An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
For Part 3 of this comment thread, please go here.
1:13 am suggested:http://newspaperlayoffs.com/ Did you realize that much of the Gannett information comes from this blog? The site does show other newspapers as well...
I truly hope this blog gets huge readership outside of Gannett because it will spread the message that we have the dumbest corporate leadership in the history of American business. If these non-Gannett leaders want to repeat the mess Gannett has made, just read this blog and copy what they have done. Universities should put together a Business 104: How to destroy a viable nationwide U.S. company in two years. The only reading requirement: this blog.
After an item on this blog, I looked around and can find Deal Chicken up and operating only in Pheonix. There are sites for all the papers, but I can't find any of these active. This was an initiative so important to corporate that Gracia stressed it at a recent conference. So what's the deal on Deal Chicken and why aren't the ad directors getting them up and working?
@9:10 AM: About a month ago, my southern site announced plans to start working on -- repeat working on -- building a base for Deal Chicken. The base apparently consists of a target number of email addresses to which the daily deals will be sent. The minimum being 15,000 email addresses to actually launch the promotions. Oh, and of course getting advertisers to sign on.We were supposed to get more details on efforts to collect the email addys and how we could participate, but nothing so far--and no mention of it at the most recent building-wide staff meeting.
In case Gannett execs read this (and we know they do), a little suggestion. If you're planning on eliminating a position for a seasoned (30 or more years) employee who is close to retirement age, how about giving them a little dignity and let them announce their retirement and work another 2 weeks instead of giving them a box to pack up their belongings and walk them out the door....it would make all the difference to the long time, dedicated employee
9:24 Hooray. Thank you for this suggestion, and I hope there is a proper response.
Any news from Asheville after the consolidation/elimination/reapplication process?
7:51 I saw something recently that shows journalism students are using this blog.
Yesterday, some snide remarks were made disparaging folks who didn't yet receive their pension ... one poster said they obviously didn't know what they were doing. Not so ... I, too, had to bombard corporate with phone calls -- not to receive my check -- rather just to receive my information packet regarding same. Finally during my final call, I was told after "pending" for several weeks being bounced back-and-forth at corporate (I guess they think my pitiful amount will help save the company), I was told info is on its way -- now I guess it will take weeks for the check to follow.
10:22 tell us more. Is there a link to an article that summarizes this? That would be great. J-school students -- and business school ones -- could learn a lot from this blog about how to NOT run a company.
10:34 That doesn't surprise me because the underfunded pension plan Gracia forgot to replenish is now coming back to haunt them with all these forced retirements.Look at what happened at McClatchy, which sold its downtown Miami Herald building for $236 million, and put $163 million of that money into the company pension plan, and only $65 million into paying down the debt that is choking them:http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/romenesko/134024/mcclatchy-sells-miami-herald-land-for-236-million/
If you are a J-student and reading this blog, why would you even come near this place? I've been wondering if the interns are even going to bother showing up this summer.
10:46 -- There are still a lot of hopeful journalism students out there. In many ways, I feel bad for them. Then again, they are entering the field in a different time, and their expectations are different than ours were.Nobody really knows how all this will shake out. But you're absolutely right that they should avoid Gannett if they have any choice.
9:24: If a 30-year employee gets laid off, they would get more than half a year of transition pay. Under your plan, they get "a little dignity" and two more weeks of pay because they won't qualify for transition pay (retirement doesn't qualify for unemployment). I understand your motivation, but if you're out of a job, the extra pay helps.
11:19 We are part of chain newspapering, which I think will be gone after this recession. But there are papers that are prosperous and could survive and flourish even under the current economy if they were operating independently. Murdoch seems to be able to weather these problems so papers like the WSJ will continue. I also see independent newspapers still operating and some jobs there for youths. The problem for Gannett is to acknowledge the elephant in the room is USA Today, but there are some papers that can prosper independently. In good times USA Today produces fabulous returns. But in bad times, there are huge drains that hurt these other papers.My two cents is that it will take a bankruptcy court proceeding to sort it all out, and thin out the executive ranks then decide which papers can be sold off and live independently, and which cannot. If my suspicions are correct, the time for this move is very close.
11:37 Well, just give them the option.
11:52 -- I'm 11:19 and you may be right. I've wondered about the same thing. The only trouble I see is that very few other industries have transitioned from the chain model back to locally owned shops. The chains just seem to downsize until they find a model that works for them. Look at how TV and radio work. We would arguably have better (and still profitable) TV and radio stations if they were all locally owned, but the chains are clinging to them and running them with fewer and fewer people. And one of the business benefits of owning multiple properties is that you can save money on certain functions by consolidating them. Even many weekly papers are run by chains today. I can't help but wonder if we'll see the current model continue, only with the papers themselves drastically changed (weeklies where dailies used to be, free papers where subscriptions used to be required, Web only papers, etc.)Certainly, I hope your predictions are right, as it would be better for journalists and readers. But I'm not sure it can happen.
