Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mail | Why is Gannett the only one with a blog?

As the news industry's fortunes shift daily, Anonymous@6 p.m. asked earlier this month: "Why is Gannett the only company with a blog like this, with real teeth and anger and even communication, even if much is suspect? . . . Jim isn't so singular that others couldn't do it. . . . Where is the Times blog, the Post blog, the Tribune blog, the McClatchy blog, an AP blog, a Bloomberg blog?"

Industry pundits have asked the same question about Gannett Blog, including Martin Langeveld, who wrote on the Nieman Foundation's Journalism Lab Blog: "Not every major newspaper group is favored with a meta-site where employees and others can get the latest news, leaks, gossip and analysis on their favorite company. Where are the rest of the watchblogs?"

I think the answer boils down to:

Size. GCI offers a big potential audience. It's the largest employer among media outfits with a heavy focus on newspapers. Even after massive job cuts, GCI still employs more than 30,000 at nearly 100 newspapers, 23 TV stations, plus other subsidiaries.

Compare that to the McClatchy Co., which has about 8,500 employees and 30 dailies. The New York Times Co. has 7,400 at 17 papers, including its flagship New York Times. Lee Enterprises employs 6,800 at 49 dailies. And Media General employs 4,650 at 23 dailies and 18 TV stations.

News Corp., which publishes The Wall Street Journal and about 25 smaller U.S. community papers, plus owns Dow Jones News Service, employs about 51,000. But NWS' far-flung, diverse operations here and abroad -- from 20th Century Fox Studios to MySpace -- makes the company a bad apples-to-apples comparison.

Ditto for the Washington Post. Co., which employs 20,000. Yet, 14,000 are at its Kaplan educational services subsidiary. The rest are at The Washington Post; six TV stations, and a portfolio of other subsidiaries, including smaller print publications.

Tribune Co., whose titles include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, is privately held; I'm unaware of any current public data on its employment. And MediaNews Group, a GCI business partner in markets including Detroit, also is private; it owns 57 dailies.

Geography. GCI's employees are scattered across 32 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.K. Working far from each other, they're more likely to read a blog that allows them to share information in a single, common forum. In contrast, for example, the vast majority of the NYT Co.'s employees are in New York City, so have more opportunities to share information in person.

Turmoil. All the big news outfits included here have laid off hundreds, even thousands, of employees in recent years. McClatchy has just disclosed another round of layoffs.

But GCI's restructuring since CEO Craig Dubow took charge has been greatest, because it's affected so many employees and shareholders. That's spurred a need for news and other information about the company's inner workings. After all, more than 20,000 jobs have been eliminated since 2005. The pension fund was frozen. Work has been consolidated, from ad production to finance and marketing.

Frequent posters. Many of my readers work in newsrooms, so they're adept at posting comments here with news, rumors and other tips to their fellow readers. To date, they've posted many of the more than 80,000 comments on this site.

And no wonder. GCI is the single-largest employer of newsroom staffers -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000, I estimate. That's reflected in Gannett Blog's readership. Among more than 2,000 readers in my "Where do you work survey?" in the green sidebar, 23% say they work in a newsroom.

Management. Active, frequently updated blogs are labor intensive. A confluence of events made it possible for me to formally launch Gannett Blog when I took a buyout from USA Today in January 2008.

I had worked for Gannett 20 years, so already knew the company's history, as well as some of the key players. I'd been a business reporter during most of those two decades; that made it easy to navigate regulatory filings and other Corporate information. Many employees and shareholders -- though certainly not all -- view me as a trusted ally.

On the other hand, I'm a stranger to employees at the NYT Co. and News Corp. That might explain why I never gained traction on two blogs I kept for about six months last year: New York Times Co. Blog and News Corp. Blog.

The NYT blog drew just 6,800 pageviews from 2,300 unique visitors during the entire six months. The News Corp. site attracted even fewer: 2,800 pageviews from 1,100 uniques. In both cases, that is less than Gannett Blog attracts in a single day. (The two blogs are still online, waiting for a possible future audience.)

To be sure, there have been blogs about other news companies, including McClatchy and Lee, plus one devoted solely to the NYT itself. But they've been shuttered, or updated infrequently.

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  1. A good summary. But you left one reason out: hatred. Or, if we want to be polite, we'd say dislike. GCI inspires more dislike among employees than do other newspaper companies because of what GCI is -- the 'culture.' They are mendacious to the core. All corporations lie, of course. It's in the DNA. But other newspaper companies make an effort to live up to the standards and ethics and principles of good journalism. I have experience here because I've worked for others. GCI is just a marketing organization masquerading as a defender of the First Amendment. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with being a salesman. What's wrong is lying about it. Don't get me wrong -- GCI papers can and do perform solid acts of journalism. But those happen because of outstanding editors and reporters at the local level, who do it in spite of GCI management not with the help or encouragement of management. Other newspaper companies simply don't incite the disgust and outrage that GCI does, hence they don't thrive.

  2. 7:27 AM has it: hatred.

    I hate GCI management. I hate what they -- not technology, or the economy, or the competition -- have done to great newspapers. I hate that they suck profits out and line their own pockets; that they violate foundation rules on donations and escape accountability; that they obsess over financial management while ignoring any burden of leadership.

    I hate that the people who care about doing a good job, improving the product and satisfying customers are viewed as not being good stewards of company resources. I hate how pointing out opportunities for improvement gets people branded as naysayers. I hate that cronyism and unaccountability is so rampant among senior management. I hate how our corporate structure stifles innovation, enthusiasm and excellence under the false promise of efficiencies and profits which are never realized.

    I hate seeing what the company could be, and watching that future slide away because we're managed by the Green Eyeshade Mafia in McLean, who have no problem with lavishing company assets on themselves.

