Monday, August 04, 2008

Cincinnati Enquirer seeks 50 buyout volunteers

From a pool of about 900 eligible employees, tipsters whisper in a couple of e-mails. Attached -- thank you, very much! -- were copies of Cincinnati Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan's memo to employees today. Buchanan's memo doesn't seem to put any limits on who's eligible. The offer goes to "all active non-represented employees of Enquirer Media, excluding Operating Committee employees," it says.

The terms are identical to what we got at USA Today: "Two weeks of severance for every year of credited service – up to 52 weeks,'' her memo says. "This will be paid out the same way as regular payroll until the severance period is exhausted. During the severance period, health benefits will remain intact." Deadline: Aug. 15.

[Image: today's Enquirer, Newseum]

43 comments:

  1. Typical Gannett...tell employees they have basically nine business days to raise their hands – likely, one of the biggest financial moves of their lives, else they risk layoffs if not enough people do. Nice.

    Better yet, inform all that OC members are ineligible and that even if you do raise your hand, you may not be able to go because Cincinnati has reserved that right in order to keep operations from falling apart. Funny, but stating that 50 people need to voluntarily leave now, and given the numbers of jobs that have quietly evaporated in Cincinnati during the past few years seems to suggest that things are already falling apart, and have been for sometime.

    Excluding OC members, and more importantly Buchanan, suggests that they are on a different team, that they are held blameless, and that more of the same leadership will continue in the future, just with fewer people.

    Again, typical Gannett moves all which really underlies why this company will continue to fail.

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  2. 1 week to decide, show some humanity Gannett.

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  3. I am a member of a Gannett OC and would love an offer of a buy out. Most of us OC members are on the same team as our staffs.

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  4. Why would OC members be excluded from this offer...the more of then that go the better. Most make at least double of what thier staffs make

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  5. When Star-Ledger/Trenton Times in NJ called for 200 buyouts last week, they gave employees until October to make decision. (Of course they are threatening to sell the papers if not enough people raise their hands.)

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  6. When will they offer this in Louisville... I'd be first in line....

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  7. indy didn't get much more than 9 days originally, but it took longer than that to work out the kinks -- gannett wasn't used to giving buyouts. but last year they hadn't frozen pensions so everyone considering it had to ask what their pensions would be. now, thanks to the freeze, everyone has a good idea on which to base a decision.

    whatever your age, if you take a buyout, you may as well figure you'll never work in "real" journalism again. then again, journalism is pretty surreal these days.

    would some people who got buyouts last year please tell how they feel about it now? any regrets? any advice on take/don't take or on how to adjust to your new reality?

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  8. Anyone know if this sort of package is available to former employees who have already been pushed out? That might make up for some of the brutal non-paid overtime.

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  9. Anon 5:56 - No one I know who has taken a buyout regrets it. In fact no one I know that has left journalism really regrets it.

    Also, what exactly is "real" journalism these days? Could you show me one Gannett paper that produces it?

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  10. I know of several people who took the buyout at USAT went to other newspapers. Including the Washington Post. So, I'd take the buyout. If you are excellent at what you do, might as well earn two paychecks.

    Hell, receiving buyout pay and being a greeter at Wal-Mart sounds better than what I am doing today. lol.

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  11. Will Margaret take the offer?

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  12. Mentioning unpaid overtime will get their attention. Better still if you have some way of documenting it. Trust me, this is the genie GCI does not want out of the bottle. It is not just the unpaid work, it is the way they classified certain front line non-supervisory employees to make them exempt from OT. This still exists today.

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  13. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121761989739205497.html?mod=most_viewed_day
    Someone posted this earlier. It's a must read for anyone with a frozen pension, I think.

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  14. August 15th further supports Cincinnati’s daftness and their inability to properly balance employee and business needs for success.

    Early last year, Cincinnati so bollixed up forced buyouts at its community weeklies that they rescinded terminations in one department so all members of that group could apply for its remaining jobs. Also at that time, all impacted employees were given one-week per year versus a precedent setting two weeks prior to, and now after.

    Companies of lesser scale understand that their success is directly tied to how they treat their people. Yet, Gannett continues to demonstrate that it does not.

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  15. I'm new to this site, but have been catching up on some "light" reading here.

    It just amazes me how much bull$#!^ Gannett seems to get away with on a daily basis. I work at a Gannett shop that sends out a reminder every pay period that says (and I'm paraphrasing to protect my identity): "Please make sure you put all the hours you work. If you work overtime, you must get paid for overtime. All overtime has to be approved by your supervisor."

