Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gannett said laying off 600 newspaper employees; pub's memo discloses total 1,000 jobs getting axed

Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET on Aug. 14: The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., is among the first newspapers reporting layoffs on Thursday.

Earlier: A Maryland publisher told employees late Wednesday afternoon that Gannett is eliminating 1,000 newspaper jobs, or about 3% of the troubled newspaper division's workforce -- and that about 600 employees are being laid off, a Gannett Blog reader says.

The reader provided a copy of a memo that Daily Times Publisher Rick Jensen e-mailed about 4 p.m. today at the paper in Salisbury. "Across Gannett’s Community Publishing division, about 1,000 positions will be eliminated -- about 3% of the workforce,'' the memo says. "Of the 1,000 positions, about 600 employees will be laid off."

Jensen would be the first Gannett executive to publicly confirm recent speculation that GCI is cutting jobs across the company -- and the first executive to disclose details of such cuts. A broad downsizing would come as the nation's top newspaper publisher reels from its surprisingly weak second-quarter earnings. That report sent Gannett shares plunging to new lows, further raising investor pressure on CEO Craig Dubow and his senior team.

No timetable given
I've asked chief Gannett flack Tara Connell for comment. I've e-mailed Jensen, and Daily Times Executive Editor Greg Bassett as well. Moments ago, Bassett e-mailed this reply, saying only: "Jim Hopkins is in my in box? All the way from Europe? I must be big time! Cheers!"

The memo does not say whether every one of the newspaper division's 84 papers will reduce employment by 3% -- or whether the rates might instead vary by business within what's now called the U.S. Community Publishing division. The memo also doesn't give a timetable for these division-wide cuts.

Several GCI papers have already made recent job cuts, but at a higher rate: 5%. The division's dailies do not include USA Today, suggesting that any further reductions at Gannett's flagship could be on top of the 1,000 jobs eliminated. U.S. Community Publishing employs up to 32,800 -- the lion's share of GCI's 46,000 employees.

'Decline in economic conditions'
Jensen disclosed the broad downsizing in a memo that tells his own paper's 275 workers that some of them will lose their jobs as soon as next week.

"We're being faced with another difficult round of position reductions because of the continuing decline in economic conditions,'' the memo says. "Gannett has set payroll expense reduction targets for us and all other newspapers in the U.S. Community Publishing division, necessitating the reduction in positions. The targets were set based on our financial performance and previous reductions."

The memo continues: "Our position reduction plan is now at Corporate for review. We expect to receive final approval by Monday, and affected employees will be notified by next Thursday."

The memo also says "affected employees will be offered a severance package. Benefits include one week of pay for each year of service (52 week maximum); minimum two-week severance benefit; medical benefits will continue for the length of the severance period."

Can anyone confirm -- and add details? Have any other publishers cited the 1,000 jobs/600 layoffs figures in recent memos? 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.

Earlier: Blogger says Corporate's silence on layoffs is telling

[Image: today's Daily Times, Newseum]


  1. I'm starting to get all warm and fuzzy inside. Please tell me where the line starts....

  2. I don't know Rick Jensen, but it seems he might be seen as a good guy by his employees because he's being straight with them but seen as a bad guy by Corporate because the leak can be traced to him. I hope the latter doesn't cost him in some way.

  3. "Of the 1,000 positions, about 600 employees will be laid off,'' the memo says."

    Yikes. Does that mean that 400 will be cut through attrition? Or that only 400 will get buyouts, and 600 will get a no-juice-for-you kick to the curb? Or does he mean to include buyouts in the 600 number?

    This could get very ugly. I've heard that finance people, who now know their jobs are going to be eliminated within a few months, are stampeding to apply for buyouts, where available.

    I know they've settled for less than target numbers some places, but do they ever go over on buyouts? If they want 100, will they go for 125? 150? 200? And what happens to those who get turned down? eeesh. There's a morale booster for ya.

  4. I wonder if these job cuts will be mentioned when the July numbers come out? Should be early next week.

    I gotta bet they're bad bad bad. June ad revenue for publishing as down 16-plus percent year over year. Anybody wanna give odds on 20 for July?

  5. Good questions, @11:58 p.m. I'll try to sort them out ASAP.

  6. Total employees in 2004 numbered about 53,000. At 46,000, that's down a little over 13 percent. It will be more than 15 when this year is done.

    How many layoffs/buyouts/etc have they had already in the past 12 months or so? Gotta be about 1,000 before this round.

  7. All: I'm signing off (it's 6:49 am here in Ibiza, and I haven't had a chance to sleep yet.) I'll update this post further on Thursday, assuming I get any comment from Tara Connell or others.

  8. Here's a corporate mandate from the year 2011 (maybe 2010):
    In an attempt to offer a more reader friendly product, Gannett has cut all staffs to five editors and one reporter. But if 25 percent profit margains are not maintained, more cuts are anticipated to reporting staffs. We are certain, however, that Gannett will continue to offer readers the same quality local coverage they have come to expect in the past.

  9. Set the date for a massive SICK OUT! Now that the black cat is out of the bag how are we supposed to be productive? This company makes me sick!

  10. Here we go again, yet another instance where the company has had something in the works, probably for a while now, but they failed to disclose it as employee's are offered buyouts and trying to decide whether to stay or take it and run.

    This is exactly the type of thing that recently happened in Detroit where a voluntary severance package was offered in June/July and then in early August they announced that credit and finance work will be outsourced to Springfield and Indy and virtually all our credit and finance jobs will be lost.

