Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why we shouldn't expect Connell to be candid

"I am confident that she and her staff will continue to do a terrific job communicating
Gannett’s success story to its employees."

-- then-CEO Doug McCorkindale, on former USA Today Managing Editor Tara Connell's March 2003 appointment as the company's top flack. (Layoffs? What layoffs?)


  1. why would we EVER expect candor from corporate?

  2. Corporate goons hire corporate goons.

  3. We're still waiting for the "success story" ... or any kind of meaningful communication with employees.

  4. The success story is that the reduction in force powered up stock values. :-)

  5. Dear Mr. Hopkins,
    Thanks for your recent inquiry about Gannett.
    We have fast-tracked a new initiative for the few remaining FTEs we grudgingly employee known as a Special High Intensity Training (S.H.I.T) program. At corporate, we pride ourselves on the amount of S.H.I.T we provide to all our employees.
    Given current economic conditions, we believe a sound philosophy that if we give our employees more S.H.I.T than any other corporate media outlet, we will soon be the leader in our industry. We also believe that the S.H.I.T we give our employees will then carry over to our advertisers and readers.
    The 30,000-foot view is that
    American news consumer will value the S.H.I.T we give them on a daily basis at the 86 daily newspapers we're running into the ground.
    Please contact my office for more information on S.H.I.T.

    Cara Tonnell

  6. OK folks - all joking aside, what incentive does she really have to respond to Jim's note?

    On the one hand, we complain about "citizen journalism" which blogs are a part of, yet we expect Tara to respond to Jim's question as if he were a member of the credentialed media. He stopped being that when he voluntarily accepted a buyout.

    Jim has been openly hostile towards the company (with good reason in some cases) and calls Connell names (chief flak).

    I realize that there are tens of thousands of readers of this blog (myself included), but if we put aside our hostility for just a moment, do we really think that the company considers Jim's request for a comment as coming from a fair journalist or someone with an axe to grind?

    I also just took a look at what Jim himself writes at the top of the comment box:

    "Leave your comment
    The more details, the better! Please avoid personal attacks. And remember libel rules. Jim"

    Isn't Jim violating his own rules by calling Gannett management names?

    I believe Jim should run his Blog however he chooses. But for you editorial folks out there - if you consistently wrote stories about a company in the same way this blog is run, do you really think you would be at the top of the list for the company spokesperson to respond to?

    Disclaimer - I'm not a manager of any sort, I'm just a regular peon employee watching his job. That being said, I'm sure that many of you will start the personal attacks against me.

    Let the flames begin...

  7. "we complain about 'citizen journalism' which blogs are a part of"

    Complain about it? Citizen journalism is what we do now.

  8. I wonder what Gary Watson thinks about the mess newspapers are in and what got them to this point and/or how to get out. Say what you will about GLW, but he was smarter than just about everybody at GCI.

  9. I've been seeing some scary stuff lately in the comics. It appears that if Tara was being honest(and communicative) she'd admit that Dilbert has been the real source of the company initiatives lately. Craig and company have been paying attention and have unleased these new "programs and initiatives" If these weren't so close to the mark they really would be funny!
    Cost cutting initiative.
    Another example. The recent "outage" of the chillers at The Tennessean
    and of course the proper way to attrit employees

  10. I agree that you should give Tara Connell a break.

    She was a terrific reporter, a fiercely focused editor and she has navigated the new world of corporate-speak with more integrity than many who hold such jobs.

    No, she doesn't volunteer much, but her very minimalist approach -- even before all these layoff woes -- has kept her from missteps, dissembling or deception. The truth of the matter is she said very little before this blog; it would be unusual to expect her to be verbose or volunteering now.

    Should she, though, answer your questions?

    I think the answer ultimately should be yes, because this blog, as mean-spirited as it is at times, is a full-blown news entity now.

    It's a two-way street, though. If the blog stops using her as a punching bag, and respects the position she is in, it could very well be useful for the company, through Tara Connell, to occasionally communicate here.

    Right now, though, the blog is a mob scene. Understandable given what's going on. And Gannett itself -- Tara, too -- bear part of that blame for the unbelievably poor manner with which this was all communicated.

    This isn't five years ago, where Romenesko was the only game in town and maybe he'd publish a memo or two. This blog has gone Gannett-viral, and it is a new part of the company and the employee mindthink. With that, I believe, comes more responsibility on all sides to make it work for everyone.

    It would be less fun to drop the poking of Tara, but maybe a lowering of rhetoric -- given that people are losing their jobs -- might be good for all sides.

    There are a lot of inept people in all this --- bad managers, scared-silly employees, hangers-on and rubberneckers -- but most everyone involved, yes, publishers, too, are trying to get through this. There are a lot of enemies. Tara isn't one of them.

  11. I have seen flaws in Gannett "Tactical Reactions" to the "Strategic Changes" occurring within the newspaper industry. Also the bullying Collins-Like tactics didn't help.

    I believe the beginning of the end was when the company took on $3.5 Billion in debt ove the 2002-2004 to expand into: 1) a secular decline in the industry and 2) an (unexpected) long-term excess-debt induced MAJOR decline in the US Economy. Most individuals, businesses, governments didn't see the current economy coming (and with no credit availability it will only get worse).

    The recent actions in the industry (ala Zell, lay-offs, elimination of Monday editions, elimination of out-lying home delivery routes) are simply like the actions taken by the crew of the Andrea Gail in the movie The Perfect Storm. Time to find a new career path people.

  12. I worked for Gannett for 10 years and left after a horrible incident that involved lying at all levels of management. I worked in newspapers for 20 years. I'm now a flak and love it. Protecting Tara is ridiculous. It's her job to respond to inquiries. Jim remains a journalist. If he emailed me with questions, my first priority would be to respond to him considering the number of Gannett employees who read this blog. Many of us in the Flakdom would love to have this kind of a pipeline to our employees. And name calling, please. Flaks are what we are. Big deal. I know I provide my employer with a valuable service. If someone wants to call me names, who cares. I was called much worse by readers during my 20 years in newspapers. Jim is providing you all with an incredible service. I wish there would have been something like this back when I was a Gannett employee. I wouldn't have felt so crazy!

    I know Jim's pissing people off but if you look back at his investigative work, that's what Jim does and for good reason. He's an excellent journalist and he gets results.

  13. Yo 8:04 trust me, everyone in Nashville is glad you are a flak!


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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