Saturday, November 22, 2008

Memo: USAT news staff meeting set for Monday

Amid looming layoffs in the community newspaper division, USA Today top editor Ken Paulson has tentatively scheduled a newsroom staff meeting for 5 p.m. ET on Monday -- a day earlier than originally planned, according to a memo circulating among some employees.

The memo does not give an agenda, so this may be nothing more than the regular monthly staff meeting. It says the event is to take place in the auditorium, suggesting a large crowd is expected.

From the memo: "Ken Paulson just contacted me about arranging for all the set-up -- teleconference call-in, live-streaming / video archiving -- for a potential Mon. Nov. 24 5 PM editorial staff meeting. You may already have this on your schedules for Tuesday afternoon, but Ken would like to try to move it up to Monday at 5 PM. That's still to be confirmed by him, but the auditorium is now reserved for both Monday and Tuesday and he'd like to be sure he can get the necessary technical support on either day."

Some background: USAT and the Detroit Free Press -- two of Gannett's biggest work sites -- have so far been excluded from the current round of job cuts, which target 10% of the community newspaper division's workforce.

Calling USA Today and Detroit employees: Have any other departments scheduled big staff meetings next week? 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.


  1. I work at USAT but have not received a memo from Paulson about a Monday meeting, although there have been plenty of rumors circulating. Will check back over the weekend to see what others have to say here or report anything I can find out. They've been very tight-lipped about this.

  2. Tight-lipped is right.

    However, the rumor mill's latest is that we're looking at 20 people. Whether that's layoffs, buyouts or something else, who knows.

  3. I've heard up to 30.

  4. I am not sure there is much of difference between buyouts and layoffs anymore unless you are lucky enough to have something else lined up. We kind of know who USAT wants to push out. We kind of know whose time is limited. In a way, layoffs are more intellectually honest and humane if enough severance is paid.

  5. Of course, the phrase "I've heard" is absolutely meaningless. There's a only small number of people who really know what's coming -- Moon, Paulson, Hillkirk and then maybe a smattering of the Managing Editors.

    But whether it's 20, 30 or 100, what's the difference? The last round of cuts lost a ton of USAT's extremely valuable institutional knowledge. Not to mention the really good people who, on their own, decided to bail out in 2008. I can list any number of beats that we're dying in now because people with 20 years in the business took the exit ramp.

  6. For the benefit of non-editorial employees, 11:55 am, what are "beats,'' where is USAT hurting most in that regard -- and why is that a problem for Gannett?

  7. Finance and business beats were decimated in earlier cuts, before the economic crunch hit. The result has been some really poorly thought out stories written by people who have no idea how the economy works. It has shown up on the coverage of what is happening, in my opinion. People who obviously don't know what a credit default swap is were assigned to this story, and when Freddy and Fanny collapsed, I saw one story where F&F's assets were written as being liabilities. USAT did a perfectly horrible job on covering this economic collapse. (P.S. I am not a laid off or bought out business reporter.).

  8. To answer your question, Jim, I can use you as a case study. You covered entrepreneurs. You knew how to use internet survey tools to get feedback from sources, you knew how to generate enterprise, you could pick up breaking news, etc. Your Rolodex had sources in it that you cultivated over years. Who does that on entrepreneurs for USAT now that you're gone? No one.

    For you non-editorial types, a "beat" is a topical area that a reporter or collection of reporters and editors cover.

    In the last buyout, USAT lost its entire veteran NBA reporting staff!! The ramifications of that have been enormous on the quality and depth of that coverage. We've also lost excellent investigative reporters in other sections -- people who knew how to dig for stories and do things that would win journalism awards because they were quality.

    What awards will our coverage win this year?

    Why is this a problem for Gannett? Because the *ONLY* thing we have as a hope going forward is the uniqueness of our content, regardless of delivery. No matter whether we're publishing to the Web or to print or to Blackberry, we need content that is deep, unique and exclusive.

