Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 14-20 | Your News & Comments: Part 4

Can't find the right spot for your comment? Post it here, in this open forum. Real Time Comments: parked here, 24/7. (Earlier editions.)

44 comments:

  1. For Part 3 of this comment thread, please go here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. David Hunke holding a regular quarterly publisher's meeting at 2 p.m.

    No job-shaking bombshells (furloughs, etc.), expected.

    Not sure if new Digital Officer David Payne or new Marketing chief Maryam Banikarim will be there, since both are Gannett executives, not strictly USA TODAY executives. But the hope is that they will be there.

    Things are feeling a little bit healthier at USA TODAY, though the workload is intense in several departments.

    2 p.m. ET

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm only vaguely aware of Gannett's history, but is there a precedent for going outside for senior vice presidents? I thought the company historically recruited its executives from its own ranks. Anyone know?

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://jalopnik.com/#!5782691/how-the-detroit-news-sold-its-soul

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just read Fortune magazine's piece on America's 100 best employers. It affirmed my belief that Gannett's abuse of expensive senior employees is even worse than it seems.
    One company cited by Fortune gave the lion's share of bonuses to workers rather than executives. Executives, they reasoned, were already paid more than enough.
    Almost all of the companies on the list were there because of their dedication to their employees. They do not treat their employees as faceless commodities.
    I hope those who see the employer-employee relationship as a sterile business-only arrangement learn from Fortune's findings. Gannett's command-and-control style is way out of date.
    Perhaps Dubow should now hire an employee relations expert and give him/her the goal of making next year's Fortune list. That approach just might yield the creative innovation Gannett so desperately needs.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 7:11 I believe you are correct: GCI historically promoted from within. But that may be changing. Look no further than another recent hire that was much more significant: Chief Financial Officer Paul Saleh. He is, in many respects, GCI's No. 3 executive, and he came from a consulting firm in November.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Motley Fool reports on hefty cash flows of some newspapers such as "Gannett". What about the GCI underfunded pension fund of millions of dollars?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just musing, but isn't it getting a little crowded in the executive suits. Looks like there isn't much to do up there, and a lot of people pondering problems they can't figure out how to resolve. I suspect this is going to lead to some bloodletting since Gracia can save big bucks by getting rid of some executive deadheads. One of those salaries is probably equivalent to a few days furloughs. Just musing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. i heard the rumors about another furlough in 2nd quarter?

    ReplyDelete
  10. There is a simple but clear reality that recent events, from the hiring of high-priced and high-powered new execs to the new marketing campaign: Gannett, as promised under Craig and Bob, is transforming into a new, different company.

    This new company will be different than the old Gannett in many ways. It values marketing more than journalism. It will no longer reward "company men and women," who devoted their adulthoods in service to GCI, with assured pathways to promotion. New up-and-coming players, both inside and outside GCI, will be placed in greater numbers into key leadership roles. Folks in their late 40s and 50s who have spent their careers studying the teachings of Newharth, Curley, McCorkindale and Clark-Johnson will find themselves increasing branded as "newspaper people," which really means old-thinking, old-media or simply old. We will put the emphasis on profit, where it needs to be in a publicly traded corporation, and try to make the hard-to-monetize stuff like the First Amendment, community leadership, moral courage and journalism as affordable as possible (again, without discouraging profit).

    As reported on this blog earlier, say farewell soon to the smaller community newspapers (NT-31s). Many will exist only in name alone, mere shells of their former selfs. Others, clustered around larger metros, will simply be subsets of the bigger sister that enveloped them. The New Jersey cluster has never been profitable (confirmed this summer when corporate really looked at the books and determined how much they got from their big sister); by the end of this year, they really will no longer exist per se as individual entities. The small NT-31 dailies in Louisiana and Mississippi aren't big enough to cast a shadow. The culster of three small Tennessee papers around Nashville are just about bled dry (two of them have been without a publisher for six months, the other one got rid of the ad director and made the publisher take over sales). Manitowoc in Wisconsin, once touted as the Gannett newspaper with the best audience reach of any of our markets and applauded for its very large ROIs, now isn't big enough to warrant its own editor or advertising director.

    Frankly, this fits well into our new model. We've spent too much time whining and crowing about the fate of these small papers. While they do bolster the reach and diversity of our national markets, they really aren't worth all the trouble. What's the point of a 20 percent ROI at a small daily when that really only translates to what we will pay out to our new CMO and CDO in salary and perks? It is really worth the worry and work to make so little total profit? We have bigger fish to catch, then fry, and the small papers aren't big enough for bait.

