Monday, August 01, 2011

Aug. 1-7 | Your News & Comments: Part 1

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  1. From: Hunke, David
    Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2011

    Subject: Ed Cassidy


    I understand a number of you are hearing this news from staff members. I apologize for the communication lapse.

    Ed Cassidy’s position of VP/Communication and Event Marketing for USA Today was eliminated today, and Ed was informed early this afternoon.

    Sandra was able to communicate this news in person with the majority of the staff from Ed’s area. I believe she plans to meet with the entire USA Today marketing group on Monday and more fully explore organizational impact.

    David L. Hunke
    President and Publisher
    USA Today
    7950 Jones Branch Drive
    McLean, Va. 22108

  2. 1. Gannett has been having trouble refinancing some of it's debt that recently needed to be covered. Mr. Saleh has proven that he might not be as much of a financial wizard as one would have expected. Ms. Martore had to get involved, like a good micro manager.

    2. New hires in Gannett Digital will form the basis of a major restructuring to be announced soon. Newly hired SVP of Mobile and VP of Digital/GM. Both these new hires will replace Matt Jones and Josh Resnik, respectively.

    3. USCP is now under attack from the powers to be in Corporate Finance. It seems like the $55 million in incremental new revenue from the Yahoo Ppartnership only added a paltry $2.5 million. Heads are going to roll.

    4. Deal Chicken - Costs too much and is very disorganized. Seems like competing with Living Social (another local DC company) is creating problems for Gannett. Furthermore, local reps are now charged with getting more Deals for Chicken! This is coming at the expense of print advertisement.

    5. USAT - going to report some horrific numbers this quarter. circa down considerably, paid advertisements are no more than FOUR each day!

  3. 8:09 And the hits keep on comin'!

    Regarding a reorganization of USAT's communications operations, Hunke says: "I apologize for the communication lapse."

    Weeks until Susie Ellwood puts Hunke out of his misery _____ ?

  4. All the wasted chatter about a funny sounding name.The Gannett world is crumbling ,your job has a short life span,you will be unemployed like 14 million Americans and you come here with no more than name critics.
    The debt deal compromise will further weaken the economy and will greatly speed up the demise of your position and all of Gannettland.By all means,let's waste another day laughing about a sexual sounding name!

  5. Sandra's first job as SVP Marketing for USAToday? Cut jobs so we can afford Sandra....and other top execs recently hired. Nobody is safe. Crazy Making. The place has reached a new level of insanity.

  6. All the old timers will be cut, new blood brought in, and they will all last less than two years and be gone. Why? Because if they are good, they won't survive the chaos of USAToday management. Sad to see the paper become what it has under such incompetent management.

  7. Sandra....were you even in McLean when this happened to Ed? Or in NYC?
    Talk about a slap in the face to someone who has served Gannett for many years. Ed, hang in there. You're a gent and you will be better off. Gannett treats people terribly.
    Sandra messed this one up, not Hunke.

  8. Not directly a Gannett question, but I think folks might be able to have some insight on this: Anyone ever gone from print (and web) to broadcast? I see some reporting openings in the broadcast realm near me, mainly radio, with, the ads say, some multimedia production. Unless you count listening to NPR daily and some of the local commercial stations (ha!), I have no broadcast experience whatsoever. But I've been at this racket for 20-plus years as a reporter and editor in various roles. I think I'd be up against people with a couple to a few years broadcast experience but not a lot of years in journalism in general, and who are new to the area. Should I even bother? Fact is, broadcasting seems to be holding its own, more or less, while clearly print, while not going away completely, is, um, restructuring to put it politely, especially this company. Would putting together an application be a waste of time? Thoughts?

  9. My boss: isn't it a little early to predict #5?

  10. Hunke says, "I apologize for the communication lapse."

    Which one, out of the last 157?

  11. I work for one of the fairly larger papers of Gannett. My bosses comment to number 5 is not too early a comment to make. The same is happening at our place after some layoffs. Advertising is way down along with circulation. The real estate market along with other outlets for advertising venues have hurt the industry. How long can you keep cutting for? The product integrity has already gone way down. Your not getting those readers back. So what else is left,consolidation of papers,selling newspapers to private industry,furloughs and as many cuts as Gannett can get away with. They are obviously headed in a different direction than print. Some people will always love to read the paper but with information technology the way it's zooming, there won't be too many of us dinosaurs left. Good luck to all,hang in there.

