An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
Another day closer to the non-existence of Gannett.
Of all the dilemmas. What to put at the top of the home page?The midwest heat wave has hit the East Coast and has become the BIGGEST STORY OF ALL TIME.We're a week away from defaulting on our debt which is the BIGGEST STORY OF ALL TIME.One guy evidently killed 87 people in Norway yesterday which could be the BIGGEST STORY OF ALL TIME, Norwegian edition.And in Cherry Hill, the lead story is? "Mike Trout is living his dream. All the former Courier-Post Player of the Year ever wanted to do was play baseball at the highest level, and it doesn't get any bigger than this."
Who says NJ isn't making a profit? I'm not from there, not even close, but let me tell you what happens when GANNETT takes over your paper:1. We had to start ordering newsprint through them. Results? We had to pay higher paper costs than we would have otherwise.2. We lost our press. Started printing elsewhere. Results? All of the revenue that was generated printing outside publications went to the new site, not us. Oh yea, they saved on ink, on pressmen's salaries, mailroom personnel, etc. BUT we had to pay for the ink they used to print our paper, the paper that was used, the costs of any little thing they could put on us. We lost A LOT OF REVENUE from this move.3. Reduction in force in our prepress department. Oh, if we need help with ads, the other site, our back up, would help us. Results: any ad that we sent them we had to pay money for, much more money that it would have cost us. Every time they touched that ad, more money would be charged. Results? Our paper wouldn't let us send any ads to our "backup" because it was far too expensive.5. We lost our total IT Department. Results? When equipment went down, we had to wait until they got around to fixing us, sometimes taking days to get a computer fixed. Our site wasn't a high priority to them. People who were totally unqualified to fix IT problems were doing their very best to fix problems they knew nothing about, nor were they paid any extra to do it, nor was their salary even close to what IT got.6. The loss of so many people caused a complete revamping of positions. 1 position suddenly turned into the duties of 3 or 4 people, with no extra compensation. And if you didn't like it, you were told to hit the door, in this economy you would have a hard time finding a job. Really. That's what our GM said.7. All of these town hall meetings: what a bunch of crap. They tell you to ask questions: Results? If you asked about feasibility of their consolidations, whether they would be more costly for us in the long run, you were told "the squeaky wheel gets replaced." In other words, if you don't shut up, you will be fired.8. Backup plan for another paper to print us if we couldn't be printed where we normally were: What backup plan? I NEVER SAW a backup plan, nor did anyone else. We didn't even know who we would have to send our pages to. Not even HR knew. No preplanning, no testing, NOTHING!9. Loss of internet: No backup plan whatsoever. Sure, I guess you could put all the pages on a disk, but you would have to drive it 2 and a half hours away. One day that will happen, and there won't be a paper the next day. I guess none of that is a priority at all.10. Managers working 6 or 7 days a week, 10, 12 hours or more. No extra compensation. Vacations piling up because no one was around to do the job. BUT you can't carry vacation over, you lose it if you don't use it. So many managers were losing a lot of vacation hours. Not enough bodies to do the work.Is this what they consider a sound business model? I think not.
There are no doubt some exceptions, but Gannett all too often promotes into management clowns who are too unskilled and unqualified for leadership positions, other than being good at blindly following orders. They are often very insecure about their place and consequently weed out those below them who are competent, even though the latter have little chance of climbing the ladder in Gannett. In effect, Gannett is a strange, upside-down company that is run contrary to best management practices. I was only there five years, but saw enough of this that I was constantly shaking my head in disbelief.
8:58 am: Those "management clowns who are too unskilled and unqualified for leadership positions, other than being good at blindly following orders" are also sometimes the ONLY people that will agree to be promoted within Gannett. There are many smart and talented people who want nothing to do with management because they see exactly what would be expected of them.
Wow, looks like all the commenters this morning were reading my mind.Oh, nevermind, that's just the Gannett "management" boilerplate.
2 quit in midwest and will not be replaced.The same as layoffs right?
@ 6:08 - "Another day closer to the non-existence of Gannett." I bet that Gatehouse will beat you into going out of existence.