9:24: If a 30-year employee gets laid off, they would get more than half a year of transition pay. Under your plan, they get "a little dignity" and two more weeks of pay because they won't qualify for transition pay (retirement doesn't qualify for unemployment). I understand your motivation, but if you're out of a job, the extra pay helps.5/27/2011 11:37 AMExactly - but here is the bonus in waiting to get laid off... you take your 30 weeks of transition pay and then when that runs out you retire. And to those of you thinking how could someone retire after being laid off??? Hello, your GCI pension is YOURS and will payout in the manner in which you elected plus any 401(k) money is yours. So getting laid off is like getting a bonus to retire, say you are making just $50K per year, 30 weeks would equal $28,846 extra money. So if you just retire without being laid off first you would loose almost $29K in my example. Who wouldn't hang around to get laid off that would be like flushing money down the toilet if you just leave.
@10:09 I hope this helps.I think the Asheville newsroom got hit with 11 layoffs Wednesday. There was a total of 18 planned for the building but not sure about those outside the newsroom. There were 3 reporters who chose not to apply for the limited number of positions. Of the rest, two were in sports, two news clerks, two on the multimedia team, one beat reporter, one of the copy desk and one part-time photographer. Plus an unfilled cops reporter position. I'm also hearing that the publisher, Randy Hammer, is not happy with the Adv. Dir. and she maybe under some pressure.Not sure if circulation was hit but there is some fat that could be trimmed in that department, I'm receiving that second hand.
I applaud any 30-year employee who is able to retire. For many of us, being laid off has meant going out to find another job. Fortunately, no one blames you for a company restructuring.The economy has made potential employers a lot more sympathetic when you can tell them that your former company made changes that affected your specific position. They are able to view you as someone who is not a loser, but someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This helps the tone of the interview tremendously.
12:41 is correct. There is no shame in getting laid off now. And you'll present yourself much better in these interviews if you keep working after getting laid off. Find something, anything. Even volunteer your professional skills once or twice a week if you have to. Just keeping yourself active in some way vocationally is a far, far better way to present yourself to a prospective boss.
With 30-plus years of service, I'm resigned to the fact they'll be coming for my salary this year. I'm prepping for the best option at my age: "Hello. Welcome to Walmart"
Someone brilliant at usa today decided to shove all the interns together in squashed rows of cubicles in the Life section. They wont get to rub shoulders with many veteran journos. Wont get a sense of how to report, or war stories. What a waste. Who planned this, some secretary?
Hey now, don't underestimate the intelligence of some of our "secretaries."
@12:40: 10:09 a.m. here. Thanks for the detailed info. My sympathy to all.
Talk to your colleagues who are 50 years or older, and you will hear there are no jobs in this business for them anymore. I have a friend in this category, and his problem is he won't accept some lesser position with a paycheck. He's been out of work now two years and unemployment benefits have run out. There are jobs out there, but not what you might want. If I were in those circumstances, I would grab at any reed in the water and continue to look around.
Jim: I think it's time to dust off that old underfunded pension plan story. You know, the one you did a year ago:http://gannettblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/amid-good-pension-news-big-cautions-lay_23.htmlEven those figures don't reflect the agony now going on, I fear. Those old projections of the fund were based on actuarial tables showing GCI employees wouldn't draw from the fund until they were 65.But as we see now, people in their mid-50's have been laid off, and I suspect many have ended a period of unsuccessful job hunting by deciding to take early retirement. This was never anticipated when they put this plan together (I'll save the unanticipated consequences lecture for later).
1:11 Aren't they going to get heathered?
I was a loyal employee at my site for 25 years. I worked nights. I worked days. I worked holidays and lots of overtime. Skipped breaks. Skipped lunches. Came in early. Stayed late.All this time, my work was well-known for its consistent accuracy, design and literate copy editing, both within and outside the building. Until, that is, they brought in new upper management who didn't even bother to ask any questions.I was introduced as "Chris," not Craig, my nameplate right there on my desk, by an exec who had no clue as to what I did and for so long a time.He told the person I was being introduced to that I did legal notices, when I was a design artist. Well known to others -- but not to the new, disconnected upper management who could not presume to dirty their manicured nails.Moreover, on my final day, for all my time spent, all that work being valued, all I got was a mid-level manager sent to send me off, coming up to me, who shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well? I guess that's it." Twenty-five years almost to the day. In my 50's, I even walked to work in the snow when others stayed home. "That's it."I mentioned this before on this blog, and I thought it needs repeating. Dignity? Gannett doesn't know the meaning.Caveat: one director did stop me in the foyer just as I was leaving, my head spinning. I was surprised because the executives I ultimately answered to could only be bothered to send an underling, a good-hearted woman who couldn't find the words and obviously felt awful being put in that position.The director in the foyer, who oversaw a completely different function than the others I directly answered to, he had the character, the decency and the sincerity to shake my hand and say "Thanks for all you've done."Still, it was a surreal experience, 25 years a milestone (and they weren't spent skating), and for that no letters of recommendation, not even a rubberstamped pre-signed card from my own execs.
