Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blog birthday: How you take power from Corporate

[Gannett headquarters, McLean, Va.]

Corporate won't participate with Gannett Blog because it says I engage in "rumor mongering and sensationalism," as spokeswoman Tara Connell told Columbia Journalism Review in a recent story. Unfortunately, that shows Gannett hasn't learned much since former newspaper division president Gary Watson sneered at my concerns that GCI was too wed to print, after I questioned him during a 1995 meeting with his eventual successor, Sue Clark-Johnson.

Like blogger Paul Gillin, I suspect Connell is just following orders from the woman I've been told is her boss: Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore -- Gannett's de facto CEO. I give former USA Today managing editor Connell more credit: She's not so dumb as to think the Internet and blogging are just fads that will fade away.

And yet: Connell is responsible for employee communications, which makes me wonder how she claims to do her job without addressing workers here. It's not like Corporate offers an alternative. Today, exactly a year after my blog went live with this post, the nation's No. 1 newspaper publisher still doesn't publish a Corporate blog of its own. Think about that: Even as Gannett orders its papers and TV stations to create more digital offerings, with fewer employees, Connell and News Department chief Phil Currie (inset) defiantly refuse to do the same.

As we say, not as we do
For example, look at today's edition of Currie's News Watch. Why isn't that weekly newsletter published as a webpage with instructional videos, commenting tools, and other interactive features? Why does Corporate think it's OK to adopt an attitude that reeks of, "do as we say, not as we do"? Please don't whine about having too much work already. You've never accepted that excuse from the field -- preferring instead to heap more work on employees, while ignoring questions about their being forced to work illegal, unpaid overtime.

Gannett workers hunger for more information. Tuesday, when Corporate disclosed a big newspaper division reorganization, employees raced here for more details. Traffic surged near record highs. Some of you came for my analysis of the 100 management layoffs.

But most of you came to learn from each other. I happily became a bit player here long ago: This blog's power has little to do with me -- and everything to do with you. That's exactly what I hoped for a year ago. As I told a fellow blogger recently, 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.

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.

[Image: today's Journal News in Westchester, Newseum. The paper lost most of its operating committee members in Tuesday's newspaper division reorganization]


  1. Gannett's really missing a great opportunity by not participating in some way formally here and elsewhere on the blogosphere.

    At a minimum, they could at least improve their image from one of being an “evil (company) to a bumbling” one as has Michael Dell. His story, and how other companies are better connecting with employees and customers through the web can be read at Fortune’s website using the following link…

  2. To be fair, Michael Dell possesses a position in his company that doesn't exist here.

    There is no unifying person. It's a much of sorta leaders ... sorta leading.

    With that said, I'd read a blog authored by Chris Saridakis.

  3. Corporate does do blogs, although maybe not the type you are seeking. Jim Lenahan writes one about technology and innovation, for example.

  4. Gannett should not participate here....a blog run by someone with an ax to grind because he was "wronged" by Gannett in his past life. But they might consider doing something like Pepsi does....a communication forum for employees that at least is fair and balanced. Where employees have a voice.

  5. Sorry, 12:55 PM, you can start a blog like Pepsi's, but you can't hide from the truth. Do I hear that you want to edit what's written because you can't face the truth?

  6. Jim makes it clear is his statement about why he started the blog that this is for workers, not management.

  7. 1:01 I am sure a company with as many talented journalists as Gannett can find someone with journalistic skills (fair and balanced), and the integrity who could create a blog where everyone has a voice....not just rumor mongering. But where everyone can participate.

  8. I think some people might be missing a vital point: We have to communicate with each other on this blog to gain information because G-corp is not providing that information.

  9. Doesn't Ford run a bunch of different discussion boards for their different groups of employees - dealers, service, manufacturing? If I remember right, it's open to all employees - and most of the time it was griping about the work habits of different sites and which managers sucked.

  10. Gannett could, if the company wanted to, include the voices of readers and staff when it releases information about the company. I don't think that's going to happen until the company decides to junk business pages and replace them with work pages---you know, the kind of reporting that includes all the different voices, including those of decision- makers, workers and consumers. It's just not going to happen---but if it did, imagine how fair and balanced the stories would be.