  12. 9:42, great question. I've been in print 24 years, but what I know about broadcast would fit on a 3x5 note card. Hope you get some answers as to whether anything would translate.

  13. It's hard to imagine a company as self-destructive as Gannett. With a couple of exceptions, its newspapers, most of which were never any good under Gannett ownership, are simply awful. Why would anyone want to buy them? Why would anyone want to advertise in them? And why would anyone want to work for them? News people seem to be ordered to concentrate on fluff and skin shots. Ad salespeople are being squeezed more than ever. Management has an inflated sense of self-importance, and workers are threatened with dismissal if they dare to speak up. What an atrocious setting.

  14. Cincinnati's latest follow-up on the drunk, stripper-escorting, Viagra-laced politician goes no further in enlightening its readers about this hilarious escapade. Talk about rote coverage, it just reports how the politician wants a trial. No additional background on the stripper or the politician's fondness for her place of work. No interviews with strippers about the politician's preferences. How did Carolyn Washburn ever get into the news business?

  15. MyBoss #4. It doesn't surprise me the the corporate version of Deal Chicken is not working. It worked well in Phoenix because you had people that knew what they were doing and did it in a very cost effective way. Instead of following a model that worked corporate added a lot of unnecessary overhead and made the process overly complected. It is typical of them to take a great idea from one of the sites and over think it to the point that it no longer works (can you say Moms?).

  16. Anonymous 8:45 AM said:

    "you will be unemployed like 14 million Americans"

    The NEW figure is 18 million and some in Washington have even quoted it being as high as 24 million!

    Anyone can Google it!

  17. My Boss #3: Any word about RIFs for the third quarter? Fourth?

  18. Huge amount of management bloat at Usa Today, thanks to Hunke's reorg, verticals and veep hiring binge. Most senior managers in editorial should be converted to reporters or providing stewardship to the website. Vertical managers are useless and do nothing. Why do we need 15 vice presidents on the business side? All told, a good 20 to 30 six figure jobs could be cut with no degradation to the product. Things might actually run more smoothly.Morale would certainly improve. I hope someone is listening.

  19. 12:13 Gannett and USAToday care only about profits and revenues. I imagine this reorg will be given 6 more months and if Hunke can't show real numbers, he is out....and so will be all his hires.

    What everyone forgets is without edit, there is no business model: no readers and no advertisers. My heart continues to go out to the newsroom (yep the newsroom, not the information center). And to all the new hires, I wouldn't bother hanging pictures in my office.

  20. Washburn in way, way, way over her head. Heck, she wants to turn the nearly empty West Chester bureau into some place where the community can come in and discuss issues. They don't have enough reporters up there as it is and she wants them to work with the public coming and going? Maybe, she should resign and sign on with the Green Township weekly if there is one.

  21. Why do these bonehead editors think people want to come into newspaper offices and "discuss issues"? Do they really think that newspapers are relevant in people's lives anymore? People who want to rant about issues call into talk radio from the comfort of their homes! Sheesh!

  22. As a former colleague of Ed. Cassidy, I am dumbfounded to find out today that he is gone. Ed. lived that job 24/7/365 since brought in by Moon. He's cleaned up after Hunke for more than two years, and kept quiet even bigger gaffes than the ones we've seen made public.

    Ed., I'm very sorry to see you treated like this. I hope that Hunke and his cadre of do-nothing minions are dealt with the same way.

  23. Circulation head Brad Jones should be fired for allowing the layers of fat to exist in his department. Why does the field need 3 VP's, numerous GM's, CD's, RMD's and CM's when they farm out delivery of the majority of their circulation? GM's relinquished the accounting side of the business years ago, but still get paid like they're doing the same job. How much longer can they justify all these positioons if circulation losses mount?

  24. Ed is a gentleman, a professional, and one of the good ones. He deserves to be treated better than this. Another example of letting all the talent go and hiring all the empty suits.
    USAToday on life support.