    By losing veteran staffers, we not only lose the institutional knowledge an organization needs to cover a topic effectively, but we also lose the ability to do much more than paddle really hard to keep up with the news of the day.

    You know, when Mazzarella was editor, he instituted a culture of enterprise that was designed to get USAT some respect. And you know what? Although some of his hires were misguided, he brought on some really smart people. Karen J. slowly dismantled that framework by bringing us the Corporate-esque "3G" program, and the Jack Kelley affair put a bad taste in people's mouth for projects.

    Then Kinsey and the Web-ites gained prominence because, well, we all know the Web is the future. But unfortunately, Web efforts at USAT are driven not by journalists or innovative techies but by designers. Somehow, the Design department is now the tail that wags the dog -- hiring artists and producers like crazy.

    But yes, we'll send the veteran reporters out the door.

  9. The veterans get hit because they are big earners. They have been around for 10 or 15 years, and now have built up a salary. So when Ken and crew decide who goes, they look at salary levels and say they could hire two reporters for what they are paying the veteran, so the veteran is out the door. Since USAT now works more on assignments given reporters than enterprise, management thinks it really doesn't matter if you have veterans or not. And obviously, given the economic troubles facing GCI, the veterans have not been able to provide the sort of revenue GCI needs.

  10. Several points:

    --You usually don't call a staff meeting to announce layoffs. You announce layoffs by memo and haul staff in one-by-one for the execution. You *do* call a staff meeting to announce buyouts, usually with the explicit promise that layoffs will follow if targets aren't met.

    --All of Paulson's monthly staff meetings take place in the auditorium, so don't read anything into that. And they all happen at 5 -- unlike the last layoff/buyout meeting, which was in the middle of the afternoon (so people who don't work newspaper hours could be there). Still, you have to be whistling in the dark to believe this is just a regular staff meeting.

    --Buyouts typically offer better benefits than layoffs and they are much more aimed at senior staff. Layoffs generally -- but not entirely -- get aimed in reverse order of seniority, in part to fight age/job discrimination claims. Most of the least senior staff at USAT work in online jobs and get paid half or less of the salary of senior news people. Who would you target?

    --Buyouts at a place like USAT, with a lot of senior staff, are generally more effective at saving money. Layoffs are a sign that Gannett needs to shed payroll RIGHT NOW or a sign that USAT is assuring it will get rid of the people it doesn't want, rather than people who will leave. That's a dicey thing to do with a newsroom with a median age that's got to be over 45.

    --Nobody can really afford to be in the job market right now, so last year's buyouts -- which a lot of people took because they had good prospects elsewhere or were just ready to retire or leave -- are definitely not this year's buyouts. It takes some serious guts to take a buyout in this environment.

    --Good people leave in buyouts. Crappy people rarely do, negatively affecting the good-to-crappy ratio in a workplace and dragging the whole place down. Buyouts will increase the percentage of chronically complaining, chronically underachieving people in the newsroom. We've already got plenty of those.

    --Do you want to work an in ever-shrinking news environment, at a newspaper that always has had an embarrassingly small newsroom? If it's going to take months and months to find a new job and parachute out of this mess, there's no time like the present to start.

    --Finally, I honestly wish I knew what I was going to be doing for a living in six months.

  11. This round of layoffs won't hit reporting ranks as much as it will management ranks. Just look at who was invited in those closed-door meetings, and remember how managers themselves insisted they didn't know what was going on.

  12. There are four people in our multi-paper group who know who's getting the axe. President/Publisher, HR, Finance and the guy who typed up the list to send to corporate.

    No other directors, managers or supervisors know. Your manager isn't lying, they really don't know.

  13. 12:30 PM
    I find "unique" content on Gannett sites. Unfortunately, it's the kind of "good enough is good enough" shallowness that inspires readers to fill in the holes by making nasty comments about the writing rather than the story. That's an awful way to look at journalism, but it seems to be working for Gannett, a place where a click is just a click.

    It's not going to change even a little bit until sources start getting really pissed when mistakes are made.

