Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blog conference: Five questions for yours truly

One of my favorite bloggers is speaking at the two-day Blog Indiana 2008 conference in Indianapolis today: Ruth Holladay, a former columnist for The Indianapolis Star, will lead a session called, "Taking on the big corporations, blogger-style."

Ruth plans to talk about her own blog -- and about Gannett Blog! Prepping for the 3 p.m. session, she asked me some really good questions. Here they are, with my answers:

1. You mention you know Gannett Corporate knows about your blog and watches it. Can you give me any evidence of this? Have you ever received direct feedback from anyone in Corporate?

All of my official, on-the-record correspondence with Gannett Corporate has been through the company's chief spokeswoman, Tara Connell. You can see our last exchange here. The most direct feedback I've received from Connell was in the form of her objections to the first of a series of posts about the Gannett Foundation.

2. Why did you decide to write a blog exclusively about Gannett (well, with asides for wonderful tidbits about Spain and Sparky).

I have been a business reporter for most of the 22 years I've been a journalist -- 20 of them with Gannett. In October 2006, I noticed two things. One, very few news outlets covered Gannett, even though it's the biggest newspaper publisher, and one of the nation's largest private employers (approximately 46,000 workers.) Second, there wasn't a single blog about Gannett, even though it was about to undergo big changes as it dealt with more competition from the Internet and other venues.

I outlined my principal motivation for starting Gannett Blog on Jan. 11, 2008 -- my first day as a former employee, and the date I added my name and photo to the blog for the first time. (Until then, I'd been anonymous.) In that lengthy post, I wrote about my experience as business news editor at the now-shuttered Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, Ark. Gannett owned the newspaper from 1986-91. From that post:

"Rumors flew that Gannett was planning to sell us to the competition, or dump us into a joint-operating agreement. More than 700 employee families were desperate for information. As the paper's business news editor, I managed some of the newsroom staffers reporting on the Gazette's demise. We called Gannett's Corporate office, pleading for information, over and over. And again and again, we got this: No comment.

"Today, much of Gannett is experiencing the uncertainty we saw in Arkansas in the summer of 1991. But now, technology empowers the company's nearly 50,000 employees to communicate in ways not possible 16 years ago. Start more blogs: I'd like to build a companywide network!"

Bottom line: I started Gannett Blog so employees would have a safe place to share information about the company, without fear of reprisal from management, as they prepared themselves for a vastly changed industry.

3. Do you see your blog as having a shelf life with an expiration date, or do you see it going on as long as there are news corporations? To put it another way, if Gannett breaks up, will you still write about the biz?

I've written that I only plan to keep Gannett Blog about two or three years -- as long as the company remains substantially in its current form. That said, year No. 3 would start this coming October. If Gannett is dramatically re-shaped, I will stop blogging about the company.

4. How do you address the issue of disloyalty -- or do you? You took their check, and I am sure were a great employee. Now you're a fill-in-the-blank backstabber (I get "bitter" a lot). Or does any of this apply? Are YOU bitter? Or is this just fun?

I've never addressed the notion of disloyalty because it's never been an issue for me. I neither hate nor love Gannett. I do, however, care deeply for its front-line, hourly employees, many of whom are also small stockholders.

5. What is your readership/impact?

In July, the most recent period for which I've reported traffic statistics, I had about 17,500 unique visitors; approximately 75,000 visits, and about 144,000 pageviews. That is according to Google Analytics, an online software program that measures such figures.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Images: yesterday's Star, Newseum; my Gazette employee ID, October 1987; I was 30 years old]


  1. Hey Jim, how's the vacation going? Tell Sparky we're sorry, but the 18,000 of us reading Gannettblog need you as well!

    What does yesterday's visits and page view graph look like?

  2. Hey, don"t knock Tara, Jim> She must really love you(were is Sally Field, when we need her). When I ask her to send me your personal records from Gannett she denied(still don't mean, I will not get then eventually,)my request. (Hey Jim, do you want to see Tara personal file?). As someone, who read this blog,(along with a certain profiler) yet have my own inside info on Gannett, and some of the people responsible, for creating USA TODAY, and Gannett the way it is ran today. As someone who has never and will never worked for GCI. My research on Gannett was getting some what blogged down( I know it is a bad pun), until you came on the scene. Your blog renewed, a certain creative spark in me, that I lost when litte Al left. Maybe I see you somewhat as a competitor, to compete with to get the truth out. But then again, their is so much bs and cover up coming out of Gannett, it is going to take more then two people to bring it out. Thank you again. To quote what my Grandfather use to say, " WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN". I just hope the fine people at Gannett have a good clean up staff( if they don"t lay then off)?

  3. Oh, Corporate reads this blog alright. The Gannett.gci intranet has a blog called the Media Strategy Blog, and one of their posts apologized for being light on blogging, saying they couldn't blame theirs on vacationing in Ibiza.

  4. Hope Ruth offers a summary of the conference.

  5. Your blog was mentioned on CNN as a source for Gannett news. Trust me, Corporate heard that and probably cried.

  6. I never thought I'd actually be here when the newspapers finally die.

    someone should write a song about it.

    like that old Don Mclean song 'american pie'

    ...the day the newspapers died...

    at least it'll be something to tell my grandkids someday.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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