Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Connell: 'Here are the facts' on Dickey golf event

Company spokeswoman Tara Connell sent the following. She is responding to my post today, reporting that newspaper division President Bob Dickey (left) is competing as an amateur in this week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament, in Palm Springs, Calif. His participation came less than a week after telling employees that "all will be sharing the financial hardship" of new mandatory furloughs.

"Here are the facts,'' Connell wrote:

1) Palm Springs does a modest cash sponsorship of this event, which supports charities in the community. The sponsorship includes the right to play in the tournament, sell The Desert Sun's commemorative book and use a skybox. The amount is proprietary (negotiated with the Classics people), but your numbers are way too high.

2) Bob wrote a personal check to repay the newspaper so he can participate in the events.

3) The return to the paper in advertising and sales of the commemorative booklet will cover the cost more than seven-fold and possibly more.

4) Bob flew commercial to Tucson, then drove to the Palm Springs.

5) Michelle Krans, who also flew commercial, is there because she is the first female member of the board of directors of the Classic in its 50-year history.

6) Laura Hollingsworth -- yes, she flew commercial -- is a group president and one of Bob's direct reports. She was in Palm Springs for a meeting with Michelle and Bob, the publisher from Visalia and the GM from Salinas. She has returned to Des Moines. She did not participate in any classics events.

7) No one involved is on furlough.


  1. She lives! And finally responds to Jim! Whadyaknow. it really is a new day in America.

  2. Fascinating that she responded to this query and has ignored so many others you've sent her.

  3. What would be wrong with the guy just writing a personal check for his entry fees, and be done with it.

    Did he save money by writing a check to the newspaper? If so, I think he used his position with the company for his own personal benefit.

    If Gannett wants to do stuff like this, why in the world doesn't the board of directors insist on reporting ethics exceptions to shareholders?

  4. Great Job Jim!!! There are truths to these posts. Gannett responded, it's not going to the last time! Lets stay on them!!!

  5. How odd that Connell came out of the woodwork (or should I say the Crystal Palace glasswork) this time. Dickey must've put her under more pressure than Dubow ever did.

  6. Tara. Where have you been all of our lives? Looks to me as if Jim caught Dickey in a sticky situation, and Dickey decided he would try and make things straight ethically by writing a check to Gannett for his golf tour. So he got caught, and now is trying to wrangle out of his problem. You know what would happen to any in the rank and file who tried this? They would be gone, as sure as Bob Hope is gone. So corporate has two ethics standards: one for Dickey, and the other for the rest of us?

  7. You know, what this boils down to is remarkably bad form, an insensitivity to everything going on to people around them in the company -- and their families.

    AIG AIG AIG AIG AIG AIG AIG (OK, without the bailout).

    And the explanation is thin as can be. What is it about corporate types at the highest levels? Your newspaper is likely to close. So long, good bye. Gotta go to the Bob Hope.

    At the very least Gannett should issue a statement acknowledging this was a mistake. Fact is, the powers that be can't do that; it would open up other doors that none want to go through, some of which have been explored on this blog.

    18 holes of schmoozing with the rich and powerful after kicking your employees in the teeth.... Unethical? Ummm. Stupid, yes. Waste of shareholder money in tight times? Absolutely.

    Worst of all: Heartless, cold and separated from the realities at its "properties," which by the way are nothing without the people who work them every day.

    Shame on you Gannett. People are suffering out there.

  8. It seems with all the money Gannett is investing on digital Laura, Amy (the joke of a Publisher from Visalia) and the GM from Salinas could have attended the meeting via conference call? Why spend the money on gas, hotel, food (and I can promise you they ate very well), etc for a trip to Palm Springs in January. Michelle left the Pub job in PS, shouldnt she have also left the board?
    This is very typical of how our great company works.
    By the way, how many cars will Gannett be buying for Publishers this year?

  9. Jim: you need to get a car and cover this event in all of its glorious detail. Tweet Dickey's goft scores, and post art of Dickey with the scantily-clad teenaged lovelies. A great news event deserves a great reporter. Think fear and loathing....

  10. I am looking at the pictures of this event on the Bob Hope Classic site, and am wondering: do they invite blacks or other racial minorities to play on these courses?

  11. You've finally got 'em by the short & curlies, Jim. Great work.

  12. I don't see a problem with Dickey participating and his handling of the expenses.

  13. Note to file: You will never be happy until the company collapses and goes out of business. And with that the loss of every job.

    Who gives a crap about whether he pays, company pays, whatever. It's BS. Companies for years have participated in these things. They make the company money. My current employer does the same, playing in the LA Nissan Open with a full contingent of players. Give me a break, act like you are going out of business and you will.

    Here's a great market, with a wealth of business opportunities. I am surprised more aren't playing, drumming up advertising at a time when it's hard to get.

    You might not like it, you might think not being there would save a job or two, whatever. Just not the case. Ok, the cuts are tough, I get it. But don't stop the company from operating and doing the things it needs to do.

    The entire cost of this, if it is as outlined, is miniscule compared to the revenue it brings in.

  14. The arrogance that got us here lives on in Bob and many others. How many times did we hear that the Internet would not be the end of the newspaper just like the VCR wasn't the end of the movie theater?

    Greed kept newspapers from adopting a Craigslist strategy and drawing more people to its online products. No one wanted to bastardize the print version where paid space was still killing it in the early 2000s.

    Then all of a sudden every car dealership and realtor and retail store and other local business realized that the cost of buying space in a newspaper was outrageously expensive and it wasn't working as well as it used to... and then... just like that, it was over.

    Not one of these advertisers will come back to print when the economy improves... and no one at Gannett is willing to admit it. When the economy starts humming again, newspapers will find themselves in a worse situation than they are today... because Wall Street will look at the overall share of ad spend that is coming into print and over sell any of the names still in newspapers... even worse than what we see today.