  14. Ha! It looks like once again you gannett folks are going to be:

    SKEEEEEEEEE-RUUUUUUUUD! (Screwed for the phonetically challenged)

    Too bad about yer luck.....

    How are those big salaries working out for you now??

  15. 2:33, i don't know what big salaries you're talking about. i work on one of gannett's biggest papers, and people have left for teaching jobs because the pay was better and the work was less stressful.

    among the writers, photographers and copy editors, we do have one columnist who makes a bundle, but he's the only one of our "franchise players" left. everyone else who had a following among readers has been fired outright on flimsy pretexts or driven out by being taken out of their areas of expertise and given "general assignment" work more appropriate for rookies or banished to the bureaus to cover non-events.

    so if they want to cut people with "big salaries," they'll have to dump department heads. i saw on yahoo that brothels are hiring . . . an appropriate possibility for at least one exec i can think of.

    remember -- wear black 12/2.

  16. Detroit has major changes and major cuts that will be rolled out very soon

  17. The meeting is to hand out the Holiday bounus'

  18. 2:52 You clearly don't know what you are talking about. I could name a few names of reporters still working USAT making big bucks. If you don't believe me, run your thoughts through the names of those working in the Washington bureau for a minute.

  19. Hey 12:30, I have a lot of respect for some people in the Design Department. Some decent folks with loads of talent reside there. But I will agree with you that something isn't working in that department since the so-called merger. They seem to have people everywhere. Still, I am clueless as to what they do. The ones who I rub elbows with are rarely very helpful. Some who used to be helpful and productive don't seem to do much anymore. They pass me off on someone else at every opportunity. One or two can be seemingly be engaging, but it still takes them forever to execute what I would think is a fairly simple task. They have a lot of meetings and seem to keep banker's hours. Each individual in that department seems to play by his or her own rules. Just chaotic dealing with many of them lately.

    I see fewer print visuals, too. I suppose that is because that staff has been stripped or sent to .com or took buyouts. I don't see an increase in visuals on the web site either. Is it just me? Am I not looking in the right place?

    I went down to Design's main floor needing something the other day and there was no one to be found and this was around noon. Then I went back upstairs hoping one of these so-called embedded Design staffers could help. Nope. That didn't work. A year or two ago that never happened. There were people there from morning until the wee hours, and they were helpful for the most part, and things got done quickly as they appeared to know exactly what they were doing. Frankly, I can't stand going down there anymore because I know odds are I either won't find anyone or if I do, they won't be able to help me. And forget about this embedded staff, although to be fair, I hear some sections do have more helpful design people in them. Old print people.

    The online folks are a total mystery to me. They have an expression which floors me and others. I've heard them say more than once that they are going to "take a pass." Huh? Take a pass on a legitimate request? OK, like all of us they have resource problems, but taking a pass seems more like the rule than the exception with online people. At least when print folks can't do something, it's really because they can't do it or because we screwed up in not getting them the info in time. While we sometimes knock heads, I always come away feeling print folks have good intentions. Not so with online or some of these hybrids.

    Another clue I've seen that something is wrong is in some of the Design meetings I've been invited to. Little they say seems to even make sense or hold a nugget of logic. They seem to be all over the map with theories, possibilities and disjointed policies that change from day to day. There was one meeting several months ago in one of the dining rooms that was downright embarrassing in my opinion. Several of us left there not knowing a thing more about what they are trying to accomplish. We just saw diagrams with circles. It was so bizarre.

    Again, there are some voices of reason in that department, and probably some bright techies too, but what has happened lately is just mind boggling and doesn't appear to be doing anyone any good. Are the techies happy? I had one Design person tell me the other day that most of the staff has to pretend to be happy. Why? What's going on there?

    So while Design has hired an army of people as the comment above stats, somehow they've become far less effective on both platforms. I just don't understand what has happened there. Did the loss of certain managers hurt that much?

    Someone told me that any designer connected to the web site is exempt from being laid off or bought out. That's just staggering during these times. These don't appear to be untouchable stars or high producers. Why are they exempt?

