Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mail | 'None of these guys had to watch employees box up years of their lives as they were sobbing'

In a new comment about the special six-figure benefits packages given to CEO Craig Dubow, COO Gracia Martore and U.S. newspapers President Bob Dickey, Anonymous@9:12 p.m. writes:

Craig, Gracia, Bob and the others are being rewarded for their ability to achieve results through others. They didn't have to do the cost-cutting; they merely directed Bob to tell the group presidents to tell the local site managers to do the dirty work, thereby freeing the executive leadership of getting their hands dirty.

In essence, they are being rewarded because they were able to retain and motivate a lower-management infrastructure who could execute these initiatives. If you think about it, it's brilliant: They got local publishers to take salary cuts and furloughs, then got them to make round after round of expense cuts, yet somehow also made them feel lucky to still have a job. Sure, the local publishers got a "bonus," too, but nothing nearing the generational wealth that the company has bestowed on these individuals in a single year. Amazing.

As has been reported on this site earlier, there are several properties in Gannett that will labor all year to return a NIBT at or near what we paid out to one of these individuals (Craig counts as the NIBT of several sites combined).

Firing to save $25K
I would imagine that Craig, Gracia and Bob feel entitled to such largess. After all, they are "taking the heat from the Street." And I am sure they feel these amazing pay-and-perks packages are just compensation for the "hard decisions" they had to make about our future. Yet, none of these guys had to look loyal employees in the eye and tell them that their 20-plus career was over so we could save $25,000 or $35,000 a year for the company. None of these guys had to watch employees box up years of their lives as they were sobbing. None of these guys had people point fingers in their faces. None of these guys had to go home at night, exhausted, emotionally spent and unable to tell the kids what you did at work today.

I know we're no Apple, but how I long for leadership like Steve Jobs. When he came back to that company, he turned down a salary and was paid only in stock. The better he did his job, the more money his stock was worth. No one there faults Jobs for being a rich man, because his vision, leadership and cultivation of a spirit of innovation has made the company prosper and bolstered the spirits and wallets of his employees.

Didn't get hands dirty
Most of us in GCI could live like kings for the rest of our lives off one year of Craig's salary. He and his management team are multi-millionaires and, most likely, they could stop working right now and never have another need or want (especially given their parachutes). How refreshing and inspirational it would be if Craig, Gracia and Bob opted to foresake the bonus, forsake the salaries, foresake the luxury perks and be paid in stock and stock options only.

But that's not going to happen. They obviously feel their large compensation packages are earned and justified. And, like I said, they did get it done without getting their hands dirty. At the end of their careers, after years of multi-million dollar salaries and an exit package that would be akin to hitting the lottery, they will have riches enough to pass to their children and grandchildren.

Earlier: Under Dubow, GCI has eliminated 20,000 jobs since 2005. Worldwide employment fell 7% last year, to 32,600; year by year totals going back to 1994.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below -- or in the post where it originally appeared. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. I work for another media company and follow this blog to remind myself how much worse things could be. Top of the shit heap, as they say.
    Thanks to GCI for being so bad it lifts the spirits and images of others. GCI has become an almost comical maze of incongruities. Make that black humor.
    From reading this blog, it would seem that most Gannett employees toil in depressing workplaces that are under-staffed and under-resourced while a select group of 10 or so corporate types enjoy the good life in a Disney World-like setting.
    The incongruity? Many newsrooms are rationing toilet paper while a few veeps travel the world in a fancy private jet, enjoying multi-million dollar bonuses and perks, unconcerned about their newspapers that cannot afford to cover school board meetings anymore.
    If right is still right and wrong is still wrong and if poetic justice means anything at all, the GCI style of management will some day be ruled illegal.
    Let's hope the blatant greed of GCI management helps provoke sweeping changes in how American companies are run.
    Meanwhile, thanks again GCI for making my employer look so good.

  2. G A N N E T T....Where greed counts.

  3. I'm not sure if 10:20 was exaggerating to make a point, but I was at two Gannett sites with similar stories, both involving newsprint. At one site, the publisher had the production director cut up blank waste and reminants into paper-towel sized scraps, which he then ordered used instead of what was in place in the restrooms. At another, the publisher had the PD cut up blank waste and reminants into 8.5-by-11 sheets, which we had to use as copier paper (even though using that grade paper caused the machines to jam).