    In other words, if you work overtime, Gannett legally has to pay you overtime. But don't work overtime.

    We've also been told it's our "reponsibility" to make sure we get all of our work done in a 40-hour period.

    Anyway, I haven't been with the company long, but if I was offered a buyout, I'd take it. It's absolutely the worst company I've ever worked for in terms of the way they treat their employees.

    I'm just amazed that there hasn't been a class-action lawsuit filed against Gannett yet.

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  16. Gannett OC members get excluded from these situations for several reasons. OC members who are director level or higher are typically corporate Gannett employees "assigned" to the property they work. They are not employees of the newspaper. I would speculate on numerous other reasons they would not be included but this would seem the most obvious.

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  17. Gannetteers: attempt to find humor here --

    http://www.despair.com/viewall.html

    I wish I could say something upbeat about Cinci.

    I can't. It's the blindly-stupid, refusing to open their eyes and incapable of processing reality.

    Just do, what has to be done. Good luck. Life goes on.

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  18. One week or one day to decide - who cares? My spouse and I talk about this every time it comes up in the blog. If I am ever offered two weeks per year worked, I am to march myself straight to HR and take it.

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  19. You make a good point, 9:30 p.m. Anyone in the business should be prepared to face this decision any day. If you're not, you haven't been paying attention.

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  20. Anyone have a rough estimate of how many Gannett papers have offered buyouts now? I'm in Montgomery, and we haven't heard any talk of it, but the recent rash of buyouts has many people nervous.

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  21. I believe I posted these in the wrong place earlier. Sorry about that. Just some food for thought.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFIirbayrCs&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFIirbayrCs&feature=related

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  22. I was one of quite a few cut with no notice whatsoever. 14 years down the drain. Adios amigo. Designers and IT people had better start realizing that scanning isn't the only consolidation that Gannett is looking at. I hear that IT consolidation is on the immediate horizon and 2adpro is going to replace the designers in the not so distant future. Any word on that?

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  23. Nine days' notice is pathetic. USA TODAY gave three weeks, which was still a hurry-up job.
    And BTW, a small correction: the Cincinnati buyout offer ain't exactly like USA TODAY's. Your Nation's Nicepaper gave two weeks' pay for each year of service without a cap. Some people who'd been with the company for years and years and years got closer to two years' pay.
    A couple of months before the USAT buyouts, Reno had a small buyout (9 or 10 people bit on it) and offered the same open-ended terms. Some very-long-time veterans there got far more than 52 weeks' pay.

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  24. Anonymous 12:04: "I hear that IT consolidation is on the immediate horizon..."

    I can't wait. If I can get 2 weeks per, I'll fill out the paperwork so fast it'll catch fire. Gannett IT has things so crapped up, I can barely do any work at all.

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  25. More gannettoids losing their jobs...this ran in Wednesday Springfielf News-leader:

    Springfield chosen for Gannett work force

    News-Leader will house finance center for parent company's operations.

    Kathleen O'Dell
    News-Leader

    The Springfield News-Leader is one of two Gannett Co. sites chosen to provide many of the finance and accounting activities for 67 Gannett sites, officials said this week.

    As a corporate service center, the News-Leader will hire about 53 people to provide centralized credit and collections for the 67 newspaper and broadcasting sites. Some of those jobs will be filled from existing staff. Salaries are still being determined.

    Employees will work at the News-Leader building at 651 Boonville Ave.

    About 55 people will handle accounts payable, general ledger and financial reporting at the other service center in Indianapolis.

    The quality of Springfield's work force, its central location and the availability of an existing Gannett site were selling points, said corporate spokeswoman Tara Connell.

    "It's a great announcement for Springfield to have a big corporation like Gannett look at putting a centralized service in town, and it's primarily because of the good track record," said News-Leader President and Publisher Tom Bookstaver.

    The change should be complete by March 2009.

    Using new technologies and consolidating services is projected to save Gannett several million dollars in annual operating expenses, officials said.

    Consolidation will cut 275 jobs across the company, but new jobs at the two sites bring the net job loss to about 167, officials said.

    In time, officials said, Gannett may move other services at its more than 100 newspaper and broadcasting sites to the Springfield and Indianapolis service centers.