    Finally, we will and should see more cuts in employment. Everyone keeps crowing and crying that there's nothing left to cut. There's TONS more we can cut, particularly if you let go of the past and its baggage of community commitment, watchdog work and local customer service. Design Centers for page production, ContentOne and USAT for centralized content, regional advertising design, group-level sales management for digital and custom solutions is the way of the future. Gannett is no longer interested to have a publisher lead the chamber of commerce or the local United Way and no longer really values a local editor who puts her kids in the school there and belongs to the Kiwanis Club. We're thinking much bigger than that. And we really can't turn that into profit.

    Everyone on this blog said we needed bold change. We're getting it.

    Now, those of us who joined Gannett in the olden days that ended just a few months ago, must ask this question: Do you want to work for the new Gannett? If you do, then roll with it, baby. The future is here, the future is clear and, for those who opt to hold on and play ball, it may be bright. For those who weep for the past, your cab is waiting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Confirmed...There will be another furlough for Q2 as all divisions are performing below 2011 budget.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Another furlough in the second quarter? I love it. There'll only be two poor souls left in my department after I'm laid off--wonder how that'll work out?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, at least the weather will be nicer during the second quarter furloughs for getting outside and doing stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  14. 10:39, great point. They need to motivate, inspire and appreciate the employees they have. The ideas needed to turn the ship are within reach if they stop forcing the people with ideas into misery or to jump overboard. Happy employees flock together and want to excel and make their bosses look good.

    Common sense - who knew so many "smart" people lack it.

    Oh and confirmed furloughs will make our problems worse!!! This is an endless cycle! Heads at the top need to roll.

    ReplyDelete
  15. question- who oversees the printing/operations for USA Today @ corporate?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Well, furloughs are better than layoffs, right?

    Then again, who's to say there won't be more layoffs in 2011?

    Revenue, at least from the newspapers, will still be down, and now we have two more executive mouths to feed at the Crystal Palace.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 1:55 is a fake My Boss. Click on the name and you will see why. She has no idea about the performance of any division outside of Digital and they are doing well. Will there be furloughs? The answer is no decision has been made. My Boss has missed every recent appointment. Any dufus can predict a furlough. If there isn't everyone forgets. If there is everyone crows about her amazing connections. She works in freakin digital and had no idea about Payne. Sorry MB, your days are over. Nice ride though.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hunks didn't rule out layoffs, but no one asked about furloughs. He seemed to sidestep how bad morale is. Can't wait to hear about his big bonus.

    ReplyDelete
  19. He annoyed the content providers, I mean reporters, by implying that if they didn't like the current top heavy management environment that's demanding more copy, they should just leave. Very empathetic, telling the room that circulation has been harder hit by layoffs. He should spend some time in his newsrooms.

    ReplyDelete
  20. He doesn't give a crap about his editorial team. Unless they are upper management.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Would you buy a used car from hunke? I would think twice about buying a buying a new one. Too slick to trust beyond the b.s.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am expecting a continuation of furloughs simply on the grounds the papers got out when they were implemented, and readers didn't seem to notice. It amazes me every day that readers aren't in arms about how thin and superficial are their newspapers today. The other reason for furloughs continuing are the new hires, which are on top of the existing structure, and I expect will require GCI to hire their choices of staff.

    ReplyDelete
  23. 5:11pm hit it on the nose. Has he ever bothered to even talk to mere editors and reporters, aside from his commmand performances?

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Leave Pence alone. She works hard for the money. All $250K. I say she deserves a bonus for making lemonades out of lemons. The real fault lies with senior managers who fail to engage staffers.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I have been told by my supervisor that I cannot be paid for additional hours I am required to work. I work 35 years per week and am an hourly employee. My question is: Are they legally allowed to do this? I have email documentation from my supervisor concerning this matter. I have a feeling they can do what they want until I reach 40 hours and then it is law to pay anything over 40 hours. I just remember years ago Gannett was caught for doing this and was told all comp hours had to be taken in the week it was worked and that all employees had to be paid an hourly rate for any additional hours worked. Any input would be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  27. They can't make non-exempt employees work without paying them. That's absurd. Your supervisor is a fool and HR wouldn't be happy to deal with backlash from that.

    However those that are exempt are getting screwed all kind of ways having to work crazy hours.