  11. Even if Gannett had a blog, I wouldn't be stupid enough to risk having them trace my IP address the first time I posted a complaint. Given what we've seen previously with the vindictiveness, who would feel safe?

  12. 12:48 pm: Is Lenahan's blog open to employees only? What about stockholders, retirees and other non-employees?

  13. @12:55 pm: Help me improve this blog, please. You say I have an ax to grind. If that's the case, why do you come here?

  14. @1:52 pm: You wrote, "I am sure a company with as many talented journalists as Gannett can find someone with journalistic skills (fair and balanced), and the integrity who could create a blog where everyone has a voice....not just rumor mongering. But where everyone can participate."

    Gannett has had an entire year to do what you suggest. In that time, I've hijacked the company's communications -- and I'm only working part-time, with free software. Where are all these "talented journalists,'' and why haven't any of them started a competing blog. For that matter, why haven't you?

  15. "About NEWS WATCH - NEWS WATCH is a weekly newsletter produced by the Gannett Corporate News Department under the direction of Phil Currie, senior vice president/News. It is produced by News Executive Ann Clark, with contributions from other Corporate News executives and from Gannett editors around the group. "

    That's a lotta high-priced talent to create three links to nothing...

  16. Openness is not in Gannett's genetic makeup.

    Secrecy, closed-door meetings, whispers in the halls, OC star chamber meetings, editors who sit in their offices talking to no one all day. Now, that's the Gannett I know and hate and glad I left.

    I think the upper crust of Gannett would rather cut their fingers off than communicate with employees through a blog.

    They'd rather do the old "my way or the highway" school of management.

    They don't trust their employees. Employees are badgered and looked down upon when they try to offer ideas that contradict with the Gannett manifesto.

    It is a shame because the talented folks in those newsroom would love to see things improve but management could give a rat's ass.

  17. Wrong again Jim. Phil Currie DOES have a blog and all in Gannett are welcome to post to it. Just a fact.

  18. Here are latest blog posts to the non-existent Currie/News Department Web site:

    Our Blog

    How to use Our Blog

    All Blog Posts

    Mogulus/Mobile Summit is now archived

    Independent blog praises Gannett's live streaming efforts

    NAA article focuses on Honolulu video efforts

    Check out Detroit's coverage of mayor as he pleads guilty to obstructing justice

    Live football video, anyone?

    Details on text-messaging tool

    Former news director applauds Lafayette, Ind., primary coverage

    Louisiana escapes serious Gustav damage; live streams video

    Louisville wins state Supreme Court ruling on release of foundation names

    Passion for journalism strong at NLGJA convention

  19. Did anyone dare comment or ask questions on his blog?

  20. I commented on our local gannett paper blog about the layoffs and they removed it from the blog for a few hours. When you clicked on it, it said that the blog was being reviewed by the editor. Several hours later it appeared again. Then an employee put a bunch of local sport blogs on until it kicked it off the front page list. LOL Funny how they can report about all the other companies who are floundering or who are laying off, but when the topic is about them, they have to hush it up.

  21. haha! Don't forget that "cardinal rule" of old school journalism: "We don't comment or report on ourselves." It cetainly is an easy-way-out!

  22. Jim,

    I don't come often because frankly I am a busy working journalist and I don't have time or interest in reading a lot of griping. Seems like a waste of time.
    However, I do value giving employees a voice.

    The blog would be better if it wasn't blatant anti-management. Don't get me wrong. I have my own issues with management; but, I also don't think a "bitch" site solves all that much in a company going through an industry paradigm shift.

    It seems there is a more productive way to approach communications and help one another save this company, not contribute to its demise. I agree maybe Gannett does not do a great job owning internal communications. So employees need to vent somewhere.

    The company is too big with too many divisions and too many different P&L goals:its more like a holding company of several smaller companies (community papers, major metros, TV, USAT).

    What I see here is a lot of anti-Gannett jabs and mostly people who want to vent. That keeps a great deal of people from participating.

    Once in a while I see a Post that is great. Actually breaking news or a valued discussion like the old vs. new journalists.

