Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Mail | Westchester's collapse a GCI-wide 'shame'

Anonymous@11:45 p.m. yesterday wrote the following about The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. Its circulation is 77,102 weekdays, and 103,582 Sundays.

The collapse of Westchester financially and editorially is a shame to the entire company. Westchester is one of the top markets in the country, where many of the biggest media and ad bigshots commute home. And yet Gannett treats it like a small market paper.

Don't let anyone rewrite history: Westchester had its moments, but it was never a player in the metropolitan area, never coming close to Newsday on Long Island or the Bergen Record across the river.

A lot of good people came out of there over the years, but once the papers became unified and stopped covering the local communities, there was really no reason for the Journal News to exist anymore.

This isn't an obit. The paper is not dead yet. And the sale of the building only means the operation is moving to new, slicker digs.

The Journal News needs a total redo, though. Drop the idiotic "Lo-Hud" identity (it's not fooling anybody and it is quite racist and journalistic red-lining -- denying the market's Bronx/Yonkers/New Rochelle nexis. It's like people in Eastchester claiming to have a Scarsdale address. Advertisers aren't fooled and the average Westchester resident has no idea they are in a "valley.'' Idiotic for a decade now.)

If Westchester won't invest in community reporting (there are a few markets as divided into very self-aware cities, towns and villages as Westchester is), then become a metro area powerhouse and begin covering the movers and shakers who live in the county.

Cover Albany again, like when people like Adam Nagourney and Jeff Stinson were there; cover New York City (fer crissakes). Be a player and stop quivering in the shadow of New York media.

The irrelevance of the Journal News is not lost on advertising executives who live in Westchester. Shake them up with great reporting and relevant coverage.

It can be done. But Westchester has one last chance to become a 21st Century player. It needs vision and something old (reporting), and something new (a digital attude). Showing photos of drunk Iona students on a Saturday night isn't cutting it.

54 comments:

  1. This is a very perceptive comment. I worked in Westchester in 91-93, during the change from Larry Beaupre to Ken Paulson, and not too long before the consolidation and adoption of the Journal News identity. When that move was made, I thought it was a good idea -- I thought Gannett might have been setting itself up to become the Newsday of Westchester. Apparently they either didn't pull it off successfully, or never really intended to in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Newsday plan would have cost money -- something we couldn't generate ourselves. And when Gannett walked away from adding the Greenwich and Stamford news operations because it didn't want to deal with union contracts, the handwriting on the wall started to glow.
    (By the way, even Newsday could not keep up the Newsday plan, brought down -- as usual -- by arrogance, ego, fear and fabrication.)
    But back to the question at hand. A previous poster suggested the site was going to fold in September. What exactly does that mean and where is a shred of support for that statement? If you're simply following the path of downsizing, can't you say that about a dozen other properties?

    ReplyDelete
  3. What's sad is this: Out of a population of just under 1 million in Westchester County, the circulation is dropping like a rock.

    Add Rockland (300,000) and Putnam (100,000)counties.

    Gannett should be ashamed! Bring back the 9 LOCAL dailies.

    ReplyDelete
  4. or spin them off to 9 local groups.
    or offer them as turnkey franchises to local entrepreneurs.
    or turn the whole shebang over to the SUNY Purchase journalism program.
    No one has yet to say that there's enough money in any of these communities to support anything close to what the editorial types here desire.
    Yes, people have high incomes. But how do you serve even those people -- not to mention Mount Vernon and Yonkers -- with advertising from pizza shops, hair salons and Botox centers?

    ReplyDelete
  5. To be clear, what is actually happening is Gannett is selling The Journal News building in Harriso (off the Cross-Westchester Expressway near White Plains).

    It is NOT closing the paper, just moving. Whether that will entail the high number of job losses being mentioned, I don't know. But since the printing presses were there, perhaps those jobs will be farmed out.

    Sad.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Somebody just asked me what "Lo-Hud" means.

    It stands for Lower Hudson Valley, a marketing ploy to make people who live just north of the Bronx think they are part of the ritzy areas in northern Westchester and beyond.