    Guess we'll find out Monday.

    p.s. Didn't mean to rant about Design. I do have to deal with them regularly and do see them sliding by the week, but I also agree that other sections and beats are also hurting. I do also believe that if you want to see a terrible result of merging, look at Design. The paper and the web site are weaker as a result of forcing something that shouldn't have been forced.

  20. Unlike 12:41, I can see a scenario where people get laid off in the morning and Paulson then explains what happened in the afternoon.

    I think there are numerous ways this can go down. Plus, this is USAT -- since when does logic or standard biz practices come into play?

    As for 4:50's comments, yup, something is whacky in design. If you talk to these online people enough you will notice that everything they touch is a "project." What the heck ever happened to day-to-day journalism? Some of the onliners, and even people who were in print but now are in the sections, seem like they can't be bothered with that sort of stuff anymore. What's the goal? Is it really that beneficial to have an army of people working for months on just one thing that is often hard to find on the web site? This is USAT. Volume is what sells. Quick turnaround is what built the paper's rep. I don't see much bang for the buck in the "project" approach to everything.

    Between cutbacks and merging, this is a place ready to explode.

  21. I haven't received any memo about a Monday meeting. Should that worry me?

  22. Kinsey is gone. With any luck, some of the Web-ites may follow. What have they done for the brand since taking over the joint? We keep throwing seasoned and in some cases versatile print people off the cliff and keep hiring these one-trick tech ponies to replace them. The site continues to not pay the bills. The layoffs continue. Content is diminished. Simple procedures are now a convoluted mess. Newsroom clout is in the wrong hands. Someone please stop the madness. We were never a perfect newsroom, but this is insane.

  23. Suggestion: Stop merging! Let print people do what they do. Let online people do what they do. Let management decide what staff goes where so that workloads can be prioritized, beats rearranged, desks covered, etc. Share ideas and resources only when it makes sense. And let both platforms evolve into whatever it is they need to be without creating all these stupid dotted lines to nowhere. This merging experiment has been a near total failure. We're into our second round of cutbacks, neither platform has improved and there are a whole lot of pissed off people walking around that building pretending to play nice. New hires are marching in. Some very decent human beings are being thrown out into the worst economy in our lifetime.

    Stop merging. It isn't working and resentments are off the charts.

  24. 5:13 pm: Very few people had seen that memo before it was forwarded to me. That's why I wrote that it is circulating among "some'' employees.

  25. Wonder how Paulson feels with this happening for a second time on his watch when previously there had never been a layoff or buyout at USAT? Think Kinsey saw the writing on the wall? Think people will buy into Paulson's somber tone again? Can only go to the well so often.

    Oh, and is anyone feeling used? Just curious about the timing of all of this. You know, after all the major news events are over.

  26. Hi Jim. Not asking you to reveal your source, but can I accurately conclude that that memo has only gone out to the higher-ups and not to newsroom staffers? If you feel you can't answer that without jeopardizing your source, I understand.

  27. I want to know if the memo even mentions cuts of any kind happening anytime soon. Could this meeting just be a general warning that 2009 might be tougher than expected? I mean it seems that people might be jumping to conclusions.

    However, the one thing they aren't jumping the gun on is this call to take a more measured and logical approach to the blending of online and print staffs that takes into account things like deadlines. We need to take a step back. Apparently the folks who orchestrated the merger totally ignored the flow of news and the vast differences in editorial production. USAT is unique in the way it is produced and printed. Kinsey and his generals seemed to forget that.

  28. After the year we've had, trying to institute every dumb policy the merger forced upon us -- uhhhh, to now be facing a second round of cuts -- what the f was the point? If we stay on this road, and just let things fall apart even more (in the name of progress), it will surely get worse. These are partially self-inflicted wounds. The merger did not fix anything. It made things worse.

  29. 5:41 and 5:49 pm: I do not know exactly how many people have seen that memo. But I tend to doubt that it's been seen by more than a few people.