  23. 3:19 you are on to something.
    There are a lot of innovators at Gannett....where is the sharing of best practices and new ideas?
    To survive the paradigm shift, new thinking is critical.

    Where can employees be part of the solution?

  24. To everyone:

    As the new intranet platform has been rolled out, if you look in the upper right corner where your name is listed, you can create your own home page with your own blog to post your own ideas.

    give it a shot.

  25. Woooo. Whatever happened to that statement what's-her-name made about how Gannett judges communication by what is said between between employees and supervisors?

  26. At our paper, it's pointless to contribute new ideas, because all of the editors know that they can't really do anything with corporate approval and mandates anyway. So, for the most part, they just sit around waiting on corporate to decide what we're going to do next.

    It's very frustrating when you can see how far behind everyone is and you have a lot of progressive ideas, but know that it's pointless to offer any of them and would be an act of congress to get any of them implemented.

    So we sit around and watch the newspaper die.

  27. No one picks up the Gannetteer. Why would we want the same corporate self-promotion in blog form? What corporate wants to tell us just isn't relevant to our lives.

  28. Sounds far-fetched right now, but what's to stop Gannett from using this company intranet blog thing somehow in employee performance reviews? I wouldn't put that past a company that's seemingly obsessed with clicks!

  29. How you take power from Corporate

    Get a job with a Competitor.

  30. Maybe we can increase our stock price by ceasing production of the Gannetteer and save somebody's job for awhile. The do as I say, not do as I do management is exactly why this company is in trouble. The managers have little to no idea how the underlings do their jobs. If its not that its the I don't care if we take every ounce of pleasure out of your job you're going to do it and you're going to like it. Memo to them: this isn't Communist China and people won't work for pennies on the dollar just because.

  31. Great idea 11:14am! Only those who are represented in the Gannetteer or who have any chance of being represented in same are interested in reading it. I/we have no time to read Executive Kudos because we're too busy doing the extra work generated by all the layoffs and other cuts mandated by corporate. So axe it already!!

  32. Reorganize this, change that. Lay off this one, promote that one. Trouble is some papers are having some people doing the laying off who need to go themselves. How far down the food chain does each paper, or Gannett, listen? The production person, the DM, dare I say the lowly carrier? The I-net, 24 hour news TV, and now the economy, are factors in newspaper sales' decline of course, but there are papers who contribute more than those with late constant late outs, torn up front pages, missing sections. And that doesn't even begin to hit content and accuracy. A lot of papers I know are shooting themselves in the foot and looking around to see who's doing the shooting! And why have reports over the last couple of years touted newspaper business skyrocketing everywhere in the world BUT North America? What's wrong with that?
    I'm glad I found this site as I take my work seriously enough to want to know what's going on. Thank You.

  33. Does anybody send suggestions to the "DIG"? Is that just for "digital" ideas?

  34. The first place that most computer-savvy people go when looking for a job is There's no point in other people creating job sites, because CareerBuilder is the biggest, and it's where people know to look for that kind of information.

    Same with GannettBlog. Whenever we want Gannett news, we immediately come here because we know we'll find what we're looking for. It would be kinda pointless for Gannett to start its own blog. I don't think many people would go to it.

    Gannett bought a large portion of CareerBuilder; they weren't going to try to start their own competing job site. Similarly, Gannett needs to accept the fact that this site is the place to go for Gannett news. As such, they should provide Jim (and us) with comments/news every now and then. The head honchos fighting it just makes that us-vs.-them feeling even worse.

    If they'd participate, I think it would help a lot. But Jim, you'd have to keep your snarky replies to a minimum.

  35. Craig Moon has an internal blog. Best as I can tell, he posts a few times a month, and he writes about stuff that happened a few weeks earlier. Not the most timely, informative blog.

    I've never seen a comment on there. Not sure many people even read it.

  36. USAT's newsroom had an internal blog (probably still exists, although not updated) that is/was widely ignored. When it was launched right after the dotcom/newsroom merger a couple of years ago, I realized that a significant portion of potential readers didn't know what a blog was. At least that has changed.


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.