    ReplyDelete
  28. 8:41-

    No it is not legal. You are not exempt from the FLSA (fair labor standards act). Hence the term "non-exempt". The company is required by law to pay you for any time worked. Let's say you have a 35 hour work week. Any hours worked upt to 40hrs are to paid at regular pay. Any over forty MUST be paid time and half.

    Keep the emails. You can cost Gannett a LOT of money in Labor Dept fines. And get a nice settlement if they ever terminate you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Just had to comment on the posts earlier this week on FtMyers 100k tax break. Everyone seemed to feel it was wrong. Today I see Twitter want 4,000,000 to stay in San Francisco. I'm betting nobody has a problem with that because Tweeter isn't staffed by holy journalist. Okay I get that.

    But here is the problem. Twister and other social media sites are taking Newspaper ad dollars which directly affects journalists. More dollars to twiter and less for papers.

    Tax breaks okay and forty times larger

    Until newspapers and gannett takes advantage of these maneuvers on grand scale the startups will seat company lunch and dinner too.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you for the comments. I have saved the emails and sent them to my home email account. Are you sure this illegal? If so how should I proceed if my supervisor once again tells me I cannot be paid for these hours? I was asked to work extra hours next week and told no pay for it. Please advise how to proceed.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Want to get back to 1:32's very thoughtful post about the fate of Gannett. I don't want to be alarmist, but I could easily see this company having half the headcount at its newspapers five years out, maybe sooner. Getting by with one where two or more used to toil is the Gannett way. It's not right, 8:41. But I've been there, there now and will be there in the future. In this job market and at my age, I'm going to suck it up and try to keep my sanity.
    Look at it this way: this is the rewarding growth opportunity that Gannett promises. At least that's what Craig Dubow says on his local cable access quality TV ad.

    ReplyDelete
  32. 10:03 Take a stroll through the Dept of Labor's website. They have a great FAQ on non-exempt employees. The law is specific that any time worked over 40 hours in a work week must be paid at time in a half. Also, there is no such thing as compensatory time in the private sector. It's OK in government. It's illegal in the private sector. If you are being told that you won't be paid for hours worked, then run to your nearest DOL office and file a complaint. I don't know if you can file online or not. The DOL is not something any employer wants to see knocking at their door.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Tell me when the word exempt has meant anything less than 50 hours of work per week. Reality is that anyone who is an "editor" basically writes and reports an supervises to cover for the OT other might have had to work due to breaking news, important stories or furlough fill-in. I should have avoided promotion,so I could have a life near normal and protected by law. I'm egotistical about bring goog, now taken advantage of

    ReplyDelete
  34. 10:03- 9:12 here...

    Work the hours they request and document them thoroughly. If you do. You will have them by the balls. Such a wonderful position to be in.

    ReplyDelete
  35. http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110317/STAFFBLOG03/110319928/detroit-news-calls-decision-to-water-down-chrysler-200-review-a

    Even though the Detroit News is no longer a Gannett property, this is of interest. In a market where every ad dollar matters and an auto industry trying to rise again - challenges arise.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Being "exempt" from the FLSA used to mean you were "white collar"; made man management material. Now it means "wage slave".

    I'll be honest. For the last decade or so i've been anti-union. I thought it weakend our American competiveness, and gave lazy people a shelther from having to something all day.

    It's become clearer to me that I was on the wrong side of that issue. With all that's happened in Wisconsin, and the way i've seen Gannett treat it's employees over the last two year. Well... I have more respect for the unions and as an exempt employee myself. A deeper appreciation for they've done for the middle class of the this country.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Top 10 To-Do's for new CDO

    David Payne has inherited a sprawling digital portfolio that is full of promise and a staff hungry for leadership. That's the good news. The bad is that Gannett is stalled in several critical areas -- mobile, social, group commerce -- and riddled with both infrastructure and organizational problems that will continue to prevent true innovation from taking root. Here, a few action items for the first 30 days, starting with some basic (but essential) housekeeping.

    10. Chrome as new default browser.
    It's scary how many PCs throughout the company are still running IE6. Any browser would be better, but Chrome is the most secure, fastest, and optimized for today's Internet. Mandate installation and advocate adoption company-wide. Also for consideration: Switching from overpriced, under-featured Omniture to free, superior Google Analytics.

