Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tipster: Gannett News Service shutting down

Updated at 5:59 p.m. ET, June 16: A reader writes: "According to a friend who still works at GNS, the closing rumor is just a rumor. However, they do have a hiring freeze and haven't been replacing staff who have left."

Earlier: Regarding the company's long-suffering news service, a reader says: "The reason Gannett Digital has listed all of those jobs is because they are going to close Gannett News Service and shift those people from that division into Gannett Digital. They have already started very quietly informing the employees."

GNS has lacked steady, long-term leadership for some time. After less than a year in the job, Editor Derek Osenenko quit in August 2007 for the top newsroom job at Ottaway Newspapers' Times Herald-Record in New York. His predecessor, Mark Silverman, held the job just a year before going to The Tennessean in Nashville. More recently, I've been told, News Department chief Phil Currie has been GNS' de facto leader.

What can you tell us about GNS? Leave a note in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


  1. For what it is worth, GNS has done a pretty good job on most topics and quite often kicks AP's A**. It will be a shame to lose this option and get pared down to AP, Bloomberg, McClatchy, et al.

  2. Yesterday, many of the cars parked at company headquarters had an anonymous flyer placed on the windshield. It just had a headline, "What is One Gannett?" with a line below that said "submit your answer to"

    Maybe that's related.

  3. Just a side note, Derek Osenenko's paper is now owner by News Corp and is the entire Ottaway group is for sale. Good luck to all, hope things work out for the best.

  4. Gannett News Service will not be missed. It's an albatross around the neck of the company, far and away past its prime, and it should have been shut down years ago. The service seems perpetually and dismally detached from the Gannett papers' mission, which is odd because the very folks defining the papers' ever-changing directions are mere yards away from the GNS newsroom in Tysons.

    The papers are forced to waste newshole on GNS stories and packages they don't really want to run. Anyone remember 2000's Tech section?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Anon 3:18-What you said might be relative to the packages that GNS's Washington office put out but I think that doesn't fit with what goes on in the Tysons office. The stories that are put out there many papers depend on especially now that papers have smaller features and business desks. As far as the core role of the DC bureau, they serve to cover Washington for all the papers.

  7. GNS does not cover Washington for anyone but themselves. When papers need Washington coverage, their "correspondent" is invariably tied up producing some worthless package that serves nothing but the ego of GNS editors, or trying to duplicate daily news that AP could do (and does do) just as well. Money wasted propping this "news service" up would be better spent to hire papers their own Washington reporters. Like everything else at Gannett, GNS is top-down.

  8. "Gannett News Service will not be missed. It's an albatross around the neck of the company..."

    Wow, maybe this guy would like to come down and personally walk me to my car when I get the news? Or tell my kids we have to move and they can't go to baseball camp? Very nice attitude.

    Maybe you could keep in mind that the staff of GNS is filled with professional journalists...your colleagues... who will now be on the streets. Be nice, you might have to share my gutter some cold night.

  9. These personal shots against other journalists who are just trying to do their jobs during a very difficult time in this industry are cowardly. They are more reflective of the authors than anything else.

    GNS, which was a scapegoat long before its cadre of journalists helped launch USA Today while simultaneously keeping the news service afloat, and long before and well after its two Pulitzers, is like every other sector of Gannett these days: It's trying to do as much as it can with what it has. Its professionals work as hard as anyone in the company. It delivers far more than it ever gets credit for.

    There was a time in this industry when reputable journalists would have rejected out of hand such callous rumor mongering based on a single person's wild speculation that started this whole "string."
    Now such irresponsible behavior is an invitation for sophomoric, anonymous smears, masquerading as revelatory something or other.

    Please don't call it journalism.

    How profoundly sad for us all.

  10. The problem with GNS, from my perspective first as a copy editor and in the past several years as a reporter, is that there is no way to automatically feed stories to the wire service.

    I cover business news, and had many talks with the editors in charge of choosing stories for the feed. Apparently, impossible as this is to believe, someone actually had to visit EVERY SINGLE NEWSPAPER WEB PAGE every day to check for stories and pull them off the Net. I had many, many stories of what were clearly wide interest that weren't pulled because they couldn't keep up with the work.

    I sometimes sent stories that I felt were particularly noteworthy via e-mail, but this seems like a patched-together solution.

    Moreover, the stories RARELY moved with photos -- even if they were centerpieces with great photos. This made them of limited utility to editors looking for a wire centerpiece. I know that we rarely picked these up because it's odd to run features without a picture.

    And finally, the editing was so ham-handed that a 35 to 40 inch feature would move on the wire at 15 inches.

    When I was a copy editor, Knight-Ridder would move longer pieces with optional trims, or would just expect the individual papers to cut it to fit their hole.

    Many times, we could have USED the longer story, but it was hacked to shreds, making it less worthwhile to pick up.

    That's my 2 cents.

    But as a reporter I am sorry to see it go because I really liked seeing my byline get picked up across the country when the stories did move on the wire. It was neat to get e-mails from people far away and to know that my work actually became more valuable for the corporation because it got used more than just the once.

  11. 11:56 - Hmmm. Spoken like a person with their head in the sand who refuses to believe their existence at that "albatross" is slowly coming to a close. What happened to the "information center" that never made it there? What happened to GNS' website? Why are reporters there fighting to cover the Democratic National Convention on a shoestring budget? For that matter, what happened to bringing the service in line with the rest of the papers' mission? Anyway, good luck pounding the pavement when the excrement hits the fan and dozens of good journalists are left twisting in the wind in an environment with hundreds of journalism jobs balled up like wads of newspaper. And in case you forgot - this is a blog - not a newspaper. Take the posting as a warning - whether you want to call it 'journalism' or not - but wait, that's for the people who aren't at GNS producing ad copy.

  12. For anonymous 6/11/2008 5:26 PM:
    Breaking news: Ottaway is no longer on the market. The NYT has decided to keep it.
    Folding GNS makes sense in the larger picture, as Gannett is making their papers even more local, local, local. I do not favor this move, but my clout in this troubled organization is zip. Do I detect panic in the front offices as GCI stock settles into the mid-teens?

  13. I'm a former Gannettoid (Bridgewater, Fla. Today). I remember GNS as a fine, underrated, service and am saddened by its demise. But everybody needs to stop singling GNS out as something especially defective. It is merely a reflection of the entire industry. Vision at the top at newspapers has been slim to none in this decade, and I mean Neuharth-caliber vision. Now, all that the high-paid geniuses can think to do is to cut the flesh below to save the cancer at the top. Man, now that's plannin'! This disease is going to cripple American industry for some time to come. Kurt Godel was right. In any closed system, it will take something not just from within, but from without, to produce real, lasting change, like USA Today. I feel for all of you. We just went through it in Dallas and Fort Worth, and the firing line will surely be forming again soon enough. Hang in there.


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