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  26. I took a buyout at Indy and haven't regretted it one bit. I was old enough (61) that I didn't HAVE to look for another job if I didn't want to, plus I got 84 weeks pay (still being paid to stay home) and health insurance. Journalism, at least newspaper style, is unrecognizable to me now. I'm glad I was there during hot type and real reporters. Biggest problem I heard about is that it is taking another "buyouter" a long time to get the COBRA insurance promised. Just keeps getting jacked around by HR and Corporate. So, start 6 months early if you want your health care in place when your bucks run out. Anyone else have this problem?

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  27. Every newspaper will face this in the very near future. The "loser" papers (those with Publisher's with the 60's mentality of 30-40% profits margains frozen in their brains) are the first to be affected. Cincy is a classic example. They have/had 900 employees? It's a wonder they aren't looking for 250 buyouts.

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  28. 9:46 -- That's 900 in all departments, not just news. News is maybe 210 max, including everyone (top editors to clerks).

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  29. i work in cincy and i am grateful for the buy out offer. other companies are just cutting jobs. i would rather take matters into my own hands than to just get cut.

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  30. Centralizing credit now? They are centralizing credit, they've outsourced customer service already, they've centralized the photo toning, they're centralizing broadcast graphics, they're centralizing copy desks, they're outsourcing ads to India, and I'm hearing rumbles about IT being consolidated or outsourced. I said this before - how does the company do this and then have the nerve to have its operations call themselves part of the community? Every job outsourced is advertising dollars that aren't going back into the local economy.

    This also is going to hamper the ability of the newspapers to rebound when the economy comes back. Even small changes often require several departments to work together and get on the same page. I've seen very minor changes that required ad operations, sales, finance, IT, and production all have to coordinate to make sure everything worked correctly. When you've got finance in Springfield, IT who-knows-where, ad operations cut to the bone because they moved everything to India... how do you get everyone on the same page, especially when no one really knows how the local operation works?

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  31. "I'm just amazed that there hasn't been a class-action lawsuit filed against Gannett yet."

    On what grounds? Sucking?

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  32. Louisville has had layoffs in 2007 and 2008 most from ad services but there were other departments as well. So far it has been about 30 jobs eliminated. Lets just say the people were let go someone else is doing there work. There was no advanced warning just layoffs. Also they got 1 week pay for every year of service. Now we are hearing other Gannett sites are getting 2 weeks pay for every year. What's up with that.

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  33. Anon 12:55: One of the grounds is the forced, unpaid overtime. That's across the board in Cincinnati. It is made very clear that your job is on the line if you don't and that you better keep quiet about the practice. People might jump on a class action suit once this round of buyouts is over. But, only if enough people stick their necks out and stick together instead of tearing each other apart.

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  34. the reason indy got decent buyouts is that it still has guild, teamsters and printers contracts. the brass would rather buy out older, higher-paid people and sicker people and keep cheaper, more-intimidated people.

    the guild in indy also has prevented the worst gannett abuses, or at least gotten settlements for the most ill-treated. it hasn't been easy, but dedicated officers have put in a lot of effort to enforce the contract.

    if the staff ever is foolish enough to let go of the contract, they'll be cutting their own throats.

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  35. When managers and supervisors can't do what their employees do there's something wrong. From the publisher to the department supervisors, no one knows how to do anything but tell us that we aren't doing enough. They don't care to fix what's broken and they lose the respect and trust of advertisers. Gannett doesn't know how to treat employees who have spent nearly a lifetime giving them their all.

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  36. "Anonymous said...
    the reason indy got decent buyouts is that it still has guild, teamsters and printers contracts. the brass would rather buy out older, higher-paid people and sicker people and keep cheaper, more-intimidated people."

    Very true -- the Guild did a lot for the workers and made sure that the buyouts went to those with seniority, not those hand-picked by management. They were negotiating with management just hours before the buyouts were announced. One of the best Guilds in the business -- and we all know how much Gannett hates them!

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  37. It's becoming more and more obvious that the best daily newspaper in Cincinnati is the one that closed on Dec. 31, 2007. Take it from the people at The Post, taking a buyout (called severance in our case) is the best move you'll ever make. Get the hell out of this business and make a fine living doing something that is still respectable.

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  38. This by far is the worst company I've ever worked for in the publishing field. You really never get a pat on the back here. I work in sales, the problem is Gannett keeps raising the advertising rates. They have priced themselves out of the market. Advertisers are finding other avenues to advertise in the meantime. The number one complaint from advertisers is we are too expensive. Managers are constantly changing the way they want us to sell. Why can't they just stick to one way for a while and let it work. I'm asked to do more administrative work which ends up eating my sales time. My manager said in a meeting one day recently, "We are the biggest Gorilla on the block, advertisers will be back." I guess he never heard of newer competition, markets, and price; killed the Gorilla.