    Ed, you are a class act. Hang tough.
    Moon had his issues but he was far more of a Publisher than Hunke will ever be and 10 times a better man.

    I imagine this is the new SVP Marketing trying to free up dollars to justify her own new job.

    Warning Ms. Sandra Micek....what comes around goes around. This will be a very short assignment.

  25. The last press release Ed wrote for USAT was announcing Ms. Micek's hiring. Then he took care of all the execs while they wined and dined in Cannes as he worked his ass off. When they all returned, Ms. Micek fires him. Disgraceful.

    I used to drink the kool-aid but USAT is full of jack asses in the senior ranks.


  26. Ed deserved better than this. He killed himself on a daily basis trying to meet publisher and Gannett demands. He had a long history with the company, with Moon and Hunke and Ellwood.

    A dismissive email about a job elimination does not capture a long career of dedication and service.

    Hope you gave them hell Ed!

  27. All I know is that there are too many USAT chiefs who dont know jack about anything. Going to meetings does NOT justify your existence.

  28. Nice touch, Hunke. Why didnt your Director of Employee Disengagement handle this?

  29. Fort Myers seeks "Passion Topics" from readers...

  30. Ed was a very good man who gave the best years of his life to The Nation's Newspaper. Little did he know that the title upgrades and salary increases he accepted through the years, in exchange for his loyal service, would someday place him into a setting where his position would be sacrificed to pay for a VP/Buzzword and his duties given to someone making half as much as he did.

    No matter, however. USAT has jumped the shark. I'm not saying it's dead and, indeed, the body has a few twitches in it. Dave and his team will slow the rate of decline, for sure. The biggest issue, however, is the loss of meaningful circulation. The hotel distribution model will soon fade away. Then what?

  31. Ed is a class act and his departure leaves a huge void for USA TODAY. His knowledge and reputation with clients is unparalled. Now that he no longer has to deal with the USA TODAY chaos he can work for a company that will appreciate his efforts and expertise.

  32. Hunke is too busy hiring people out of their element for jobs that defy description to worry about doing the right thing. Thanks, Dave. Once again, your tone deaf cluelessness is spot on.

  33. " Anyone ever gone from print (and web) to broadcast? ..."

    Where have you been for the last, oh, 20 years? Print reporters making this transition is par for the course now -- in news, business and ESPECIALLY sports. Any sportswriter in a reasonably sized city metro can get their own radio show.

    As for training: Talk on the radio like you talk to your friends. TV requires more polish.

    And then there are always podcasts on ITunes. Literally millions of them. Good luck.

  34. Washburn is a top editor because she is a coward, a bully and a toad. She has no friends. Some fear her because that's how she operates but few who work in her newsroom respect her. Gannett likes her because she drops the axe on staff without questioning her bosses. Then she hides at home on firing day. She used to host holiday parties for staffers at her home and made people sign in. There were drawings for prizes but you had to be there to win. That's how she knew who came and who ducked out early. Her employees wonder what a shrink would have to say about that.

  35. Don't know Mr. Cassidy, but the way he was treated is shameful. The people who let him go have no class - or management 101 skills. Just another clue about how they run the company. Still, Gannett never really had any good old days. Neuharth, Curley, Watson, Currie, Silverman and Neuharth's pets at Freedom Forum, Overby, Paulson, Blake are manipulative, spiteful. They are surrounded by scared suckups and terrified workers. They must be jealous because this current group running the Big G into oblivion are fleecing the company more than they could.

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

  37. I didn't know Ed Cassidy, but I have heard he organized many great events for Hunke and the ad team. He is one more example of a professional who turned into a number rather than a name. They just wanted to cut a cost. The same happened in circulation as Tom Kelly, VP of West cut two longterm producing sales managers in Phoenix and Seattle. The company is top heavy and making desperate decisions. It is very sad how good performance doesn't even matter any more. Everyone is just an expense.

  38. @3:13. That's just cruel, your post will be down before many read it hopefully.

  39. All of the class acts from GCI and USAT in McLean were canned or are gone. That characterization no longer exists with what remains in Crystal Palace today.

  40. I hope they at least gave Ed a number to call so that he could get any of his questions about the severance package answered.