Working in Gannett is truly other-worldly. I've been with them long enough to know that belittling and deliberately not praising workers is an institutional/cultural practice in Gannett. I put up with it for the pay and benefits and never take it personally. But it's quite clear that they don't like independent thinkers. It's also quite clear that they raise the misery factor KNOWING that a certain number of the unbrainwashed will leave, sparing them the cost and trouble. It's important that everyone understand this. In recent years, Gannett has taken the extra step of putting good, but unzombified workers on performance-improvement plans. Many were let go soon afterward. As long as the property is non-union and the state has the "work at will of the employer" doctrine, Gannett can do this legally.
OK, so who's hearing details about David Payne's huge plans to makeover all the Gannett websites, including USA TODAY? He held a meeting with all his digital staff last week, but apparently forgot to include any actual journalists in the briefing.
1 retiring at small midwest site,not replaced.Formly was at 40 employees now..10 or less.
Jurnalists? We don't need no steenkin' jurnalists!
11:52 From 40 to 10 employees company-wide, or in just one department?
Baxter County lost 2 out of 3 graphic designers. The one designer left has the title Ad Traffic Controller.
8:38, you are unfortunately describing the symptoms, rather than the disease. The things you are describing are a result of corporate's determination that after years of operating one way (routing more and more functions to the APP), the true costs of these services needed to be allocated differently there and across the company. In New Jersey, it meant marginally profitable newspapers were suddenly deemed unprofitable. Coupled then with the increasing cost of newsprint, the declines in the real estate market and the drop in local advertising revenues, corporate ordered New Jersey to cut, cut and then, when finished, cut much more.But more than that, to the fates of the NT-31s, corporate has sadly relegated their fate to a second-tier status, unworthly of much more than spots on the map. They are becoming newspaper kiosks, not unlike the bank branches you see in a Wal-Mart. Now that many of them no longer have presses, no longer have finance or accounting assets, no longer have IT, no longer have HR, no longer have senior management and, in some cases, no longer have buildings, they are really only a nameplate and a customer list.
Strange.No trolls today?
If anyone wonders who is really driving Gannett's management decisions, it's stock analysts who can't look past next quarter's EPS.Case in point: Here's an excerpt from Morning Star analyst Joscelyn MacKay's research note on GCI's 2Q earnings report on Monday:"We're pleased that the firm continues to cut its workforce and consolidate facilities to cut costs--something we view as necessary given the declining top line. After a dramatic improvement in margins in 2010 because of aggressive cost-cutting, we are skeptical that Gannett will be able to keep costs in check over the long run. As such, we expect the company will give back some of the recent margin gains over time as the growth in costs outpaces revenue growth."Again, a stock analyst looking at surface-level data to ascertain whether a company is growing according to their pre-conceived notions of what is supposed to happen has no sense of, and frankly does not care about, the long-term ramifications of constant cost cutting and diminishing of the product.And these are the only people that Dubow and Co. truly answer to.Here's that Morning Star report: http://torontostar.morningstar.ca/globalhome/industry/news.asp?articleid=387409
Baxter County - I feel for the designer that was left behind. They'll be inundated with requests to fix GIADC mistakes and pisspoor design until your accounts and reps give up. If the traffic controller stays six months, be surprised. It's a thankless job, and if there's only one person doing it, best of luck to the site when someone else has to step in for illness, vacation or our annual furloughs.So - when is Phoenix getting rolled up, and why were they taken off the schedule to begin with? Did all their revenue switch to DealChicken so they just don't have print ads?
R.I.P. Amy Winehouse. I had a (literally) close encounter with her four years ago, when she was being chased by paparazzi after checking out of rehab prematurely.
Who woulda thunk? Another one dead at 27. Say hi to Jimi for me!
Heh 11:42 maybe you should let Payne finish telling his staff before he gets to you. Nah you're just going to crap on the plan anyway. Doesn't matter what he says you'll hate it anyway. By the way I saw the presentation and it's awesome. USAT is the center of his plan but you'll hate that too.
I'm a Courier post alumni and can tell you I am not surprised by what's in that rag today. They put all their eggs in the local high school basket because that's about as sophisticated as they can get. Horrendous management at this property. Shame the philly inquirer is so poorly run. They (philly) should be wiping out the courier post but aren't smart enough.
It is amusing that the Digital plan from the CDO was unveiled several days ago to hundreds of people across this company yet today is the first mention of it on the blog. I'm willing to bet that is because anyone that saw his plan knows it is bold and ambitious but SOLID and the right path. I'm all in, are you?
Wall Street also likes the sale of ex-newspaper properties by GCI, ala the former Courier News site turned auto dealership. Lots of revenue there to be stripped out as more papers downsize and move into office park rentals.
