Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mail | Readers 'taking things to fictional extremes'

Anonymous@4:34 p.m. yesterday posted a comment that has drawn praise from several Gannett Bloggers:

So much of this blog is laughable, mainly from ugly, powerless psyches projecting subplots that don't exist at all.

Maryam Banikarim is in charge of Gannett branding and marketing. How much she rescues or rebrands Gannett depends entirely on her talents, or lack of talents, the support she gets or the lack of support.

She is not some conniving corporate fighter, and she surely is not fixated on Robin Pence, who is simply the PR person and not the power player people here think she is. The Maryam-Robin "feud" exists only here at this blog, and the amount of time spent on it here is really nuts.

Similarly, although Gannett's mission is being reshaped in some scary ways that are rightfully upsetting to journalism and the public trust, nothing has been restructured so much that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or stockholders need a legal accounting.

The thought that COO Gracia Martore and others would "go to jail" because they failed to tell stockholders about the newspaper design hubs or a switch to ad-based coverage is naive and absurd.

There are plenty of things to rail about here (things really do suck at Gannett), but taking things to fictional extremes only makes the whole site look bad and minimizes the real problems. Especially from people who deal in facts and should know better.

As always, other views are encouraged. Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Maybe the workers of Gannett are just so tired of not learning the truth from their leaders. Not seeing any creative initiatives. It is human nature to lash out at leadership when the day to day lives of workers are so frustrating.

    There are talented smart people throughout Gannett who have some great answers. Seems their voices are mostly silenced in exchange for more of the same programs that seem to have no end: layoffs, furloughs, watering down journalism, cookie cutting away once great newspapers, hiring of consultants (Core Strategy Group) and not trusting our internal folks. It seems maybe Dubow and Martore are too embarrassed by these initiaitves to face their employees and share their vision. Most of us wold embrace the direction if we had a clue where the company was headed and if we believed there was a light ahead. Companies are killed by a lack of hope.

    Open communication would go a long way to win trust and silence some of this frustration among the troops in the field.

    The executive bonuses caused further erosion of trust, even among the loyal few who wanted to believe in the future.

    If we had leadership, the blog would disappear.

  2. I agree.

    At USA Today, Dave Hunke is very fond of aanouncing initiatives that he seems to think have staff buy-in and support, but instead come out of nowhere (Your Life/USA WEEKEND for example).

    "Senior managers" have decided, he'll announce. Or at last month's meeting, "watch your senior managers" for clues to what's happening, he said.

    No, not everything can happen by consensus and sometimes (design hubs), hard decisions need (or appear to need), to be made by a few.

    But the bubble at the top is so rarified now that some of the smartest people in the company - those who have to implement what the senior managers decide - are left out of the planning, conception and delivery of new structures and ways of operating.

    How can middle managers convince their staffs about changes when they are just as blind-sided as the people who work for them? Hunke seems to think editors and directors aren't doing their selling kobs. Well, give us some facts to go with the giddy proclamations.

    The business model that is broken is as much the leadership at Gannett and the way it operates as it is the print vs. online struggles.

    Give us some truth BEFORE it happens would be a good thing.

    Then we wouldn't have to waste time here at the blog conjuring up false struggles bewtween leaders we don't even know within a Politburo no one understands anymore.

  3. I like Jim and he seems to be moderating a little better to manage the rumor mill and lies. But let's not forget, he spent years doing character assassination on executives (like Craig Moon). There was never a doubt he disliked Moon at a minimum and had personal vendetta at a maximum.

    The result? Eventually Moon said goodbye USAT and Gannett and he left.
    I saw him fight like hell up against corporate and try to save jobs, keep USAT journalism front and center. He got fed up with Corporate in the end.

    I'd give anything to have him back now. He was an outstanding defender of journalism and truly cared about journalists....even though his style was gruff. He was a very good publisher.

    i'm not trying to have a Craig Moon discussion. I'm simply pointing our Jim and Blog were hard on him, too. I guess the blog allows any executive to be roasted....deservingly or not.

  4. 12:15 well said, I could not agree more.

  5. 12:16 I looked up a definition of character assassination, and here's what I found: "The slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person."

    I will leave it to my readers to decide whether my postings about Moon and other executives, especially in 2008 and early 2009, fit that description.