    In any case, as to whether it references cuts, the answer is, no. Indeed, judge for yourself: I've posted virtually every word from the memo, save a few extraneous things.

  30. Out here in the hinterlands we have no idea what "big bucks" may mean. At my location at a 100,000 Sunday circulation "big bucks" is $60K. Are reporters in DC really making that kind of money. Guess $80K there is like $60K here.

  31. We shrunk the paper because the sky was falling. We merged two systems that previously worked relatively well independently because the sky was falling. We reduced content in the paper because the sky was falling. We got rid of productive people through buyouts because the sky was falling. We hired tech wizards who work for weeks on the same coding because we needed to catch up. We crossed trained people so that those others who do little could do even less. We followed a leader who jumped ship. Staked everything on his claims. We combined four jobs into one. We ignored beats and emptied out entire departments. And we still can't get enough of the Kool-Aid?

    Folks, whatever is said on Monday, it's just meaningless b.s. at this point.

  32. When I interviewed at USA Today in early 2000, I was told that it wasn't completely uncommon for some in the News Department to earn $100K to $120K a year.

    By "News,'' I mean the part of the newsroom that mostly produced what appeared in the A section -- as opposed to the Money/Life/Sports sections.

  33. To 4:50 p.m.:

    Your comments about Design are right on the money. I recently worked on a story that required me and a few other print-side people to work through the weekend. But I was told that nothing would get done from Friday night till Monday morning because no one in Design would be available? Huh? And this is rapid Web publishing?

    I agree -- there are some really skilled and smart people in that group. And there are some really skilled and smart Design people embedded in the sections. In fact, that description covers the vast majority of Design people -- skilled and smart.

    Their problem is, again, one of leadership.

    If you want to look at USAT's failures, whether it be in Design or any of the other silos, look no further than the top management: the MEs and the DMEs. With only a few exceptions, as a group they have been utterly clueless as to how to lead this organization through a time of severe change. First they ignored that change was happening (think mid-'90s to early '00s), and then they've thrown spaghetti at the wall hoping something would stick.

    Change has been a tsunami they never knew was coming, and now we're under water.

    As for Kinsey -- hey, nice guy, very smart. Did a great job of getting the MEs and DMEs to wake up to the fact that the Web was something that needed attention. Believe you me, that was a tough row for him to hoe -- and I know 'cause I am a print-side person.

    But again, too many Web efforts turned into Design-led exercises rather than exercises in fundamental innovation. The result: The site looks merely OK while underneath the covers it is an absolute mess.

  34. On USAT salaries, let's not forget that instead of living in Bumblyburg, S.D., we are living in the D.C. metro area -- one of the most expensive cost-of-living locations in the U.S. So most of any great bonus you think we're getting goes toward paying a lot more than you do in your town.

  35. Hi 2:56 PM,

    When you write "Detroit has major changes and major cuts that will be rolled out very soon" are you saying it from a position of authority? Do you work in management or are you just messing around with us?

    Several people feel something is about to happen; there are too many closed door meetings for it to be about a surprise birthday party or for secret confabs about who's going to win Dancing With The Stars.

    If you can share with the rest of the class you'll get an A for effort.

  36. The memo wouldn't hold up in court as evidence of pending staff reductions. In my opinion, there could be other reasons to move up the meeting. I have a gut feeling that if anything is said about layoffs, it will be somewhat vague. I believe the more definitive news about cutbacks will be aired sometime in 2009.

    Of course, KP could settle this right here and now by writing in or emailing Jim. OK, scratch that.

  37. Why did USAT/Gannett decide to build in one of the most expensive areas in the country? In theory, couldn't USAT be located anywhere? Maybe that would have saved some money on the purchase of land, the building and salaries.

    Hope you guys avoid the hit, but I tend to doubt it. Mother Gannett is on a roll.

  38. One theory is that GCI built here because of taw laws that favor corporations. No idea if that is true. I will say that Virginia's a lot warmer than Rochester, N.Y., so maybe that had something to do with it. Or proximity to the D.C. power brokers in Congress.