    Get this... they hired two new outside sales staff this week. But others in our department are being asked to take the buy-out. The reps who are being asked to take the buy-out are making goal. I guess during these bad economic times, cheaper less qualified sales reps are better. I don't expect to hear the cash register ringing anytime soon from these new sales reps.

    Ads are being sent to India for production. I asked for a proof and was told they would not be able to get me a proof in time. I'm guessing while I'm working in America, the people in India are sleeping. So much for our customer service. My advertiser canceled their ad and told me they were going to our competitor. I looked in our competitors paper today, and sure enough, there was my customers ad. I bet she got a proof from them. I lost $2,500 on this sale. Does this make sense???

    One more thing about the Cincinnati Enquirer buy-out... HR attached a FAQ to e-mail about the buy-out and one question was: Can you apply for unemployment? Answer was: Yes, but it's up to the unemployment bureau if you will receive it. I called the unemployment office and was told, "No, you would be voluntarily ending your employment under the Voluntary Severance Program. Another employee called unemployment and received the same answer as I did. Why couldn't HR just say; No, you are quitting your job, you idiot! This buy-out isn't attractive to me because unemployment looks much sweeter than the few months that I would receive under this plan. At this stage of the game, I hope I'm picked to be laid off. It would end my suffering. I'm no idiot, I know sales will be centralized soon and only a few of the Major sales reps will remain in place. Favorites have been moved to newly created positions to protect their jobs. I'm making my goals but only because I'm working non paid forced overtime to prepare for my sales calls the next day and catching up on administrative work. My job is about 16 hours a day now. Not worth losing my family time. Please pick me for a lay off!!!


    Margaret Buchanan Publisher of Cincinnati Enquirer sent this e-mail today about layoffs. Maybe she should take the time to write and send her own e-mails to help cut the budget!

    From: Navin, Marianne On Behalf Of Buchanan, Margaret
    Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2008 5:03 PM
    To: Cincinnati-All1
    Subject: Gannett announcement

    To: All non-represented employees

    From: Margaret Buchanan

    I want you to be aware of some news you will be hearing in the next few days.

    Most newspapers within Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing division will be announcing staff reductions within their operations. USCP estimates that this action will reduce the division’s workforce by approximately 3%.

    You might be wondering why the company is doing this. Gannett's profits were down 36% in the second quarter and the economic outlook in the near term is not expected to improve. These staffing reductions will be consistent with the company's strategic direction, including the need to protect our content creation and sales capacity.

    It is important to remember that our business is in transition. Our audience strategy is solid and our reach is very strong. Core newspaper readers are stable and our digital audience is growing. We are not experiencing a loss in market share; instead, it is a case of overall advertising dollars shrinking. We must be more aggressive in grabbing our fair share of the advertising dollars.

    Depending on the response we get from employees here on our Voluntary Severance Program, such a reduction in force may not be necessary at this time. However, as I wrote to you earlier, if this voluntary offer doesn’t result in a sufficient number of volunteers, or if in the future, economic conditions worsen, it may be necessary to consider layoffs.

    We all realize that current conditions are difficult, to say the least. But what I’ve seen in the last weeks and months from employees – hard work and innovation resulting in stronger products and services for our readers and advertisers – is to be commended, and I appreciate the focus it has taken to do so.

    If you have any questions on this, I would be happy to answer your questions.

    Margaret

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  39. You sure the info in that memo was coming from Margaret Buchanan? Sounds like something one of the former editors of The Cincy Post would have said.

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  40. Strange that the Cincinnati Enquirer is offering voluntary severance and predicting possible future lay-offs, yet in the Sunday, August 24 edition of the paper they have a classified recruitment ad telling job seekers to check careerbuilder.com for job openings at The Enquirer. It sounds like they are hoping to get rid of those of us who may earn too much because we make our sales goals and replace us with less esperienced workers who will be paid less and have a much lower commission structure.

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  41. Just found this site...
    I was one of the first this year to be offered the buyout and am sure glad I did. I found out that there IS life after The Enquirer and it is so much better!!!!!!

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  42. Thanks for stopping by, 9:04 p.m. Keep coming back.

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