  41. Anyone who is older, has core competency and questions The Man (or woman) is shit out of luck these days. Cathy lee Grossman's reward for speaking out vs. Dave Hunke? They pulled her religion blog, one of the most popular at Usa Today. This place is going into the toilet, faster than a moist turd.

  42. Dubow has now spoken ...

    A Message From:

    Craig A. Dubow
    Chief Executive Officer

    I want to take this opportunity to give you an update on the strategic plans we are undertaking to position Gannett for long-term success.

    As a 100-plus year-old news and information company, our footprint in our communities is solid and deep. That footprint widens as we build our news gathering businesses digitally and give our sales teams more tools to help solve marketers’ needs. Our goal is to ensure that we become even more vital to our communities, consumers and customers.

    On July 19th, we shared with the Board of Directors the strategic initiatives that many of your colleagues have been working on since February. And I’m excited to tell you that the Board members enthusiastically supported the overall direction we are pursuing.

    Before I give you a sense of where we are headed, I want to highlight the ongoing rollout of DealChicken, which is now live in 10 of our markets. We have feet on the street in these markets and communities; we are adding daily deals to the suite of marketing solutions we offer; and we know the local businesses’ needs, giving us the ability to effectively serve both merchants and consumers better than the competition. We plan to have DealChicken launched in 50 markets by year’s end.

    The reason I focus on DealChicken is because it’s a good example of how we are evolving not only our business, but also our culture to do things differently and work together as one company. DealChicken is a business born of a local market innovation in Phoenix that leverages Clipper’s existing deal platform Double Take Deals, and is now rolling out nationally. It was approved outside our regular budget cycle. And the speed with which it went to market – about 30 days to develop a business plan and about 90 days thereafter to launch – exemplifies our commitment to becoming more nimble, collaborative and bold.

    But let me get back to telling you about where we are headed. At this past Board meeting, several opportunities identified by your colleagues as part of our ongoing growth initiatives were discussed. Four got the green light and are moving forward: the USA TODAY Sports Network; the re-launch of our core digital properties starting with; a digital video production center at WXIA (Atlanta); and the development of new local products and services for the advertisers we serve in USCP, Broadcast and Clipper.

    Our plan is to spend the next 90 days further developing the business cases on other promising initiatives that resulted from these efforts, while simultaneously identifying the competencies and additional resources needed to build and execute on these plans. This next phase of work will be presented to the Board at our October meeting.

    My commitment to you is to keep our lines of communication open so that you are kept abreast of where we are headed. Thank you for being at the forefront of delivering news and information as we continue serving all our communities.

  43. A new missive from CDB dropped on Gannettoids this afternoon. It outlines the "strategic initiatives" the Blasted Crystal Palace is pursuing.

    CDB raves about DealChicken and how successful it's been in Phoenix and cites it as an example of "how we (Gannett) are evolving not only our business, but also our culture to do things differently and work together as one company."

    He then enumerates "where we are headed" with "ongoing growth initiatives":
    1) The USA Today Sports Network
    2) relaunch of our core digital properties starting with
    3) a digital video production center at WXIA in Atlanta
    4) the development of new local products and services for the advertisers we serve in USCP, Broadcast and Clipper.

    He said they plan to spend the next 90 days further developing the business cases on other promising initiatives that resulted from their efforts with more plans to be presented to the board in October.

    Closes with paragraph about open lines of communication and a commitment to keep us to keep employees informed of future changes. (Paraphrasing)

  44. SPOT ON, 11:15 am!

    Anonymous said...

    It's hard to imagine a company as self-destructive as Gannett. With a couple of exceptions, its newspapers, most of which were never any good under Gannett ownership, are simply awful. Why would anyone want to buy them? Why would anyone want to advertise in them? And why would anyone want to work for them? News people seem to be ordered to concentrate on fluff and skin shots. Ad salespeople are being squeezed more than ever. Management has an inflated sense of self-importance, and workers are threatened with dismissal if they dare to speak up. What an atrocious setting.
    8/01/2011 11:15 AM

  45. So, less than six weeks after Sandra Cordova Micek was made SVP over USA Today marketing, she's already claimed her first scalp.