    However, I very much doubt that Moon quit USA Today in March 2009 because of anything posted to this site. I suspect he no longer agreed with Gannett's strategic plan under CEO Craig Dubow. (Indeed, a Twitter post by one of his children -- since deleted -- suggested that a falling out with Dubow was the proximate cause.)

    I cannot say whether Moon was a better publisher than the current one, Dave Hunke, because I never worked for Hunke. On the other hand, I worked for Moon twice: In the late 1990s, in Little Rock, and then at USAT from his appointment as publisher in 2003 to when I took a buyout in January 2008.

  6. RE Moon: Isn't it interesting, Jim, that you and your blog, an exemplar of the new age of journalism, is subject to the same sort of accusation that has always plagued editors and reporters of traditional journalism. There truly is nothing new under the sun. In a way, everything is changing. Viewed another way, nothing is changed. What's new is old again. Or something like that.

  7. Moon saw the writing on the wall and got out before all these new changes took effect. He did not agree with them, I suspect. He fought Dubow against them. In the end, he was the winner.

    A very smart move on his part.

  8. Jim, I agree you were pretty relentless on Moon. Obviously Moon did not leave because of the blog (he was way tougher than that). But there were a lot of unnecessary unfavorable posts. So if you want the blog to take a different tone, you can set that tone.

    In the end, Moon couldn't convince Dubow of his vision for USAT and Dubow wanted to shake it up. Hunke had just shaken up Detroit with some pretty radical moves so that might have enticed Dubow.

    Fastforward, we now have the verticals. I'll let history be the judge on their ultimate success or failure.

  9. xxxx The thought that COO Gracia Martore and others would "go to jail" because they failed to tell stockholders about the newspaper design hubs or a switch to ad-based coverage is naive and
    That is not what was said. What was said that shifting away from USA Today being a newspaper to what was announced in a 5/17 USA Today press release as "USA TODAY is a multi-platform news and information media company" amounted to a structural change in the makeup of the company. Structural changes like this need to be announced publicly to the shareholders, who own this company and need to be consulted before such fundamental changes are made. There was no discussion of "design hubs" anywhere in that post. Nor was there any mention of ad-based coverage, although selling stories to advertisers in advance would also mark a major change in the way this company operates.
    "Jail" was not mentioned as the consequence. Rather it was that anyone involved in this decision would face shareholder suits from now until Doomsday. This would be personal liability suits of shareholders seeking to recover money they lost in changing the structure without consulting the shareholder owners.
    If this is indeed happening, as I believe it is from the press releases being issued, then it is a major change in the traditional company structure, and Gracia needs to get approval for it.
    The owners of this company are the shareholders, not those who are running it.

  10. The analogy would be the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit deciding it was no longer a car company, but was shifting over to making yachts. You have to get approval from the stockholders to do that, not announce such a change at the bottom of a press release.

  11. That's the kind of "fiction" this thread is about.

    This: ... "USA TODAY is a multi-platform news and information media company" amounted to a structural change in the makeup of the company.

    ... is pretty absurd, and no way comparable to Ford switching from cars to boats, or GM making more money from selling health insurance or the zillion ways businesses diversify.

    I think Gracia and her cohorts are safe from prosecution on this one.

    Needless waste of bandwidth...

  12. 2:48 here is what you and your LT pals continue to fail to realize: the Board has made it clear they want us to move to Digital ASAP. There is no secret initiative, it's already been approved.

  13. I e been waiting for My Boss to make the announcement. Since they haven't we now have proof MB is not in the know but does have access to gossip.

  14. 2:53 You say "prosecution." I repeat I did not use that word, nor the word "jail." I am talking about lawsuits up to the armpits for anyone involved in anyway changing the basic structure of this company that shareholders bought into without telling the owners. This isn't their property to do with as they wish. It is the property of the shareholders.

  15. 2:48 Where's the announcement? I am sure the board of directors will be happy to detail their knowledge of this scheme in their depositions when the time comes.

  16. How do you know this, 2:48?

  17. I can see why the flacks wrote the 5/17 press release the way they did because they saw that putting Heather and her crew in the newsroom (sorry, operating center) meant it was no longer a newspaper. Isn't that the clear message of that press release, which incidentally is an official statement of this company?