    It is so crazy that to get to The Journal News website you have to know to go to lohud.com!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Westchester doesn't have a press. It also doesn't have finance, HR, ad building, photo toning and (soon) page designing, all of which have been outsourced to other corporate offices. What on earth could they sell? Who would buy such a stripped-down operation? And is this where we're going for every community newspaper site?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, 12:00 PM -- when you put it that way, it's pretty stark.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is becoming a broken record. How many papers can we say are going the same path as Westchester. You can't deny the pattern.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 12:00 you left out Marketing. They eliminated that too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The ex-publisher Fisch got the ball rolling on out sourcing everything. He had a big plan to save a lot of money but like he did in Honolulu, his ideas actually closed one paper and severely crippled the other. Too bad...many of us worked many years building our community papers here.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with what 12:00 is saying, so I'm curious why no competitor sees this and begins to move in on the territory. As other posters have said, this paper is not alone, and there are others in GCI that are in similar straits.
    So why wouldn't someone come in and take over? It is a quite attractive area demographically and in terms of income so it would seem still to be a good market for an old-fashioned newspaper. So why hasn't that happened, and if Westchester is getting weaker, will it happen soon in the future or never as long as Westchester publishes in some form. Thanks for any response.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The collapse of the Journal News really became irreversible after Tom Donovan and Henry Freeman collaborated to make one bad decision after another. That is, when these Keystone Kops weren't playing golf, watching the baseball games of Donovan or the then ME's sons or just plain being incompetent. Donovan is the ultimate scam artist. Gannett senior management has mistaken his confidence for competence. Freeman was the epitome of an incompetent Gannett exec that no one else, including the Baskin Robbins down the street, would have even considered hiring.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have NEVER heard anyone describe where they live as the lower hudson valley!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Where's Shelly Lyons when we need him?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Is the circulation of The Poughkeepsie Journal added into the Journal News numbers?

    ReplyDelete
  17. When a newspaper confuses people about where they actually LIVE, the trust begins to fray right there.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Why were the last posts removed? It's a thread about Westchester, let the people talk about it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Exactly, Jim. What was so objectionable about the comments that were removed? Please shed some light. It's a real red flag and makes one hesitant to post honestly.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I knew who the posts were talking about but feel Jim did the right thing.

    If this blog allows people to be attacked indiscriminantly (especially non-executives), by names or initials, then it will become even more venomous than it already is at times.

    It is a tough call, but leaning on the side of class is not a bad thing. Accusing people of being ignorant, not knowing their craft and similar is just character assassination.

    What is at stake at Gannett, and at Westchester, goes far beyond whether a graphics manager knew his color wheel.

    I think the more Jim keeps things non-personal in an era when every single Gannett property is seething mad with rightfully pissed off staff members, fired staffers and scared employees, the better off the blog will be.

    The blog is angry enough without things getting needlessly personal.

    Jim allows a lot of crappy comments and slurs, too many in fact. But I support Jim on this one and hope it signals a careful balance between an open forum and some kind of crowd control.

    ReplyDelete
  26. For a blogger who starts off his "comments disclaimer" with the sentences "Proceed with caution. This is a free-for-all comment zone.", I think the removal of the recent thread was lame. It wasn't at all personal...didn't call the people being discussed a-holes or anything. The comments merely reflected the opinion that some people in very critical positions in Westchester contributed to the ongoing decline of that property. If opinions like that can't be voiced why have a post with the headline "Westchester's collapse a GCI-wide 'shame'"?

    ReplyDelete
  27. 12:02 - well said. I can't imagine the comments were in any way unfair given the utter incompetence at the Journal News the last fews years. Please repost the comments all. Hopefully Jim will now see the need for a free exchange for info/opinion and, yes, outing of incompetent leadership.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The problem is anyone with a grudge or mischief can '"out" anyone whether it is true or not.

    ReplyDelete
  29. 12:02, you are a tool. Your concluding question proves you are a clueless idiot.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Let's face it. It has been, as the headline here suggests, a total COLLAPSE at the Journal News. Given you wrote the headline Jim, please allow those in the know to detail why this collapse occurred in detail. Is it a train wreck? Yes. But the story needs to be told. Don't suppress their first amendment rights in doing so Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  31. 12:49 - how are the cases of Diet Cokes holding up in retirement?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Actually "retirement" isn't quite accurate. Being shown the door years too late is!

    ReplyDelete
  33. All: Moderating comments is ultimately a subjective matter. My goal is to leave as many comments posted as possible.