    In both cases, the publisher did these things in last-ditch attempts to hit expense-cut targets without cutting people. In both cases, it was a slippery slope. Both hoped if they did this or that, if they had one more round of firings, if they outsourced this or that, they could be done and begin to heal and rebuild. Unfortunately, market forces and investor demands made such hopes mere wishful thinking.

    I do hope higher management reads this blog, or has a minion who prepares a summary of it. If they could get past the anger, hurt and bitterness of some posters, they would discover that many of the morale and leadership problems we face are within their control.

    Where's our Steve Jobs?

    Meanwhile, here's your roll of toilet paper for the week. Make sure your department uses it wisely.

  4. The true, make me sick. How can they sleep? I watched people go into survial mode and turn on their "friends". All we were missing was Marlin Perkins from Wild Kingdom narrating... "watch as the lion rip the flesh from the ambushed Impala, his herd narrowly escaping don't even look back, running to safety". I left with nothing more than a form letter "unsigned" and tire tracks from the bus that ran me over. However, after almost two years of unemployment, I still love to get up every day and take a deep breath of air not saturated with BS from the Man. It is my hope that one day that they will be caught and jailed for their wrong-doings. I only with that I be called for jury duty. ;)

  5. This post brilliantly sums up the insanity of these bonuses.

    I am so very much hoping someone that a graphic designer somewhere will draw up a "check" and send it to Jim to Google Documents. Then from that day forward, if one of us gets terminated or forced into furlough, we print out a check, fill in the amount of either a year's salary (for the fired) or a week's pay (for the furloughted) and sign it Gannett Employee #1, #2, etc. Make it payable to Craig Dubow, put "Bonus" in the memo line and mail it.

    Sure, he can have his secretary throw them in the trash, but as the checks mount, it just might make it harder for him to sleep at night.

    And once the media get wind of it -- and street theater like this has news value, have no doubt -- he just may have to address this issue once and for all. I for one would love to hear him try to defend it.

    But this time around, folks, ignore the troll who is dismissive of the idea as a "prank": It's no prank. It's a statement, and something about it makes him or her feel just a bit threatened.

  6. That should have read "I am so very much hoping that someone, perhaps a graphic designer somewhere, will draw up a "check" and send it to Jim to Google Documents."

    Sorry for the garble!

  7. Someone should investigate how the Gannett GMC treats Wayne Rowlett, their African American driver. Wayne is a good guy, but they treat him like crap! Maybe back in the 50's in the South you could get away with that, but not know.

    Wayne is a nice man.

  8. 6:41a...I agree. Wayne is treated poorly by these arrogant white executives! Wayne cleans their cars, gets them registered, gets groceries, changes the oil, drives them to and from the airport, to and from their homes, to the office, to restaurants. He does this all day and gets paid minimum wage.

    How do you feel about that Gracia?

  9. As an outsider, I find it hard to believe that the GCI board allows its managers to treat its employees so poorly. That in itself suggests incompetence at the top.
    Employees are a company's most valuable commodity, especially when a company's quality depends upon intelligent, innovative, creative work at all levels. Gannett's success depends upon how well its employees do their jobs. It is not a factory-like operation, where anyone off the street can step in and move widgets down a line.
    Members of the GCI board seem too well fed to lift the curtain on Dubow's debacle, so the poor management continues, assuring longterm failure. The board's complicity is part of the crime.
    At my company, top executives work as partners with managers and managers do the same with those doing the actual work. When the bigshots visit a site, they spend more time talking with the workers than they do cloistered away in tightly structured, ass-kissing show-and-tell sessions.
    Because of that and a generally positive work environment, I feel like a valued part of a winning team.
    I credit our top management for creating this positive, upbeat attitude. Our leaders are smart enough to know that profits now and in the future depend upon the good work of the employees.
    If I were running GCI, I'd mothball the jet, cut huge bonuses and hire a top-notch management expert to help me replace GCI's archaic top-down management style with an approach that actually helps employees do their jobs better. The arrogance and poor judgment atop Gannett needs to go if the company hopes to succeed longterm.