    The people at the top got famously rich at Gannett and many of them were asleep at the switch. Craig, Gracia, Tara. Doug, Gary, Larry, Mary and (fill in the other names of your favorite leader). That meant corporate officers and publishers were making a killing. The rest of us had a job.

    "Had" probably more true than ever.

  15. Shocked that she responded... must think people are reading this stuff.

    Didn't they used to ignore you?

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. 1) How hypocritical is it for a newspaper to refuse to give a figure? Who's afraid of a little fact, and if they are, what is it they are hiding? And while we're at it, how about validating that claim of a sevenfold profit? Back in the day when we were real newspapers, we didn't just take stenography; we made sources document their self-serving boasts or we didn't print them.

    2) I guess it's the news of this that prompted Dickey to pay for himself, because if he had intended to all along, he wouldn't have to "repay" Gannett.

    7) Not on furlough? That's even worse. These people are getting played to play and watch golf while the proletariate works free OT to cover for the people on involuntary unpaid furlough.

  18. The Classics girls page is a USAT special:

  19. Another unethical Gannett executive. First Dubow and now Dickey. Shame on you both!

    Fuck you and fuck the furlough you hypocritical scumbags!

  20. Poynter's Romenesko was giving Jim's scoop pretty good play all day. Clearly someone at Gannett -- likely the focus of this very report -- realized how bad this all looks and directed Tara to do some damage control. Thus the never-expected response.

  21. Doesn't Tara usually respond when she thinks she can prove Jim wrong? One might infer, then, that if she doesn't respond, Jim is right.

  22. Too funny! I wonder when he wrote the check to cover the enterance fee? Can you find that out?
    Also the suite they got in trade does not cover food and liquor. The price tag often exceeds $5k in expenses. Sure feed the wannabee's in the suite and layoff more people.
    Just when you think you heard it all, there comes another crazy ass story.
    It really is VERY POOR FORM to do this. They lack all self awareness don't they?

  23. I'm with 9:25 -- I suppose they didn't want to do this on furlough because it could be construed as "work." Really, a little self awareness would go a long way.

  24. Wouldn't his time be better spent reviewing the Content One debut and offering feedback? I guess maybe golfing is more fun.

  25. This makes me sick to my stomach. It is such a perfect example of corporate greed. We can't pay our mortgage or feed our kids and this J-Ass is out playing golf with our pensions! Hey Mr. Dick, appropriately named, wake up and smell the coffee! Obama is not putting up with your corporate greed anymore! Your days of wine & roses are coming to an end.

  26. does Dickey participate in any USA Weekend "Make a Difference Day" community help projects?

  27. Does this mean I get to play golf during a "paid" work day? I'm hitting the course!

  28. I appears that Gannett wants to make sure that this appears above board. My question is WHEN did Dickey decide to write the personal check for the outing? Was it after the story first appeared here? Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should. This is a simple principle of leadership.

    I understand the necessity of business interests. However, couldn't they just send the Palm Springs publisher Rich Ramhoff to the event? Was it really mandatory to have the president of the news division on hand?

    If this is true "vacation" time for Dickey and he is paying for EVERYTHING out of pocket then that certainly is a different story. It may set a bad tone for an executive to be taking a flashy vacation like that right now, but it certainly would be above board if he is doing it completely on his dime.

  29. I would think that even if he does it on his own dime, this might be something someone needs to review in light of the ethics policy, and specifically the conflict of interest part.

  30. OK Tara one more question. First Class or Coach?

  31. Why doesn't Gannett just give directly to the charities this event sponsors?

    That way, Dickey could pay his own way, take some vacation time and there would be no questions to ask about how this was handled.

  32. I'm not sure if this applies in this instance, but if this deal is actually a TRADE, as opposed to a cash sponsorship... Gannett requires promotional trades to be booked as expense at 20% of the actual cost. So, if the skybox trade was for $30,000, it would have been $6,000 in expense. That would be offset by advertising revenue and book sales revenue, which hopefully will be more than $6,000. Or maybe not.

  33. Cool. Now, let's see a copy of the personal check, cashed! We're journalists, and the proof is in the .... (oh, yeah, Bob is REALLY feeling the economy, huh? A personal check!) SAD!

  34. PR case study: How to respond to a blogger asking "negative'' questions about a corporate executive.

    The situation
    You're the official publicist for a big media company that's laying off thousands of employees during a deep recession. A blogger reports that a top executive -- Bob Smith -- is competing in an exclusive golf tournament where amateurs pay at least $12,000 to play with a PGA pro.

    The problem
    The blogger asks if the company paid Bob's entry fee, a "negative'' question that could tarnish the reputations of both Bob and the company -- if it is not answered decisively. You have 24 hours to reply.

    The responses
    Choose the reply that would produce the most favorable view of Bob and the company:

    1. Bob paid the entry fee himself, using a personal check dated a full ___ months before you asked your question. Here is a photocopy of that check, with only Bob's address and account number removed. Here is the tournament entry form he signed, showing the terms under which he is playing; note the date, and the signatures of the event's representative. Finally, here is the e-mail Bob sent to the publisher of the local newspaper, reminding him that Bob is personally paying for all his tournament-related expenses.

    2. "Bob wrote a personal check to repay the newspaper so he can participate in the events."

  35. I guess it's the news of this that prompted Dickey to pay for himself, because if he had intended to all along, he wouldn't have to "repay" Gannett.

    Yep, there we go: If he intended to pay for it why did Gannett have to front the money? It's not like we are talking about a pauper here.

    Remarkable, that Tara finally responded after appearance of this mess on the blog. Gannett - your credibility is going down the toilette! Looks more and more like Enron!!!


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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