I also liked the CDO/Payne plan. However it is probably a bit too forward thinking and would be fodder for the trolls. I will say this...it is journo friendly but a potentially controversial strategy for sales.
3:18 Has anyone at USAT been told that they're about to get jerked in yet another direction?3:38 Another reason it may have taken this long to be mentioned is that it's a big yawn. In any case, why hasn't a plan this bold been disclosed to shareholders?
In the USAT tower, the hands-on news people who get it done and the People Who Are In Meetings All Day live in parallel universes, so of course no one knows about the bold plan.So instead of vague marketing hype interspersed with insults (three posts in a row with the same writing style and we're supposed to believe it's three different people?), how about laying it out here for the benefit of the people who are going to have to do the actual work? Be bold and tell us. Otherwise, we'll be within our rights to suspect that this bold plan is going to be just like one of those movies that is not screened for critics.
It's also worth recalling that USAT Publisher Dave Hunke called the paper's reorganization "radical" and then "very bold and revolutionary."That was in October 2010 -- more than nine months ago. And we all know how well that's going, don't we?
@3:29 p.m. - Prior to it being bought, sold, bankrupt, and then run by hedge funds and banks, the Inky made a pretty decent run at claiming South Jersey. It's a shame things went the way they did. South Jersey journalism has been a joke for a long time and I would have loved to see an expanding Inky down there instead of the horrid rags that still lurch around down there, Gannett and non - Courier Post, Burlington County Times, GCT, Vineland Daily Journal...barf.
We'd take workable over bold and revolutionary any day.Hunke needs to man up and show his face in the newsroom and TALK TO US. We've seen him exactly once. Either he's afraid to see what havoc looks like, or he's too busy planning how he's going to spend his next $400,000 bonus for boldly effing up the Nation's Newspaper.Word verification: tunble
40 to 10 employees....Company wide. 2 years ago a $1.5 million budget.Presses gone ,mail room gone,publisher gone,finance manager now general manager,design in half,one manager gone,design manager retire not replaced,data entry gone,1 ad sales gone,(should be more),finance assistant gone.Most major advertisers gone.Talk about skeleton left with no meat.I would guess ,soon to be comepletely gone !
I spent 14 years in a non-Gannett news room and never once saw the publisher. But then, why would I? Why would I care what he or she said or did? No, if you said never saw the editor, well, that's news.
In truth Paybe's plan puts USAT newsroom back where it is suppose to be, a leading voice in the USA. It that exciting. You've all been asking for a change, for a new direction and For leadership. Well it's here. Get ready for a wild ride! No troll BS fOlks, this us real. He'll Jim you may even like it!
I'm guessing those 14 years were pretty stable years. But I guarantee you that you would have cared what the publisher said and did if every time he said and did something, your life and the lives of your co-workers were upended.
Thanks 1:38 for providing most informative link of the day - Morningstar report. Excerpt: While Gannett improved its credit quality in the first quarter with leverage around 2 times, we're still disappointed (from a credit perspective) that the firm elected to double its dividend and resume share repurchases. With a Cash Flow Cushion just above 1 times our base-case expense and obligation forecast--before the effect of the increased dividend and share repurchases--we expect the firm's cash flow to just barely cover its debt and debtlike obligations. Longer term, we're also concerned about the firm's pension underfundedness. We would have preferred Gannett use its free cash flow toward reducing this liability before returning cash to shareholders.Link is http://torontostar.morningstar.ca/globalhome/industry/news.asp?articleid=387409
816, we in the newsroom hope you are correct.
The only thing bold and revolutionary about Gannett is the way they have systemically destroyed every paper they own and boldy stole money away from the workers. These people will never have an idea that will actually work, they don't want anything to work, they just want to bleed all the properties dry as long as they can to line their own wallets and those they have handpicked. If you think otherwise, you are completely mistaken.
JimI have finally gotten my papers, and I want to take a moment to thank you. If not for you, the past 3 years we would not have known about anything. But BECAUSE OF YOU, we were always knowledgeable about what might be or would be coming down the pike. Sure, there were rumors that turned out to be false, but for the most part, what we heard about came to pass. You should be very proud of all you have accomplished. I know I am.
9:44 I am correct and e haven't even discussed Beusse's Plan yet!!!! Good things coming. Hang in there friends. This is no bull!!!!