    This is material information that would be helpful to an employee trying to decide whether or not to take a buyout offer. It's conveniently held back from them, but why? My guess is the company will save more money in a forced layoff - in Detroit we get a max of six months severance and benefits - versus the voluntary package where we could have had up to one year severance and benefits.

    While business is business, the company finds yet another way to screw employees that supported the company over the years. And Gannett is considered a great place to work? Hardly!

  11. "The memo does not say whether every one of the newspaper division's 84 papers will reduce employment by 3% -- or whether the rates might instead vary by business within what's now called the U.S. Community Publishing division."

    But we're all told in the NJ group that all the Community papers are the biggest success we have, that they pull in the ad revenue, that the readers love them, etc, aren't any cuts to that sector like, um, counterproductive? Or am I missing something here?

  12. Response to 8/14/08 9:12am:

    Since when do you believe anything you're told by Gannett especially from the NJ Group???

  13. Response to 8/14/2008 9:20 AM:

    You mean (gasp) they're LYING to us??

    the point being: can't wait to hear how they try to explain this one...

  14. It's way too quiet in NJ.

  15. To 7:09 and others, this is what you wanted, a fair warning. Now you've been given a warning that this is coming up, and you're not happy. You can't have it both ways. Do you want to know about these layoffs ahead of time, or do you want to find out by surprise? My take on this is that somebody is reading the blog and giving the employees what they asked for, a fair warning. Now that you have that, start planning what you're going to do if it's your job that gets eliminated. Start using this information to your advantage. I take this memo as a step in the right direction.

  16. I agree 11:45pm. Makes Jensen look good. At least he let them know it's coming. What are the other publishers planning? Waiting until the day the axe drops next week?!?!

  17. It will be over by next week.

  18. Rick Jensen really is one of Gannett's good guys in management. Like many publishers, he came by way of the newsroom. Unlike many, he's not a total jerkoff.

  19. Stock is up $1.49 or 7.7% as of 2 pm EDT. Maybe Wall Street is reacting to the rumors/news.

  20. To 9:12 a.m. -- "But we're all told in the NJ group that all the Community papers are the biggest success we have.."

    The "U.S. Community Publishing Division" is just the new name of Gannett's Newspaper Division -- it doesn't have anything to do with the Community Reporter newspapers in N.J.

  21. Is anyone reporting or even speculating which departments (meaning newsrooms, finance, marketing) these cuts will affect?

  22. What ceases to amaze me is the continuing cuts among the worker bees while the top level execs continue to collect pay checks. How many different VP's are there? Do we need all of them? How about the CEO's compensation package? Some cuts there would save a lot of jobs

  23. The reason why Gannett is in the crapper is there are not more publishers like Jensen who care about his people...because frankly most of us are just punching the clock because its obvious management does not give a damn!

  24. I worked for Jensen and he was a good guy. Not suprised by his empathetic move.

  25. Is this new? My paper let go of about 3 percent about a month ago (actually, it was about 4 percent, for what it's worth). By the way, the deal I heard then was two weeks for each year of service, though perhaps I'm mistaken about what those folks got.

  26. @10:19 p.m. -- I think the difference is between voluntary buyouts (2 wks per yr, you get to ask to go) vs. involuntary layoffs (1 wk per yr, they tell you to go). That seems to be the pattern that is winding out most places.

    I seem to recall there have been a few places with multiple rounds of buyouts where the terms got worse as time went on, like Phoenix. Early takers got better terms than second and/or third rounds. (FWIW: I'm discombobulated by what's going on here; I could be remembering this wrong.)

  27. TO: Asheville staff

    FROM: Randy Hammer

    RE: Staff reductions

    We’ve had many successes these past several months. But despite our readership gains and Web site growth, the nation’s economic downturn has hurt many of our businesses in Asheville and throughout the nation.

    We’ve been affected and so has Gannett. The company announced today it is eliminating approximately 1,000 jobs in the Community Publishing division.

    About 400 jobs that were open throughout the division have already been eliminated. That means about 600 people across all of Gannett’s newspapers and magazines will be laid off in the next week or two.

    For the Citizen-Times, our number is still being finalized, but it appears that six of our more than 250 employees will be laid off. I expect to receive word about our final number next week and will do my best to keep everyone informed.

    I realize how difficult this news is, especially in light of the excellent work everyone has been doing. But the economy doesn’t appear as if it will turn around anytime soon.

    I assure you we will work very hard to treat people who are laid off with dignity. I realize nearly everyone will have questions about what is happening. In the next few weeks, I will meet with each department so we can talk about it. But right now my priority and concern are the people who will be laid off. I expect to be able to give you an update by Wednesday of next week.

  28. Here are three of the newest employment sites chosen by, I think we need them

    Good luck!

  29. My department was eliminated from Gannett about 18 months ago. I think the worst part was that the HR guy was complaining about all the other people he had to let go that day. hope he has gotten better at it, lots of practice now.

  30. Rick Jensen is a good guy. I wish he still ran things here at my paper.

  31. *I'm a recently discharged Gannett employee from a small paper in Fremont, Ohio. Today, Thursday, Aug. 19, I was informed that my position as a news clerk was being eliminated. So, I'm one among many to receive this news today.
    I know of one other person who also lost her job today - a person with almost 30 years experience to my 14.

    Remember - no one's job is safe in this economy where the working staff gets cut - but the higher up's get the million dollar bonuses - seem fair??

  32. Well, so much for just the little guy getting the ax. Now 100 Dept. heads are rolling. Sounds very familiar, like the company with the little yellow box????


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."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.