  39. 6:16 p.m. said "I believe the more definitive news about cutbacks will be aired sometime in 2009."

    Unlikely. Any cutbacks needed for 2009 will need to be made before 2009 begins. Same as last year's scenario -- they made sure that all the buyout takers got out before the end of '07.

  40. Sometimes I wonder about the people around here.

    The 'memo' is a great get by Jim but it seems to be merely a request for tech and/or support staff to hold the meeting Monday.

    People saying how come they didn't get the memo obviously didn't read it here in full.

    That's not to say something dreadful isn't going to happen Monday -- it is -- but this was a memo about logistics, not content.

    But sadly that content will not be anything but buyouts or layoffs.

  41. 6:32 pm: Indeed, management wanted all 43 USA Today employees getting buyouts to be gone by Dec. 31, 2007.

    But at least two of us -- both in the Money section -- sought and received special permission to stay on into January, to help our teams with some special projects. I was one of those two, volunteering to stay an extra three weeks -- for no additional compensation.

    Believe it or not, I had to beg someone back at McLean, Va., to let me stay that additional time -- even though it was in the paper's best interests.

  42. That latest revelation from Jim is yet another reason why so many of us are just bewildered by USA TODAY/Gannett management and losing faith in our employer by the hour. Something drastic needs to change. Something that sweeps the entire company. And I don't mean that we need another Gallup survey.

  43. The memo doesn't hint at the reason for the meeting. I think folks just kind of know at this point that it's not a meeting to show more baby pictures. Yeah, we read some things into it, but with good cause. Only the details of the meeting remain unknown. Would be nice if our MEs (the folks that want us to trust in them) tipped us off, but that will never happen. So we just have to wait until we are all herded in on Monday.

  44. Bet the meeting was moved up because of this blog and word beginning to get out. The power of Gannett Blog continues.

  45. 6:15 - it has been in the works for months now - speaking from authority

  46. Hey 6:28: Gannett has been in Virgina since moving from Rochester years ago.

    As for building in the Tyson's area, Gannett invested in property out their years ago as well. When rent went up in Rosslyn the decision was made to just build on land Gannett already owned.

    Based on land values that was a pretty sound investment when originally made.

  47. USAT is broken. While it's still the No. 1 newspaper, there are too many forces working against it, including its own web site. Lack of smart leadership isn't confined to Design. The price of operating in an expensive area isn't the root of the problem. Layoffs aren't going to solve a thing. There are problems there that have been known and mostly ignored for years while everyone collected a paycheck. Those problems mounted and spun out of control. It's really a rather common story. The bleeding will probably continue on Monday, and at least annually for the next several years. Those who escape layoffs can go back to being in denial or telling their managers they are happy and professionally fulfilled, when nothing could be further from the truth. Why do managers even ask what people are feeling? Don't they know USAT isn't an environment conducive to telling the truth? Everyone can returned to being selfish, only looking out for themselves. Managers can run around attending meeting after meeting where nothing gets done. Web-ites can carry around open laptops and print folks can pull out their hair trying to figure out how to download an attachment. Meanwhile, empty suits continue doing what they do and the whole damn thing remains fairly hopeless. Please Ken, don't tell us what wonderful people we are on Monday. Don't go through the routine. Tell us what we need to know and be done with it.

  48. The marketing and circulation departments drive USAT. I think editorial peeps give themselves a bit too much credit. The news is packaged and edited well, but there is nothing extraordinary in the paper or online day to day. I can read almost anything in USAT elsewhere. The web site is even worse as there seems to old news on the site more than in the paper.

    However sorry to hear you might be facing more cuts. Awful time to be jobless.

  49. I don't think things are so horrible at Usat, or at least aren't any worse than you'd fine at any newspaper.

    But what truly IS broken is the graphics department. Someone posted above the absolute truth. When part of what should be a team says they will 'take a pass' on something that needs to be done, that's a prescription for systemic collapse.