    9. Sunset Saxotech as CMS.
    Most of Gannett is running a decade-old version. Transitioning to an alternative like, say, the open-source Drupal give us a fully-featured, up-to-date platform, but also spur local developers to master PHP (instead of the extremely narrow world of Saxotech templating).

    8. Mobile device purchasing plan.
    Part of the reason Gannett is so slow to embrace mobile is simply because 3/4 of the company uses ancient Treos and Blackberries. You can't expect salespeople to sell mobile if they don't have an iPhone or Droid -- and haven't even see what our sites look like on them.

    7. Reboot Mobile development.
    The bigger reasons why Gannett is stalled is the small Mobile team in McLean has a) failed to hire any mobile or app developers in over a year, despite being given a budget; b) required all local sites to shut down app development; c) purchased a mobile CMS (Conmio) that no one in the company can code for. Triple fail. Either clean house, turn over mobile development to Poortinga's team(s), or fund mobile developers at the local level.

    6. Appoint a Social Chief.
    Like many media outlets, we're prone to treating Facebook and Twitter as mere promotional vehicles -- and not the transformative platforms they really are. A social chief would lead development of apps, clients, and full-on integration with both.

    5. Green light Digital's group buying plan.
    Gannet is falling far behind in a race led by Groupon, LivingSocial, and countless clones. This is the future of Internet marketing and e-commerce. As Deal Chicken has shown, we can still be a player, but the clock is ticking.

    4. Double down on Pointroll.
    Push to hire HTML5 developers and transition company from flash-based ads to more universal, mobile-compliant. Work on coming up with templated packages that can be sold by local newspapers and broadcast (which currently don't sell much pointroll, due to cost). Charge unit with spearheading interactive ads similar to AOL's new takeover designs.

    3. Reward Odyssey Team.
    This was one of the most well executed rollouts in recent memory. The team, led by Poortinga, has earned its stripes and deserves to hire the developers and designers necessary to continue iterating on the new design.

    2. Take a long, hard look at Yahoo partnership.
    Saridakis had good reason for objecting.

    1. Stick to your guns on paywalls.
    Let the Times be the guinea pig. Dubow's wait-and-see approach may be the one digital stall tactic that actually makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Gannett has mandated (it appears) full-page house ads proclaiming the new corporate logo and tag line. These are full-page ads in sections that are 4 and 6 pages.

    My newspaper doesn’t have enough space for content, let alone a full-page ad that doesn’t have very much information conveyed. But, we have a new logo!! Lame.

    Once again, Gannett conveys a lack of corporate judgment imposing these new logos. I’m sure they are the most important items on the executive office’s agenda. Really good for the MBO points!!

    Our readers continue to shake their heads.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I have done this. Please explain. It is illegal to make hourly employees not be paid for hours over their weekly work week (35 hours). Does it vary from state to state? I need documentation. Cannot just take the word of someone posting here. I plan to take this beyond Gannett and need to know my rights as an employee. Thanks again for your input.

    Work the hours they request and document them thoroughly. If you do. You will have them by the balls. Such a wonderful position to be in.

    ReplyDelete
  40. First, review this FAQ from the DOL's website:

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs23.pdf

    Yes, it can vary from state to state. I think that CA requires it for anything over 8 hours in a day! I know at least one state has it. You can check your state's Dept of Labor website. Jim knows who I am and that the information I'm providing is accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  41. In my experience, Gannett will do nothing for an employee unless it is legally mandated. It does nothing out of the kindness of its heart, or simply because it's the right thing to do.
    The OT issue is one I've seen violated consistently at several Gannett properties. But Gannett's worst sin is the widespread age discrimination it has carried out. It chose to dole out huge suffering and pain to senior employees to save money to spend on management bonuses. That's the one the DofLabor would love to crack open. My belief is that justice will ultimately prevail and Gannett will be punished for manipulating the law to avoid doing the right thing. It'll start with a class action lawsuit some time soon.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Document EVERYTHING. If your supervisor asks you to work extra hours for no pay- tell them to put it in writing. See how fast they change their mind. But be advised- you will be moved to the top of the list for the next staff reduction if you're not there already.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I always ask via email and they always respond. It is in writing. Don't have to ask. They are too stupid to think otherwise.

    Document EVERYTHING. If your supervisor asks you to work extra hours for no pay- tell them to put it in writing. See how fast they change their mind. But be advised- you will be moved to the top of the list for the next staff reduction if you're not there already.

    ReplyDelete
  44. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

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.