  10. "It is not a factory-like operation, where anyone off the street can step in and move widgets down a line."

    But, 10:36 am, that's exactly what GMC is trying to make the company. They apparently do not see the activities of their properties as anything creative in any way, shape, or form.
    EVERYTHING can be routinized, mechanized, and consolidated.
    Ultimately, they are going to end up with a company that consists of "factories" in various locations around the country. These "factories" will produce news articles, graphics, customer ads, collect money, pay bills, and print newspapers.
    All they will need "locally" is someone working out of their home to cover and write half a page of local news, and a contracted fleet of drivers to deliver a product shipped in via UPS or FedEx.
    I do not "know" that this is the plan. But, this is definitely the direction they are going.

  11. Telling it like it Is3/27/2011 12:29 PM

    The sad part of this is how a once Great company is suffering the death of a thousand cuts. The product, ie: content, is being decimated and even if you have an opportunity as a reporter to "scoop" the competition there are so many hurdles before that story sees print or website, such as the lack of bodies on the copy desk, the pressure to churn out several papers from the same hub, post stories to the website(s). Articles, including some page one stuff, gets lost in the sauce all the time. When I started with Gannett in the mid90's we were proud of the company and worked our asses off to disprove the detractors they the company produced "McNewspapers." There was a lot of good journalism committed and a lot of dedicated people. To the man (8:20?) who opined that he loves the current incarnation of Gannett and suggested we "whiners" leave, I'd suggest you're a short timer who was there "when" this company was great, treated people who produced fairly and we were proud to say we worked for it.
    We complain because we know what the company was (and I'm talking as recent as 5-6 years ago, not the distant past) and how much it's slid downhill under the current corporate regime. That isn't defamation as some have warned, it's a statistical fact. Customers are abandoning the product and the corporate big shots are doing nothing to rebuild a customer base. The only vision is very short term, except when it comes to executive pay days.
    As for the advice to go get another job, in case you didn't notice there is a recession on. Sure I could go work for Patch, if I want to take a paycut, be on call 24/7 and have an uncertain future.
    One thing I will assure you of. When the economy comes back, this company is going to bleed talent, unless somehting is done to turn it around. The expression goes that people judge an employer by how they treated their employees during the bad times. Gannett is in for a world of hurt.
    Man the lifeboats!

  12. I can't imagine anyone going to work these day for Gannett. Anyone graduating from college or grad school will give Gannett a wide berth if they know what's good for their careers.

    Beware of want ads regarding Gannett jobs. The come with decreasing income, minimal job satisfaction if you happen to be a reporter/editor or business person, and the real possibility that your job will disappear at anytime.

    A previous poster was right: Gannett sites will be like PATCH before you know it. A couple of full-timers, the rest freelance. A key question is whether the papers that treated advertisers so badly in the past, will ever get them back.


  14. anonymous said... westchester site... as of 3-25-11 364 employees and of 3-27-11 264 left. between february and march 100employees letgo. running out people and cutcost plans. cloure of building is certain by end of dec 31 2011 stick and pin in it.

  15. Martore, Dubow & Co. bleed from greed, and no former employee should ever expect to get an ounce of sympathy or empathy from them.

  16. Oh the crying, whining, belly aching of the proletariat. Is this a Dickens novel? Are you suffocating, choking to death from coal dust toxicity?--or are you merely poisoning your colleagues with your vitriole? Why is it that the feeble never employ their spare time on these imaginative, innovative, and entrepreneurial schemes that they excoriate others for lacking?

    Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, indeed, but do us all a favor and drop the woe-is-me routine. Get to work--on Gannett business, or your own--or shut up.

  17. Proletariat (lower social class, usually the working class)??? A visit from the "Entitlement" Department. How nice - how does it feel to have absolutely no idea on how to safe the sinking Titanic and still getting paid big bucks for doing absolutely nothing????

    The palms of the "feeble" were excoriated by the hard labor of shoveling more money into the pockets of dunces like you.

    Aaahhh, it feels good to vent and you can do absolutely nothing about it.


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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