    I draw the line, however, at accusations of theft or other such wrongdoing -- as well as a high crime in journalism: plagiarism. Newsroom employees, especially, should be sensitive to that sin.

    So, for example, I removed a comment -- and several follow-ups, that included this sentence:

    "He would try to suck the knowledge and skills from talented designers and photographers and try to pass it off as his own. Three very talented and nice designers fled mid-way through his reign of terror and deception."

    I don't have any easy answers on how to post about a paper's downfall with details, but without unfairly or incorrectly describing an individual's performance.

    However, ask yourself each time: How would I feel if I read something like that about me?

    ReplyDelete
  34. CCI NewsGate is coming to Westchester, resulting in many more jobs being consolidated to the Asbury hub. Does anyone have any more details?

    ReplyDelete
  35. How would I feel if I read something like that about me? If it were true ( and the comments tho subjective, certainly hit the bullseye with the party in question), I guess I would have to face the music. Bottom line is after a 10 year "reign of terror" as it was described- they too were shown the door. And only two people cried- one being him. Karma!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Notice how the comments on this post stopped once Jim started to delete. If Jim thought that one of the comments was too harsh, why did he delete the other 5. In the past he he also deleted comments involving the individual in Westchester, my guess is that the individual threatened Jim in some way.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I've noticed people complaining about Jim's censorship before but I never paid much attention. I figured the complainers were some wingnuts that made over the top comments that deserved to be deleted. Having followed this thread and its removal, I have to say that I look at Jim and his policing of the blog a bit differently now. What I liked about this forum was that if I was willing to wade through a bit of nonsense, I would ultimately hear stories that told the unvarnished truth about this company and my site. If people in leadership rolls can't be criticized because it hurts Jim's feelings then this blog really only exists to satisfy Jim's vanity.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I believe this is a first: I'm accused of being soft on management.

    ReplyDelete
  39. 10:43 again...not soft on management, Jim. You just lack the stomach for real honesty. As long as you're slinging criticism at the top executives anything goes. What about the senior site managers that were all to happy to walk away with their six figure salaries and spout the latest corporate bs and didn't give a damn about the community trust they were betraying by their dereliction? I often felt that the person mentioned in the deleted posts was working with a different audience in mind than I was. He was concerned with pleasing the corporate clowns in Virginia and the local executive fraudster in the corner office. Maybe you have a certain compassion for middle-management, corporate kiss-asses because you feel their pain. All I know is that from my vantage point, the person who was the subject of the deleted posts was more responsible for the demise of The Journal News than any other individual.

    ReplyDelete
  40. 12:45 This post is a good example of how to write a comment without it being overly personal. You made your point without mentioning an individual, even by initials. Had the original comments been phrased this way, I would not have removed them.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Jim- you have deleted many posts concerning this particular individual in the past. Many. IS it because you worked with him at USA Today? And don't claim you don't know him- If you worked there, you knew him. He would have made sure of that! Maybe stop deleting the posts about him and read them. Every comment directed at him was deserved. He's the one who made the IT guys try and delete the infamous e-mail sent to CD by mistake by one of his "Protected hires"while he crapped all over the hard working and very talented staff of folks who worked there before he came in and ruined the place. When he was put in charge of layoffs, he went after everyone who wasn't on his "team" regardless of what they brought to the paper which was far more than he ever did. The other posters are correct- he single handedly killed the place and nobody was sorry to see him go except one photo editor who he continually promoted for no apparent reason. The guy was poison and deserves to be called out for it in public. Like they say- he can't hurt you anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  42. 12:56, 7/7, you are a moron. A big moron. Contrary to your idiotic belief, the First Amendment does not guarantee someone the right to comment on a below-average, rumor-filled blog like this one.

    Please, spare us any more of your theories. You should not be involved in any discussions here. Please excuse yourself in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  43. 3:15 Does, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  44. 12:58 I worked at USAT from May 2000 to January 2008. Did this person work there during that period?

    ReplyDelete
  45. 5:05 The First Amendment guarantees certain rights of free expression, including free speech.

    But it doesn't guarantee such rights within specific venues, including award-winning blogs recording multi-million annual pageviews of exclusive Gannett news.

    ReplyDelete
  46. "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"

    There is no guarantee of anything there, except that a law shall not be passed.

