Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Memo: ContentOne's Connell reportedly retiring

[Updated at 6:26 p.m. ET with link to memo on ContentOne's future.]

Anonymous@5:40 p.m. says they just received the following in an e-mail, concerning ContentOne's first chief, Tara Connell. ContentOne, launched in late 2008, is the former Gannett News Service. Note: Connell is 61, according to the Annual Report to shareholders. She was a major supporter of COO Gracia Martore, which partly explains the length of this note:

Gracia Martore
President and Chief Operating Officer

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to share with you the news that Tara Connell, vice president of ContentOne, has made the decision to retire at the end of May. Although she is leaving, the mission of ContentOne will continue.

Tara joined our company in 1972 as a reporter in Westchester. She covered many local and national stories, including the sensational Jean Harris trial. In 1982, Tara became a founding staffer of USA Today, beginning as a reporter and eventually assuming responsibility as the Page One managing editor.

In 1999, Tara moved to the corporate staff as director of media relations, where she says she was able to learn the business “from the other side.” She was named Gannett’s Corporate Staffer of the Year in 2002 and in 2003, she became the company’s vice president of Corporate Communications.

In 2009, Tara worked closely with our chairman and CEO, Craig Dubow, and other senior members of the management team on a new concept: ContentOne. As the leader of ContentOne, Tara helped established a company-wide culture of content sharing, created “The Dashboard,” and orchestrated instrumental partnerships both inside and outside the company.

Over the past few months, we have worked closely with Tara to develop a plan for the continued success of Content One following her retirement. Some fundamental changes will be made that will continue the mission while enhancing the impact.

Finding, sharing and guiding the development of content across Gannett was the goal and has been the accomplishment of ContentOne and that will continue. Leveraging that content and growing revenue around it also has been the vision and is quickly becoming the reality of ContentOne, and the changes that will follow Tara’s retirement I believe will enhance those abilities. In fact, Gannett continues to be committed to sharing and leveraging the content that is generated across our vast portfolio of media properties. The attached contains our going-forward plan for ContentOne.

Tara has contributed to Gannett’s success for nearly 40 years. When she begins her next chapter, she plans to travel to China with her husband, after which she will be staying local -- working on personal writing projects, assisting local businesses and enjoying her community.

Please join me in wishing Tara all the best. I know I speak for many when I say she will be missed.


  1. This e-mail apparently included an attachment about changes coming to ContentOne following Connell's reported retirement. Does anyone have that attachment?

  2. check your inbox....

  3. Thank you. I've now linked to that attachment, which shows ContentOne being largely absorbed by USA Today.

    Note: ContentOne was built with the remnants of the old Pulitzer Prize-winning Gannett News Service.

  4. Also of interest: A piece of ContentOne -- custom publishing, which sounds like advertorial work -- is being peeled off and handed to the new chief marketing officer, Maryam Banikarim.

  5. What happens to Jennifer Carroll, editor and vice president of ContentOne and the inventor of the Local Information Center concept? The attachment doesn't say.

  6. She's one of the all time great journalists that The Journal News has ever produced. Her reporter's instincts and work ethic honed in Westchester's newsroom served the mighty GCI well over the years. Best wishes to Tara, rest assured your legacy via ContentOne will live on!

  7. "Retirement"? Doesn't sound like it.

  8. I don't know what Jennifer Carroll's day-to-day work involved at ContentOne. When she was named vice president and senior editor/ContentOne in April 2009, Connell said in a statement:

    “Understanding audience wants and needs and guiding the development of the content that best meets those needs is the crucial part of ContentOne. Jennifer’s role in developing Gannett’s Information Center and her expertise in content generation for U.S. Community Publishing and the Digital divisions make her ideal to head up content resources for ContentOne. Further, this position is the logical extension of her role in creating Information Centers across Gannett.”

    Perhaps she effectively worked as managing editor of the Gannett News Service part, producing stories from Washington, and editing stuff from the community papers for re-distribution.

    Under the new plan, those two production/editing functions are to report to USA Today's Chet Czarniak, whose unwieldy title at the paper is executive editor, content distribution and programming.

    He can't be building news story budgets and editing copy, so perhaps Carroll will continue during that, but report to Chet instead.

    (Note: Chet's continued empire-building is . . . well . . . unexpected.)

  9. Tara has her detractors -- mostly those who bristled at her authoritarian style -- but there's no doubt she was a newswoman's newswoman, a hard-hitting journalist in her early days and a voice of reason at USA Today during its crazy early years.

    So for every person here who angrily criticizes her here in the days to come -- more for symbolism than real insights -- let it not be forgotten that Tara was the real deal as a journalist and inspired many reporters and editors who work all across Gannett.

    Strong-willed, greatly talented and full of laughter too few people saw, her friends and admirers wish her the best of luck. She deserves it.

  10. "and the changes that will follow Tara’s retirement I believe will enhance those abilities."

    The phrasing makes it sound as if she was an impediment to change, i.e. we can't wait to get her out the door to make the changes we have to make. I doubt that was the intent.

    I wish we had some kind of relationship with a company that employed professional writers and editors, maybe do some trade-out.

    It's ridiculously poor writing to recall a 30 year old criminal case and expect current readers to know that reference, all the way to the end where Tara is said to remain local, assisting local businesses, etc. - with no reference to whether that locality is Westchester, Tyson's or points in between. I don't care where she's going to live but the generic 'locality' comes off awkward and stilted. Leave it off! She's going to pursue interests close to home. There, done.

    But the biggest problem is that this crap tries to serve two purposes and does neither well. Organizationally, Tara should have been praised and then the future of ContentOne discussed - or vice versa.

