico,” said Manuel Rodriguez Banchs, an attorney for a media workers union, CJR reported.
Primera Hora’s digital operations director Mario Alegre was laid off after spending 12 years working as a journalist, according to the report.
The father of two said he has struggled to find similar work. “Nobody was hiring and I reached out to every paper I knew for work,” he said. He has yet to be hired by another newsroom.
He’s bootstrapping his way back into the business by crowdfunding an entertainment blog, according to the report. Still, he doesn’t earn enough money to make ends meet.