    Prioritizing is fine. We all do that all the time. But the whole we're-too-busy mantra by the graphics people at Usat has become comical. It needs to be fixed. Pronto.

  50. The Design people ARE too busy. But they're too busy doing the wrong things.

    Again, no one is leading. And so everyone is left to do what they think is right. And it's all fragmented.

  51. I wrote one of the rants above about Design, and I just want to reiterate that I do think they are a bunch of very smart, skilled and creative people. But no one has set a vision for this ship to go forward, so they're just caught in the same warped thing as the rest of us. No offense, guys!

    You could really say a lot of crap about a lot of different corners of USAT. But let's be real -- again, it comes down to what kind of vision we're getting from the top. And that starts all the way up to Mr. Moon, who needs to demonstrate some real vision real soon.

  52. My posting work verification is rants. No joke.

  53. There are a lot things wrong with USAT besides the Design/Graphics Dept. They got hit by a tidal wave of losses (and some self-inflicted wounds) even before the buyouts, but it's not like the rest of the newsroom is a well-oiled machine. I will save that rant for some other time.

    I do agree that graphics is on the wrong track to recovery, but what are we doing to help them out? We give them last-minute assignments that could have been generated hours or days earlier. We make them redo work that was previously approved. We don't edit finished graphics until hours, or even days after they are done, yet expect our corrections to be done pronto. We have absolutely no understanding of online graphics or video, yet I see folks beginning to treat some of the web site designers similar to the way they treated the print people. And what little knowledge we have of print graphics is often more of a danger than a help.

    Just one voice standing up for a the Design folks who I hope can get back to what they once did fairly well. And a reality check that Design/Graphics does not operate in a vacuum. We need to be more on the ball with assisting them in a timely and thorough fashion, even though we've suffered our own losses in staff. I've seen too many editors around here slamming them for not doing what they wouldn't ask their own reporters to do.

    With that said, graphics folks, you are on the wrong path with this fragmented approach to staffing lately. I sort of understand the intent, but the perception (and probably reality) is that you are doing a lot less than you once did. People see all these new hires (which is tweaking some people for somewhat obvious reasons) and don't understand why there is such a decrease in what you can do.

    Whenever the possibility of layoffs emerges, everything and everyone are under the microscope. Seems like this thread went after Design, and some valid points have been made. But just picking on Design kind of distorts the whole picture of what is really happening in the newsroom. Design has always been an easy target, but let's keep it real. There are major problems throughout the sections, too.

  54. I deal with the graphics department almost daily. They are woefully understaffed for print. They aren't exaggerating. When they say they can't do something, they literally can't because there isn't a warm body to be found. If they lose anymore people to buyouts or the web site, I don't think they will be able to do much more than Snapshots and the rare illustration.

    I deal a lot less with online so I don't know exactly what their situation is. They seem to have far more people than print, yet print seems to produce a lot more even with a depleted staff.

    Just my two cents.

  55. USAT is certainly not the same product I so enjoyed reading just a year ago.

  56. Gosh, I hope this round of layoffs doesn't include so many good and productive people like last time. No department can afford to lose anymore talented, hardworking folks. The bosses need to be smart this time about who they let go. Leave personalities out of it. Let skill and work ethics decide who stays. We are going to need all the good staffers we can hold onto!

  57. The paper is a measurably diminished product. While the average reader might not be able to detect it yet, USAT is playing a dangerous game with its brand. A crappy paper doesn't do anyone any good. Doesn't help promote the web site. Doesn't provide a credible voice in the media. When this round of layoffs is over, the decision-makers need to take a long, hard look at what they've accomplished by funneling all resources, including new hires, to the web site. The web site was a small operation. Now, those are the people running the larger operation, and I don't think they are equipped to make that leap quite yet. There culture is very different, and some of their decisions are having an adverse effect on the whole. Not sure why management couldn't figure out a way to keep both operations separate yet under one umbrella. That would have been a smarter approach in my opinion.