    I wonder what we can now look forward to from Chief Marketing Officer Maryam Banikarim? After all, it was Banikarim who brought Micek into the mix in the first place.

  46. 4:21 thanks for the belly laugh. Folks should be outraged about the Religion Blog! Oh good one!!!! I needed that!

  47. Have to hand it to CD, who says nothing in these notes to the troops missives. Still unclear what he is saying, if anything. At least he has cut most of the useless jargon.

  48. 5:57 I will tell you what you can Look forward to.....change! Whatever we've been doing has been a failure. It's time for new directions or it's over. The haters will continue to hate and quite frankly should get out, but they won't. This whole new team is going to ruffle feathers. Sorry but aren't we all tired of failure and layoffs? Let's rally around anyone with a new vision. I'm sick and tired of losing. Rev it up Maryam, David, Tom, whom ever. I dont know about you but I want to feel excited and cocky again. Bring it on!!!!!!

  49. A. 8/01/2011 11:22 AM asks:
    How did Carolyn Washburn ever get into the news business?

    By being the nastiest, most abusive bully I have ever seen in a business setting. I left rather than work for her when I was finally presented with that option. Nothing you could say would be too strong. She has no knowledge, skill or talent, but that isn't what anyone is looking for at the top in Gannett these days. Plus the number of things she has said openly in meetings that are actionable is unbelievable.

    B. The Gannett culture does bleed through here, such as the bully making fun of eliminating a religion blog. You don't care, so all the readers shouldn't? Why be so hateful for no reason?

    C. As for the sad elimination (and horrendous treatment of it) today at USAT, I found it very similar when Karen Crotchfelt went to Indy relatively recently. She didn't let grass grow under her feet before demoting the VP/Marketing and then shortly after that unceremoniously eliminating him. She could have waited just one week and made it part of the layoffs, so that it wasn't so bullying and personal. But no. That's not her way.

    Why? She, for the most part, made her bones in marketing (before eating up everything else like the black widow she is), so she kills whatever is closest. The same thing happened today in McLean. If the person involved is talented and dedicated, it only speeds his or her demise.

    I hate this company and the bone-picking demons left to run it.

  50. Jim, Maryam Banikarim first fired Micek's predecessor, and then Ed Cassidy.
    Let me guess, she has a new PR/event person from NBC joining USAT soon?
    Ed did not deserve this.

    I have never seen so many people show up on this blog with such outpouring of disgust over the firing of a single employee. People love Ed. Advertisers love Ed. The media loves Ed. He was a loyal hard working USAT employee.

    Maryam and Sandra, shame on you. This one was a huge mistake.

  51. Or maybe Maryam just gave Robin a new staff.

  52. Maryam has been in Gannett long enough to have done Something. Yet, nothing is coming out of that office that is the least bit innovative. We are so screwed.

  53. 6:36,
    I think most people at USAT recognize we need change, but the way this crew has gone about it has been all wrong. They've treated legacy employees like diseases while they strut around thinking they have all the answers. If they had ANY answers, they'd still be employed at their former companies. They're all cast-offs from other firms who didn't think they could cut it anymore. That's the kind of people Hunke has assembled.

    Their message would have been much better received if we weren't viewed as part of the problem. Until they do that, they can expect a far less than enthusiastic reaction to their transformation. Their arrogance is unprecedented.

  54. 6:36 raises some good points. The newbies talk the talk, but that is it. There are fundamental problems with the product. Just two or three stories on page fronts with little news value. Structural problems with post transformation management, a poorly though out verticals strategy. I could go on. But you have to fix the basics before you go out and hire "experts" for non descript jobs, hoping for some sort of magical exlixir which will cure inherent organizational problems. And you cant address the organizational problems merely by pushing talent out the door, hoping that the newbies have the right answers. Hillkirk needs to streamline the management structure of the newsroom and focus the product on NEWS, both print and online. The website needs a long overdue overhaul that goes beyond a redesign. It needs a news orirnted leader. If the verticals arent phlling in readers or ads, Hunke needs to change leadership or pull the plug. Finally, all these business side vice presidential hires need to demonstrate what tangible results they are bringing to the table.


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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