Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Memo: USA Today won't give pay raises in 2009

That's from a memo Publisher Craig Moon reportedly just sent to the No. 1 circulation newspaper's employees, regarding Gannett's announcement that about 35,000 U.S. workers will be required to take a week off without pay during the current quarter. USAT's move is effective Feb. 1. "This includes me, your department head -- everyone,'' Moon says.


  1. Here's the Moon memo that was forwarded to me:

    January 14, 2009

    To USA TODAY and USA WEEKEND Employees
    From: Craig A. Moon/President & Publisher USA TODAY

    We find ourselves in an incredibly tough media and economic climate ... our advertising revenues continue to slump as we enter 2009.  With little visibility of future ad schedules, we like others at Gannett, have had to make some very difficult decisions. To that end, USA TODAY and USA WEEKEND will do the following:

    * All employees will be furloughed for one full week during this quarter.
    * Effective February 1, 2009 there will be no annual pay increases for one year. This includes me, your department head - everyone.

    To be clear, a furlough means you will not work and you will not be paid for the furloughed days.

    Exempt, salaried employees must take one full payroll week within the pay period. Non-exempt, hourly employees can take five days at any pre-approved time. All furloughs must be completed by the last weekend in March.  If you are not sure which category you are in, check with your manager.

    Also attached is a frequently asked question sheet that should answer any questions you may have.  If you do have any further questions, please see your manager.

    We have great brands and these sacrifices will help keep USA TODAY and USA WEEKEND healthy companies. I thank you in advance for all you do each and every day.

  2. So between now and the end of March, everyone has to take this time off? That's the equivalent of everyone forgetting to take their time off before the end of the year and trying to figure out how to put a paper out without anyone being there in December ...

  3. If Gannett does all of this and *still* pays the same sacrosanct dividend for the quarter...then it might be time to paint the Blue Ball pink.

  4. "So between now and the end of March, everyone has to take this time off?"

    Wonder what would happen if you all just waited and collectively took the week of March 23rd?

  5. I find it surprising this is even newsworthy. The stock that was at $85 is at $7, the company is laying off left and right, everyone is facing a required 1-week furlough, and people still assume they're gonna get a raise?


    I would assume raises were pretty much a dead issue going back to last year.

  6. What bothers me is not the action, but the order in which it was implemented. Why not no raises, then unpaid furloughs, THEN massive layoffs?

    Because the layoffs came first in many cases, that's why it leaves such a bad taste in the mouth. When I left my last non-Gannett newspaper, not having had a raise in a while (they were frozen) did not actually bother me much, because they were 1) upfront and 2) I was happy to be employed.

    Ask a lot of the laid-off Gannettoids, and I'm sure they'd tell you they would have rather given up a week of paid vacation before being laid off in order to save money.

  7. Lies and deception have become standard operating practice at USAT. I don't think most managers know how to tell the truth anymore, not in the newsroom. I've lost a lot of friends to buyouts and layoffs. The paper lost a tremendous wealth of talent in the last 18 months or so, and without that level of skill and work ethics, this paper is doomed.

    This latest news is just a drop in the bad-morale bucket. But the bigger problem is this: USAT is a toxic workplace. Why were we told that the layoffs were needed because other options, like salary freezes and furloughs wouldn't save much money? Why are we told that digital initiatives have nothing to do with driving out print folks when that is exactly what the company is doing? I have gotten to the point where I don't trust anything or anyone, not even typical office chatter which rings phony, particularly if it's coming from any online editor's mouth. We're not merged! We know exactly who the web site pets are and the havoc they have created. Not even sure I trust some of the old guard print editors either. Plenty of back-stabbing coming from colleagues who pretend to be your friend.

    This has become a sick place with little integrity or heart. There are people out on the streets looking for work who previously helped build the brand with their sweat and tears. There are others still here who are being given clear signals to leave. And there are some who remain who lack skills and ethics, yet they are protected for whatever reason.

    USAT is a joke. It's a sinking ship piloted by some of the worst leadership I've ever seen in my two decades here.

    Count on this...Layoffs are coming. This crap about salary freezes is just that. Crap. There will be no more buyouts or even severance packages. The layoffs that are coming will be two weeks of pay and a sterile goodbye.