  18. What kind of normal person would subscribe to the twitter feed of the children of your subject?

    That's a serious question. Unless the child themself is involved directly in the entreprise, it goes beyond the pale to just latch on to them, looking for a feed anyway you can. If the child is a minor, it's even more disturbing.

    You want an example why people say they despise the media and journalists? It's because we try to outdo our subjects in the lack of ethics, yet cloak ourselves in the community service aspect of the first amendment.

  19. Someone hit another nerve, I see. Damn dentists.

  20. This is a decent thread. But as always, we have two kinds of people: the lemming trolls who don't see anything wrong with the character assassinations (and those happen, despite how many times Jim recites from the dictionary), and the people of at least functional intelligence who point out how silly this place has been.

    Just saying "Gannett is evil!" is not a defense for the extremely vindictive crap that has been posted here.

    Also, 1:02 is in desperate need of correction. This place is in no way, shape, or form an "examplar" of the modern age of journalism. It fails on countless counts. The rest of 1:02's post is the standard mix of self-contradictory platitudes that make the lemming trolls proud.

  21. RE the possibly actionable changes in the stated mission at USAT . . . They're not actionable. They're the future, and shareholders with a brain know it. You don't really think The Street shares a reporter's zeal for the First Amendment, do you?

    I'll repeat what I've said here before. USAT will become a web-only operation very much like The Huffington Post, now owned by AOL. The community papers will become the analogs of AOL's Patch sites, offering a minimal coverage of local issues and also feeding the USAT mothership. To use the excellent term Jim offered on the topic when I last wrote this, the community newspapers will become websites "with deep roots in the communities." This is a few years off but I believe you can see the planets and stars slowly lining up this way. But print ads are the cash cow, and this cash is badly needed to pay down the debt.

    As I see it, that's Gannett's probable glide path to a sustainable future. So the question becomes, is there enough runway for the glide path?

  22. @3:30 p.m. This site is an "exemplar" of new journalism in the sense that it is digital only, and combines reporting laced with opinion that (for better or worse) is a hallmark of digital-only news sites. Visited any lately? I suggest "All Things D," the excellent site of the company formerly known as Dow Jones. You want to get into the mud about Jim Hopkins. That's your agenda, not mine. Never met the guy, never will. He's good, not perfect. I use my brain to sift and winnow the content. You should, too. This site is, indeed, an exemplar. If it were not, it would not be cited frequently by such sources as the New York Times and other print publications, Editor and Publisher, the Romenesko blog and others. Will this site be here in five years? I doubt it. Neither will Gannett in its present form.

  23. Someone is dodging the question...just saying.

  24. 3:15 I did not and do not subscribe to the Twitter feed in question; and I can't even recall their name. (The child you refer to was, in fact, a college student at the time.) I learned about the tweet when a reader forwarded me a link to it.

  25. Wow. Looks like someone has been doing some research. Hope someone remembers how much Ralph Nader got when he found someone was doing research on him for his investigation of the Corvair.

  26. Regarding the discussion about structural changes within Gannett -- including at USA Today -- and whether shareholders must be notified and given a chance to approve any changes:

    It's very simple. Shareholders do, indeed, get a say, but only in the broadest terms. Once a year, they vote on the re-election of members of the board of directors, and on other issues such as the appointment of independent auditors, and any shareholder resolutions. The results are finalized at the annual meeting.

    But that's virtually the only time when shareholders get a vote (other than, of course, in the stock market, where they "vote" by buying and selling shares). This is the case at all publicly traded companies, not just Gannett.

    The exceptions to the annual voting are extraordinary events; the only example I can think of would be a decision to sell the company.

    Shareholders don't micromanage the company. They vest their interests in the board of directors. The board, in turn, oversees management and approves the strategic plan and any changes to it. The board also hires (and sometimes fires) the CEO and other senior executives.

    The major changes in Gannett's strategic direction have, in fact, been disclosed to shareholders, but not just through press releases. For example, the shift toward digital has been disclosed to shareholders repeatedly through quarterly, annual and other filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over the years. You can read all those documents at Corporate's website, in the section for investors.

  27. Thank you, Jim.

    In other words, about 20-25 postings (maybe more), over the last week or so have been totally baseless and, were as the heading of this thread indicates, ''fiction.''

    Sometimes a few basic facts can do wonders. Thanks.