  58. The paper is a measurably diminished product. While the average reader might not be able to detect it yet, USAT is playing a dangerous game with its brand. A crappy paper doesn't do anyone any good. Doesn't help promote the web site. Doesn't provide a credible voice in the media. When this round of layoffs is over, the decision-makers need to take a long, hard look at what they've accomplished by funneling all resources, including new hires, to the web site. The web site was a small operation. Now, those are the people running the larger operation, and I don't think they are equipped to make that leap quite yet. There culture is very different, and some of their decisions are having an adverse effect on the whole. Not sure why management couldn't figure out a way to keep both operations separate yet under one umbrella. That would have been a smarter approach in my opinion.

  59. Yes, there was a better way to merge without tearing apart everything that previously worked for both platforms. But that would have taken real leadership and awareness, rather than unrealistic thinking and rash decisions. There probably was a better way to save some jobs too. But our top managers failed us, plain and simple. The economy wasn't entirely to blame for this.

  60. Through this process of the last year or so, I have found my bosses listen even less. They plow ahead with plans based on some pretty thin perceptions rather than reality. One plan, which I won't get into, was based on so little evidence that it would be successful, yet had such risk attached to it, that it was simply negligent to even try without obtaining more data.

    The newsroom is falling apart. I don't expect tomorrow will help.

  61. They used us to get through the election! Remember that when sitting in that meeting tomorrow.

  62. Don't know what to make of a company that continues to be a leader in selling its product -- USA TODAY the newspaper -- but still has to layoff people and abandon that product. It's not like USA TODAY is freakin' GM and can't sell anything. The paper sells. Why are these empty suits letting it go to hell? The online venture seems speculative at best. There probably is a digital future, but I doubt it will involve the current model. A bird in the hand... ya know what I mean?

  63. They have to have some way to cut pension expenses.

  64. 10:48 Well, you can't say you weren't warned. Posters here have forecast this day coming when election night was over.

  65. Ken Paulson has been fighting corporate for weeks trying to save as many USATers as he can, so cut him some slack.

  66. Thanks Mrs. Paulson!

  67. It's quite true that Ken Paulson is battling to the end. He is not the villain here.

  68. It is much better to do the targeted layoffs than buyouts again. Some really good and needed talent was lost in those idiotic buyouts, while some people whose loss would not be noticed remained at their desks. As USAT gets thinner, the paper is going to need to retain some of the core talent or we won't make it to the other side of this economic disaster.

  69. I don't want to be so presumptuous or proud as to say that I am "core talent," but I do produce consistently for USAT, work my butt off (including weekends and nights) and have definitely helped the product grow. So if they want to "retain me," I really need to see some strong vision for growth along with the cuts. And I need to see some of the people who don't produce get shown the door.

  70. Paulson has been fighting for jobs. This is not his choice.

  71. To: The newsroom staff

    From: Ken Paulson and John Hillkirk

    The current economic crisis has taken its toll on businesses nationwide, including USA TODAY. This will mean a cut in our 2009 budget, including the elimination of about 20 positions in early December.
    We wish this wasn't necessary, but we're facing unprecedented economic challenges and we have to cut spending.
    We'll have our regular monthly staff meeting Monday at 5 p.m. EST and will discuss this development and answer any questions you may have, but here are the basics:
    Those whose jobs are eliminated will receive severance consisting of 1 week of pay for each completed year of service, with a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks of severance.
    If you'd like to volunteer for severance, please notify Lillian Perez in Human Resources by close of business on Dec. 1, using the attached form. Volunteers will receive the same compensation package. Any staff member may volunteer and will be considered for the severance, but there may be some limits based on overall newsroom needs.
    The job eliminations - including those of volunteers - are expected to take place in early December, although under some circumstances, staff members may stay a few more weeks.
    This is a difficult close to what has been an extraordinary year for this newsroom, including outstanding coverage of the presidential race, the Olympics and the stunning decline on Wall Street.
    We'll talk about all of this on Monday. In the meantime, please feel free to drop by or send an e-mail with any questions.


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