If this blog serves any purpose at all, it should be for all of us to read and reflect upon 3:02's post above. As reported on this blog previously, the constant quarterly blood letting, always ordered from high yet performed at the local site level so those above don't dirty their hands, has created a cavalier, calloused culture. Need to cut more reporters? Sure, why not. Losing a 30-year-vet? Sounds like a high salary to claim toward our cut number! Won't we be weaker/less relevant/less appealing to readers? Stop blabbering and find more places to cut!I know we need to reduce our expense footprint to be more in line with revenue realities and corporate expectations. What's sad is that we no longer even attempt to show dignity, sorrow, pain or regret of the human costs of these bottom-line decisions. Our true character is clearly revealed in how we treat the workers upon whose shoulders we were delivered. What are we now?
I was laid off (Oh wait - it's called "job elimination") after more than 40 years. Yes, the TPP/Unemployment for 36 weeks is nice, but I agree the way it was handled (pack up and leave) was heartbreaking. I couldn't even talk to anyone before leaving because I was too emotional. I too wish they could have let me work a little longer and let everyone know that I decided to retire instead of just walking out the door with my boxes...I can't look for another job because I am collecting unemployment as well as TPP. I too was dedicated, loyal, hardworking and "superior" in my last performance appraisal. Very sad, very sad.
3:29; Very sorry to hear about your layoff. I haven't put in as many years as you, but it sucks that not even a hard working performer like yourself can get the boot. I guess a superior rating, experience and thoughtfulness count for nothing at this company. My thought are with you.
I cannot tell you how many editors, from former Managing editors to assignment editors, are looking to bail from usa today as soon they can. People are so beaten down. Never seen it this bad. Upper management is just ass covering and awaiting the shoe to drop from the marketing, accounting and other titled geniuses who don't have a clue about journalism, but think they can shape the paper's coverage and staff. A bad recipe for a once decent paper. Where is the leadership to get us out of this mess? Why isn't someone meeting with people individually to see what they need and what needs to be fixed? What is management doing to stem faltering morale? Hello??????
Didnt mean to denigrate secretaries regarding intern seating. But could someone at least thought of how their internship experience could have been enhanced by sitting among veteran reporters rather than being shoved together in out of the way cubicles little bigger than coach seats on Air Trans?
3:02: I can feel your anguish as I read your post. You should understand that your bosses and colleagues couldn't look you in the eye, or shake your hand, or even bother saying good-bye because they were ashamed. Not an excuse, but human nature unfortunately. Everybody knows what is going on in this company right now and I think it's just easier for most to ignore it than deal with it head on.
4:36 so you could spew your vacuous venom on these kids, I don't think so! They should keep them as far away from the Lemming Trolls as possible!
"...I can't look for another job because I am collecting unemployment as well as TPP."I'm also very sad for you. I have a question, though. If you're collecting unemployment, you're legally obligated to be looking for a job. I understand that you want to get what should have been your full severance. And I don't blame you at all. I'd be tempted to do the same.My question to you is this: Do you feel like you've been forced into doing something not quite right in order to get what would have been given to you outright in the first couple rounds of layoffs, before Gannett came up with this scheme to make the state pay part of the freight?If I were in your situation (and therefore but the grace), that would really tick me off.
After I was laid off, I dropped my subscription to the newspaper. During the three weeks after I was laid off, circulation called me several times, sent me two mailings and several emails, asking me to subscribe to the newspaper. Since then I have received several more subscription solicitations. Has anyone else had that experience?
Craig,Your story is so heart-wrenching. I remember a similar scene when one of our veterans was unceremoniously let go. The managers who did the deed could barely look him in the eye too. It was their shame, not his. Know that you will be valued by the right employer. And you deserved better.