Unless the website plan involves staffing the thing with actual journalists with news judgement (Exhibit A: The New York Times) no revamp is going to attract more eyeballs or adverisers. Has Payne included any journalists who actually put the content out? Nah. Is this just fresh lipstick on a lackluster product, like the tepid Gannett branding campaign? Sure hope it isnt. We lived through House of Pain. We dont need the House of Payne.
Re: 7:08. Respectfully, the Philadelphia inquirer never made a real run for south jersey for the purpose of taking out the courier-post. The inky is a far superior product in all ways except its south jersey news section. They put out what they call a south jersey edition but it is laughable. Most often it has more non-jersey news. What is it that the inky does not understand about how to "take" south jersey suburbs?
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11:43 You're welcome!
12:04 I second your comment. Among many flaws in Hunke's reorg plan last summer was the thoroughly Corporate notion that USAT could eliminate dozens of newsroom positions while simultaneously doing a better job at covering news. I'm wondering if Payne's plan involves a revamped version of ContentOne; he was given a piece of that when Tara Connell retired in May. The reporting portion went to USAT's Chet Czarniak, where it was to be reorganized.
Jim, the real mess via the reorg came to an already top heavy management structure. In the newsrooms, that has left editors with lots of time to do nothing but meddle and go to meetings. There is a serious void in leadership, caused by transformational redundancies and bullshit titles. We are left wondering not why decisions are not being made, and who isnt stepping up to make them. There is a giant void. No accountability, no competence and unfortunately, little hope the problems brought by the bold, revolutionary transformation will be addressed. Simply streamlining management would help. Give these people some actual work to do or reassign them. Whatever payne has planned for usa today's website wont matter a hoot if you dont have the right people making decisions about editorial content. When and who will address that? Anyone?
Management at usa today may have a Big Plan, but no one actually knows what it is, how to communicate it and how to staff it. So we continue to have roughly a dozen senior managers stepping over themselves to pontificate at pointless meetings. Could someone (in editorial, please) take charge? We are only down 500,000 or so readers and continue to look like a laughingstock putting fluff in the paper and on line. Unfuckingnunbeleivable that this nonsense continues.
Journalists should worry more about reporting the news than being backseat CEOs, Marketers, Designers, Salesmen, and Developers.Maybe then the company would be in a better state all around.As far as Payne's plan goes, You'll know when you need to know. (And there were plenty of people from USAT at the meeting. If you weren't there, maybe you aren't important enough?)Besides, until things actually start happening, any great revelation is just going to make you have something else to complain about. Incidentally, as a digital employee, I saw the presentation and thought it was fantastic. Maybe we digital people have a different sense of the way news is consumed than the Great Holy Journalists.
I think one of the reason the blog seems to be saturated with journalists, too, is that Digital seems to be vastly more insulated from layoffs.You know, since it's actually making money. The Digital section seems to have far less to complain about, and much less of a need (than people in USP) to tell someone about it.
Wow, you're the only non-journalist to post here, that's pretty amazing. Oh wait, I'm in prepress so there must be two of us.Maybe you digital people have a different way of supporting yourselves, but the rest of us don't live in our parents' basements. We (and Gannett as a whole) actually need REAL income to pay for our fancy toys. To rephrase, when the fantastic presentations start generating revenue, then tell us a plan is good enough to wait for.
4:51 p.m. says: You'll know when you need to know.Like when Gannett keeps layoff plans in secret, until it's leaked on the blog? Yeah, that's a good thing. Not.
Jim: "Why hasn't the plan been shared with shareholders?"It was shared with Digital Staff (including USAT) and the board. I assume once the board approves the plan the rest of you will know what is behind it. I'm very surprised you didn't even know about it....
6:14 If it requires board of directors approval, that would come before any plan was shared with staff -- not after. The board always comes first.
11:52 a.m. and 7:46 p.m.,You forgot to mention losing our ONLY copy editor, technically 3 publishers down (if you count from a few years back) and one editor down.Also, almost lost the second story of the building to a dance studio. Can you imagine taking phone calls and writing while hearing music and tap dancing coming through the ceiling?Thank God that didn't happen.Also, should mention that if Gannett roles out its design studio in Des Moines, like it said it would in coming future, will be down possibly by whole design department or to 1 person there. 98% confident we work together. Refreshing and a relief to know some people I know check this blog and vent here, too. :) All 10 of us. LOL
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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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