    So, yeah. "Hate" is a good word to describe it.

  3. Jim, your investigative reporting skills add substance while the rest of us crowd source. Be proud.

    Why do readers come back and donate? Long memories. Top news division people who were mean-spirited and petty, 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago and now. So many people needlessly humiliated and crushed for privately raising a question with their superiors about news 2000 or whatever stupid new deal chicken gimmmick was coming along. They played mind games on people whom they could not immediately fire. Some didnot survive it. Stress-related problems and then kicked to the curb when person got cancer and died.

  4. I'm going to go with the theme that 7:27 and 8:23 started. Although I disagree with 7:27 on one thing, dislike is to mild a word for what I feel. Hatred with a chaser of contempt is about right.

    Corporate management doesn't care one bit about journalism or the work we do. They lie, cheat and steal (forcing me to go on furlough to add to Dubow's bonus is theft as surely as if he put a gun to my head).

    They think only about short term gains to the bottom line but not long term survival.

    They tell us we're in a crisis and they RIF experienced hard working people while layabouts and corporate stooges flourish.

    I don't what else to call it. I love what I do for a living and I'd like to think I contribute to both my workplace and community. But it's impossible to take pride in the product that is shadow of what it used to be.

    I look around at other papers that are in similar economic straights and they're still doing good work. I wonder why we can't do the same level of work. It's because out bosses are not journalists and don't care about journalism. They care about keeping things within reach.

    As 8:23 put it, "Hate" is a good word to describe it.

  5. What I find so utterly frustrating is there seems to be no accountability. We have Robin caught red-handed lifting quotes, and nothing happens. Newsgate is an unmitigated disaster, yet they show no sign of dumping those responsible or scrambling to undo what they've done. Now Deal Chicken, and I could clearly go on, and on, and on.

  6. It's a stretch to say Robin Pence got "caught red-handed lifting quotes."

    At the very least, I don't think you can plagiarize your own work.

  7. Jim, you will go down in history with this blog. The hatred for this company by its employees is palpable. No company can succeed when its employees aren't happy. I just read a comment from somebody who said they wouldn't even let their friends know about deal chicken much less put it on their facebook page. It is a sad state of affairs but corporate seems to be blind to it.

  8. Pence didn't plagiarize. But as the public mouthpiece for a communications giant, failed to do her job. Resting on the laurels of a misguided branding campaign doesn't work at your pay grade, Robyn. What have you done for the company lately?

  9. 11:48 Look back on your editor days, Jim, and tell us what you would have done if you found a reporter recycling a quote? You would have read the riot act, and also concluded you couldn't trust him or her ever again. Maybe a little short of plaigiarism, but not far short.

  10. #6 UTTER CONTEMPT for the thieves and incompetent fools who "run" the company. Understandably, the majority of those employed have no motivation to even try to save the company. Most know it can't be saved.
    #7 F**KED UP Projects launched, delayed and then killed off. Or they limp along with no life support until put out of their misery. No long term strategy or planning.
    #8 HORRIBLE LACK OF COMMUNICATIONS Ironically it is a communications company.
    #9 VENT Where else can we all vent about these fools and their bad decisions?
    #10. A WARNING to anyone considering working here and a warning to those who currently do to get out or have a plan for landing.

  11. 1:57 That's true. If nothing else, it's really, really lame.

  12. IMO, if we don't start enforcing some old traditional standards, we are going to start running stories because it's what we believe people want to read, instead of what we believe they must read.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. 2:07, people like you amuse me. You claim you want old-school standards, now that the new ways are failing. Yet I'd bet you were among the many sheep who embraced all of the new gimmicks just so you wouldn't have to work as a hard.

    I laugh long and derisively at the people here who cry about the lack of news in USA Today or other Gannett papers. This is what you wanted. You wanted fluff and lazy approaches, just so your jobs would be easier. You didn't care if that wasn't what the customers wanted.

  15. Hatred, Management, and Turmoil sum it up best. So many good, loyal, faithful, hard-working people got a kick in the ass and had lives turned upside down by this !*&# company.

    Thanks, Jim, for this great post. It should be taped in all Crystal Palace bathrooms as a reminder.

  16. 7:27AM, 8:23AM, I agree!

    Remember, Dubow received $4519.23 per hour last year for his efforts.

    As 10:54AM typed, "Hatred with a chaser of contempt" pretty much sums up my feelings.

  17. I should add that - above all else - this site confirmed that the situations at whatever local site you were at weren't an exception due to a certain manager, but were apparently corporate policy.

  18. I hate that stupid people altered not only their own jobs but also others for one reason -- to make their work easier. They destroyed the stability of the product when they did this.

    I hate that hypocrites who supported these changes for years now come in here and criticize the long-term effects of those short-sighted moves. There are many people in here who wanted less news, less thought, and less complicated workloads. Now the product is wrecked, and they pretend they weren't part of wrecking it.

  19. What amazes me is how the hatred never seems to fade. I've been away from Gannett for years and yet I read this blog hoping that one day some kind of justice will prevail. All I get is fresh outrage over what this company has done to the profession I loved and the people I care about. Sickening.

  20. I agree with the other bloogers here - as a former Gannett employee at one of the local newspapers - I have also have dislike and disdain for that local paper and Gannett. It's the way they treat employees and "operate" the company. At the local paper where I worked, I have never witnessed such incompetency, wasting of money, mistreatment of employees in my entirre life in the business world.
    So, it's no surprise that many/most former and current hate and/or dislike Gannett.
    Simply put- those dyas of the average newspaper industry profit margin of 20% is over. From what I've read, the average American business has a profit margin of 5-8%. Newspaper simply have to adjust to a new margin and so will Wall Street.


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