The "secretaries" are smart and trying to protect the kids from being contaminated by what's going on at USA Today. There's bad stuff in that operating center mixing sales with news that could affect their careers. They are too green to understand.
http://tinyurl.com/3te4dvoFormer publisher Frank A. Wood died Friday afternoon.He is best known as owner-publisher of the Green Bay News-Chronicle, the small daily newspaper that began as The Daily News during a strike by the International Typographical Union against the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Hey 3:29 PM I know exactly how you feel. My job was also eliminated after almost 40 years of service. Gone in an hour. All good reviews like everyone else. However I was lucky enough to miss TPP. I think that the company hit an all time low with that. I have never met anyone who has ever heard a company doing this. What Gauls me 3:59 is that they never offered people like us a good early retirement package. They did offer me one about a year before I was laid off but it sucked.I really wanted out and I would have surely gone with a fair offer. It was not even close to being fair. I made out better with being laid off. Also if you got laid off after they froze the pension and were 55 or older you lost at least 10 per cent on you pension and probably more. That is a lot because Gannetts pension is not that good. I am embarrassed to tell people what I get as a monthly payment. Most of my friends get a lot more money from just their pension then I get with my pension and Social security. After paying for my great company retirement medical I almost qualify food stamps and welfare.
1:34am must be an anxious Gannett executive with insomnia. In answer to your comment 1:34am, no I'm not the rapture guy but you can bet your sweet ass that layoffs are coming and if you're an insider you already know that but are just trying to tamp-down the furry over yet another sign that leadership is failing in this company. USCP has a number to hit and there isn't anything left to cut but workers, or have you not noticed this repeated practice over the last four years? This is our new reality.
Period 5 comes to an end today, so watch for all sorts of activity at the Crystal Towers Tuesday and Wednesday as the bad news sinks in. What plans can we expect from the brains trust kickstart Period 6 so Craig and Gracia don't have to lie in July when they unveil the Q2 report?
I am frankly sick of Deal Chicken, but I am also fascinated that this directive from corporate got no-where. So what does that say about what is going on? Does it mean that corporate has lost control of this company, and that Crystal City directives have no consequence either because they cannot physically be carried out with a diminished workforce, or they are not interesting to local papers. USA Today is carrying the competitor Living Social as I write this.I have never before seen this happen in this company, and that is the reason I am writing this message. The only other time I have seen anything approaching this is the collapse of the Soviet Union's command economies, which ended up with the Communist Party having no powers to order anything. So does command management fail in a similar fashion to command economies? Fascinating.
8:28 nice emotional rant. One teensy problem; Deal Chicken hasn't been introduced around the country yet! The team is gearing up. Sorry but really nice whine. Kudos!
Think it has:http://dealchicken.com/
6:07; The secretaries are doing the interns no favors. They placed them right next to that hornet's nest of incompetence and unfocused content, between vertical chief Heather Frank's team and Usa Weekend. Talk about contamination. Would you want your kid learning about the business from this newly merged crew? Seriously. They be better off interning at Weekly Reader or Better Homes and Gardens
9:45 If the interns get the impression Heather is an editor instead of from sales, then God help the poor interns. They will be off doing stories Heather wants to improve sales, not the sort of journalism they expected. Is there any way we can head off this disaster and save the future careers. I thought (mistakenly) the secretaries were trying to isolate them. Isn't that possible in some other area?
Who thought up the name Deal Chicken? I mean, come on.
I'm not in sales, but think the problem is that local sales directors just can't handle any more directives from McLean. The support staff is gone in cutbacks and they see from the figures that there's an ad slump. Whatever they might try they aren't getting the revenues their hiked goals say they should hit, and then comes this Chicken thing and they say they just don't have time to put it together when their job is on the line if the goals are missed.
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I thought from another thread that the Heather problem was going to be "fixed."
9:54. Look at the positives. The smart interns will figure out the poseurs pretty quickly. Others may realize journalism, at least here, is not a sound career move . The naive ones will drink the kool aide and we'll get some minimum wage rookies to post on line content on the graveyard shift. And maybe one will get some Nanny Diaries book out of this whack museum and it/ will be made into a comedy horror flick.
I don't think comparing this company to the final days of the Soviet Union is unrealistic at all. I am a former corp exec, mid level. Things are so much worse than you even know! Flee now!
I was in Moscow when that happened, and it was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever seen. One day, the Communist Party which occupied a huge complex near the Kremlin, just evaporated. I really can't explain it, but it just stopped working and everyone just went home. Then they didn't come to work the next day. No bloodshed, no real drama, just nothing.
There seems to be a general consensus that operates in these circumstances. For example, we date the end of the Civil War to Appomattox, but they weren't so sure about that at the time and there were fights that continued afterwards in Texas and Alaska of all places for several months until some consensus was reached. The same with World War II after Hitler committed suicide. I wonder now what the future holds after Osama bin Ladin. There's no way of predicting, but it is interesting to look at mass human behavior in the past.
Wouldn't it be cool if Dee Chicky brought in several million and saved a few jobs?
1:04: If it weren't for the name, it might be a possibility.
Hey I don't have skin in the game, but google is about as stupid as yahoo don't forget the exclaimation point and hey there is rue la la. All the good names like General Motors and Western Union and Prince and Givemeabreak.org have been taken.
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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