  28. If only 20-25 postings in a week were outright fiction, then that would be a great week here at Gannett Blog.

    Jim has given the crazies an outlet for every crackpot theory and scheme they can hatch. I cringe sometimes at the attack posts that appear, but at least those are a distraction from the delusions of the insane people who have posted here daily for the last 30 months. Well, except for the time when Jim was burned out (at best) and taking a break.

    4:10, you talk about sifting through the content as if it's some minor inconvenience to have to ignore falsehoods and rants from crazies. It's not minor. First, no one can ever again post here under a real name because they would just be attacked. Next, how in the world is anyone ever supposed to gauge who's credible and who's not? All of it goes to the credibility of the site, which is far lower than what you and the other lemming trolls want to believe.

  29. If this company is truly headed toward digital and retiring the presses, they have a weird way of showing it. Why are we spending millions for these dumb design hubs if we're going to shutter the presses soon? makes no sense. And if we're going digital, why aren't we instead spending millions to equip our community papers with the manpower and technology needed to do the kind of things readers want and will make our content unique and "must-read" enough that readers will subscribe through a pay wall? I see NONE of that in the works. At our place, it's cut, cut, cut on people and resources while they tell us to do more, more, more with fewer people and antiquated computers and and digital equipment. We have some good people who want to move to digital, who want to prepare for our future, but I see no movement whatsoever to take us in that direction. Can anybody give me any proof of any community paper that is moving that way? Anybody adding online producers or staff? Anybody buying new computers and new software for their producers and their reporters? Anybody creating new products that will make readers want to subscribe through a pay wall? Would love to hear what others are doing, because we're not doing squat.

  30. Credibility of this blog= zero zippo nada
    Soul of the blog=mean spirited and cruel
    Feeling one has after reading the blog= total depression and in need of xanax and a shower

  31. Jim is exactly like those isolated, rambling, senile old people who are allowed to hang around a corner cubicle while they mark time and spout nonsense. The company tolerates them until they have enough sense to leave or they reach their benchmark.

    Except for Jim. He was bought out and pushed out sooner. What do we infer from this? (Lemming trolls need not answer.)

  32. 6/05/2011 6:59 PM
    The design hubs are just another way of consolidating to reduce payroll, supplies, equipment, etc. It is not an indicator that Gannett believes in and supports the printed newspaper. Just another way to save money.

  33. 5:17 Not sure you are right, so I sent a link off to a contingency lawyer I know to see what he thinks. It still looks to me like they are trying to hide something by not putting this out in public press releases.

  34. Jim is 5:17. Not that I mind people questioning Jim, but why not use his name?

    This blog is a great example of dysfunctionality.

  35. Gannett's strength years ago was the monopoly its print properties had in their communities. Still is. I'm not convinced advertisers ever think of it as a brand or ever will, and I think it's silly to spend much money and effort to try. I kind of see the logic in trying to make it so -- "buy Gannett and you'll buy the whole country" -- but the value of the company remains in its parts, not in its whole. It will never compete with the pure online behemoths of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or the news organizations with online operations like the New York Times or TV networks' news divisions, or the gimmick-of-the-month outfits like Groupon (that's a train wreck in slow motion). It can compete only by being the sum of its many small parts. Unfortunately, the present top management doesn't seem to understand that and is only weakening its already weak parts, virtually destroying them and driving away readers, viewers and advertising customers. It'd be funny if it weren't so tragic.

  36. You nailed it, 11:19, but you forgot the granddaddy of them all: the long-standing Yahoo/AP partnership.

  37. 11:19 is so right.

  38. 5:17 So why are they being so furtive. Wouldn't it make sense to announce these sort of changes by press release, unless they are not proud of what they are doing?

  39. 8:53 Press releases and notices to regulatory agencies are distributed the same way: online.

    Long ago, I signed up with Corporate to receive an e-mail notifying me whenever the company posts a press release or notice to its website. It works very well.

    In any case, under the law, Corporate is required to disclose major developments in the form of formal notices to securities regulators. A simple press release is not enough.

    Now, on occasion, there are news developments that could also be disclosed simultaneously in a press release to draw even more attention. Chris Saridakis' resignation as digital chief is a good example. In these cases, all companies -- not just Gannett -- could do a better job.


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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