    The hopscotching around on focus or purpose shouldn't be accepted from an intern and this went out over the CEO's signature. Instead we get a weird mash note/corporate sea change memo that puts lie to the image of professional communicators the rest of us try to create.

  11. 8:50 I agree on this: "The phrasing makes it sound as if she was an impediment to change, i.e. we can't wait to get her out the door to make the changes we have to make. I doubt that was the intent."

    I read it twice before I was certain it was simply poor phrasing.

  12. so you think the timing of her retirement and the simultaneous reorganization of Content One is coincidence? Sounds like accountability time.

  13. Sounds like the further decline in the role of Washington reporters for local newspapers. As GNS is more closely absorbed into USA Today, the demands of USA Today are going to take precedent over what the CP want.

  14. I'm still trying to figure out what Kate Marymont's role is. Or if she still even has one.

  15. ContentOne struggled to be relevant from the start. When it was GNS and operated like a real wire service, it was valuable to the newspapers across the country. Not only did it polish and republish the best work from all the sites, it also produced very good original work (and won a Pulitzer).

    But once Gannett gutted it and tried to make it something of a buffer zone between USCP, USA TODAY and Broadcast, it immediately struggled for an identity and never quite found one.

    It's long been in the works to make USA TODAY the GNS of tomorrow, anyway.

  16. 9:41's comment seems very on target. USAT will be tempted to bolster its understaffed national desk with former GNS reporters, which will come at the expense of the USCP papers.

    Connell's departure may signal that ContentOne's revenue-producing potential fizzled. That wouldn't necessarily be her fault. It just might be that the business model didn't work.

  17. One by one, the overpaid and unnecessary seat-warmers in Gannett headquarters are seeing the door. Each and every one of us at the newspapers and TV stations chipped in to pay their outrageous salaries. Someday the whole concept of a bunch of self-important fools running local media operations that are quite capable of succeeding on their own will collapse and reverse course. The sooner, the better.

  18. 9:41 I think this is going to backfire. Yes, USA Today will absorb GNS staff, but then big papers like Arizona are going to want some special report of their local senator or some western water project that USA Today doesn't want. What does USA Today do then? Does USA Today come under the thumb of Arizona editors and carry out their beck and call, or do they drag their feet while they find someone to do the assignment when time permits?

  19. The other curiosity in this memo is what Banikarim is up to. Looks to me as if she's begun to build her empire, but I'm not yet sure what she has in mind.

  20. 11:17 -- I wish your prediction could come true, but I don't see it. What actually seems to be happening is that (when these positions aren't replaced with another highly paid person) the money simply goes to bonuses at the very top. So, you may have fewer people at the top but they are claiming an ever-increasing portion of the money.

    Meanwhile small properties are forced to work under ridiculous conditions, often without the basic tools one needs to do any job correctly. I would argue that local McDonalds employees are working with better equipment that is relevant to their jobs than the reporters at my mid-sized daily.

  21. Regarding the memo, is it ContentOne or Content One? And what's up with this sentence: As the leader of ContentOne, Tara helped established a company-wide culture of content sharing ...

    helped established? Really?

    Maybe Tara should have edited the memo.

  22. Re 12:08 a.m.....I suppose that if Arizona wants the story, Arizona will have to do the story.

    And if Arizona isn't equipped to do the story, then there will be no story.

  23. Does anything EVER work for Gannett?

  24. Re 9:15 a.m.....Arizona keeps getting touted on this site as a big-time paper. If it's so "big-time," why would it have to rely on GNS or ContentOne, or USA Today for anything?

    It's the smaller community papers that needed the resources of GNS.

  25. The demise of GNS and, to a much lesser extent, ContentOne is further proof that Corporate considers the community newspapers to be only cash cows to fund their grand schemes that, one after another, have miserably failed.

    Where is Kate Marymont in all of this? Is there no active or effective voice for community JOURNALISM within the Crystal Palace?

  26. 9:56 -- Because the Republic is run by Gannett. I don't work there, but it is a big-time paper in terms of stature. Sadly, Gannett turns every paper (whether it's a big, reputable metro or a tiny weekly) into a bare bones joke. Because of constant budget cutting, layoffs, furloughs, etc., even papers like the Republic are now reliant on wire services.

    Look what Gannett has done to Detroit, Indianapolis and even USA Today. There are some good people working at these papers, but they're all a shell of what they once were.

    It's almost comical how hard Gannett management works to assure its own failures.

  27. 9:54 a.m.: Circle of Life?

  28. With all USPC content soon to be instantly accessible through CCI NewsGate, the quaint ContentOne concept of "sharing" can be replaced by a more efficient one: plundering.

    Then bulk ad design and bulk page design can be joined by bulk content -- and we can save some REAL money around here.

  29. The inherent, tangible value of Gannett is in its local operations/properties. On their own, they can do quite well. But when they are laden with obligations to pay pro-rated financial homage to a corporate royal court and to help it prop up a stock price that has more to do with executive pocket-lining rather than operational success, they are doomed to wither on the vine.

  30. Funny how these so called "retirements" always come around this time of year of the annual meeting; however, this one was bound to happen not long after Maryam's arrival. Ta ta, Tara - at least you were bumped near retirement age anyway.

  31. Tara was a much better flak than pro flak Robyn pence could ever be. Probably would have/been better leading a corporate bRanding campaign, too. Knew much more about journalism than idiots such as karen jurgesen, too.

  32. It's hard to take anyone seriously who prefers "Information Center" to "newsroom...."

    Hard-hitting like a furball.

  33. 12:20 spot on.


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.