    If I tell you to shut up or get out of my store, that is not a first amendment issue. If I tell you you can't write a story for my newspaper because your politics stink, that's not a first amendment issue. And I decide to delete your anonymous blathering on my blog, that isn't the first amendment either.

    The venue has nothing to do with it. The prohibition solely rests with the government making law against the practice.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Jim- His initials have been posted several times before you deleted them. I'll be clandestine so you don't have to delete this post. They are the 12th and 14th letters of the alphabet. He was at USAT from the beginning as a Photx Editox. He was demoted in 1999 and was subsequently banished to Westchester in late 2000. For reference purposes- he looks a lot like the una-bomber Ted Kasczinski

    ReplyDelete
  48. 10:43 again, Jim. If my last post was a good example of what you'd like to see on your blog then you are simply not utilizing your network of concerned Gannetteers both current and former. You are also not providing those people much in return. My post was a generic and forgettable sentiment that offered no specifics to allow folks outside of Westchester to understand who's incompetence and insecurity has eroded the creativity and morale in Westchester down to nothing. Why discuss the issue in rhetorical or theoretical terms? These people enjoyed tremendous financial compensation while they fiddled amongst the flames and I think that makes them fair game in the analyses of how it all went so wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  49. In the spirit of 'take the best, leave the rest' I will "take" 12:58 AM's point that there are two types of employees: those who belong to us and those who belong to them. I knew the guy in question and he definitely belonged to the corporate criminals who have been robbing my paycheck. The idea that he single handed killed the place is a bunch of hyper boil. The point is...there are still people in Westchester middle management who still belong to "them."

    ReplyDelete
  50. 5:05, you are pathetically stupid. That brief post has to be the dumbest one here in some time.

    Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, Jim. That self-congratulatory post was almost as bad.

    By the way, "It's" is incorrect at the start of this topic. Has been for a week now. Fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  51. 8:07 Thank you for pointing out that typo. I've now fixed it.

    Occasionally, I post from my iPhone, which has an auto-correct feature that doesn't always work to my advantage.

    ReplyDelete
  52. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Here's an edited version of a comment posted at 1:21 a.m. (I've removed some names because the poster hasn't offered evidence that these people have "little or no education." No education? That's highly, highly doubtful.

    History of bad decisions leading to the demise of The Journal News, symbolic of Gannett's eventual downfall:
    1. Consolidating papers under one masthead lost decades of brand awareness and ignored the way communities in Westchester and Rockland Counties worked.
    2. Putting Gary Sherlock in any sort of management position. What an out-of-touch corporate survivor. No connection to the market whatsoever, and a despot who didn't respect employees.
    3. Allowing a culture of poor performance to continue, advancing those with little or no education, leadership skills or connection to the market [XXX] to management positions.
    4. Unwillingness to innovate in the digital space.
    5. "Punch clock" culture, no sharing in successes or investment in employees. Human Resources was designed to protect the company and considered employees numbers.
    Newspapers will go the way of the rest of the heavy, industrial age companies, while new, young, entrepreneurial companies will fill the gap. Run, Gannetteers, while you still can!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Jumping in late here, but in reference to the indivdual who "would try to suck the knowledge and skills from talented designers and photographers and try to pass it off as his own. Three very talented and nice designers fled mid-way through his reign of terror and deception." ... I am personally "acquainted" with said person. And comment about said person's MO is entirely relevant to how the TJN systematically persecuted talented individuals who bled for this paper while he pulled down a six-figure salary, pulling me and several other coworkers into his office privately on many occasions to ask our opinions, then taking our ideas and running with them in public. Such was the atmosphere after his predecessor, NB, a true legend in the business, left the newsroom (how we got her I still don't know, and her departure was the beginning of the end of a glimmer of brilliance for the paper). Every workplace has its political intrigue, grudges, ego battles, turf wars, etc. But the behavior I personally endured in such a "nice, corporate" environment still staggers me. At least many of us got out with our good names intact. I would gladly have remained and kept fighting the good fight, horrible hours and all, if the deeply insulting behavior had been curtailed. Some uppers there pulled behavior that would have gotten them their tails kicked in a bar fight; but in Gannett parlance they were "change agents," I suppose. Rest assured, no one in the Put/West/Rock circulation area will notice the absence of TJN if/when it finally goes under.

    ReplyDelete

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.