  8. Jim any info on 401 payments being two weeks late last pay period?

  9. I wonder, if USAT were to fold (after all, does there really need to be a "national" newspaper?) would that savings potentially save the other cities in which Gannett has a newspaper? Isn't it far more important for those municipalities to have a voice than for there to be one homogenized "national" voice, which is essentially what is going to happen as more and more newspaper companies look to close shop.

  10. At least 25 percent of usat's newsroom is on borrowed time. I concur with 4:11 on many of his/her opinions. Unlike most of Gannett papers, there are still many high-salaried folks at the nation's newspaper, and you can bet that there is a big target on them. They are going to be cleared out one way or another in the next year or so. Going to be a bad and abrupt ending for those who choose to try to ride out the storm. This salary freeze/furlough, and even past layoffs, are minor compared to what's coming.

  11. Uhm... is this a huge surprise? No pay raises? No one at the community papers (except the fair-haired favorites) expected any raises this year. Ditto holiday bonuses.

    Everyone's sucking air.

    might be a good place to ask the 401K question. I think they'd know what ERISA requires.
    (Sorry Jim. I know that question was directed to you.)

  13. 'holiday bonuses', you say 6:01. There's a Gannett site that gives bonuses? Never heard of such generosity from the 'upstairs folks' at our southeastern paper that's now also printing a nearby sister publication. Jim, great work! another well deserved check will be winging its way westward tomorrow

  14. The one bright side of a company-wide pay freeze is that managers won't have to lie anymore on their evaluations. Right?

    - Sincerely "received a 3 on phone."

  15. speaking of printing sister papers, 6:42; if you work where i think you work, you should have a conversation with some of the mailroom folk. It'll make you thank your stars that you work at a cube. They'll flat out tell you: "I don't know how this will get done."

  16. USA Today is done. Stick a fork in it. Don't expect the dotcommers to save the brand. Most of them have no clue, beyond the technology, as to what they are doing. Not enough journalism or life experience. Short on solid work ethics, too. Most of them won't even work weekends, nights or holidays. Nice, huh?
    The suits gutted the place, turned it over to the kids. It isn't a competitive team anymore. It's a petty, backstabbing environment where each person is out for themselves. The talent and experience just aren't there to compete on a national stage much longer. A constant stream of insults, layoffs, pay freezes, hiring freezes and antiquated thinking by those at the top have turned this into a second-rate brand. Online trickery isn't going to make up for stupidity and thin content. Rah, rah speeches by dotcommers isn't a substitute for hard work. Even the advertisers understand that USA Today's clout has slipped and it's content is pedestrian at best. You can't get rid of all the people who built the brand and expect it to maintain its credibility. Didn't work for Apple, and it isn't working at USA Today. This brand will lose far more people in the coming months. It isn't considered an attractive place to work by outsiders who possess talent. It is bad-mouthed industry-wide by everyone who leaves there and many who remain. It's not even so much the actually freezes, furloughs and layoffs, it's the whole environment, the arrogance of the newcomers and the shabby way some very good people were shown the door. The bad feelings run deep. Employees and former employees are among the brand's worst critics and horrible advertisements for the brand. A lot of people who tolerated a lot of crap at USA Today did so because they thought at the end of the day they'd have a job and get a fair shake when push came to shove. So they sacrificed. They kept relatively quiet. Well, that's all changing now. There are some real hostile people who are going to openly bash this place at every chance, expose every little dirty secret and trash the reputation of this once innovative brand.

  17. Nobody has to trash USAT or Gannett's news products. Readers and advertisers aren't stupid. I think they see the huge quality decline.

  18. My site in the South Group, is also going to have no pay increases in 2009.

  19. "Short on solid work ethics, too. Most of them won't even work weekends, nights or holidays."

    WTF? Why are you slamming the dotcommers? We are profitable! Just because we have "9-5" work schedules, we're short on work ethics? We actually have 24-7 coverage by 3 people for help desk issues and VERY OFTEN people are working weekends, nights and holidays. I usually end up working an extra 1-2 days when I'm "on call".

    Cheap shot 1/15/2009 11:31 AM :-(

  20. Just to add a note and give an FYI on how the "bigwig" Craig Dubow is helping save the company money this came out in an e-mail to all employees last fall when they were doing the layoffs and before the furloughs. Mr. BigWig said he was taking a 17% pay cut ($200,000)- they actually put the dollar figure in the e-mail from corporate. Makes the "little Employee" feel sooo good that he's participating. Wishing they could make even half of his 17% pay cut!!!


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