Wednesday, August 03, 2011

USAT | In a dismissal, management on the rocks

Gannett has laid off thousands of employees since 2008, and many of us have been justifiably outraged over how they were treated.

But few individual layoffs have spurred as much indignation as I've seen since Ed Cassidy lost his job on Friday as USA Today's vice president of communications and event marketing. And I'm not the only one. Consider Anonymous@10:21 p.m., who wrote:

"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." (Read more such comments in this thread.)

Why the furor? Publisher Dave Hunke has been stuffing USAT's upper ranks with new six-figure executives faster than some people can knock back Chivas Regal on the rocks.

Indeed, one of them is Sandra Cordova Micek, who was hired as USAT's senior vice president of marketing just six weeks ago. She was Cassidy's new boss -- one of Hunke's 15 newly hired or promoted executives whose collective accomplishments have thus far eluded the rank-and-file.

The anger also is due at least partly to the way Hunke reportedly handled the aftermath of Cassidy's dismissal. I haven't seen a farewell memo this bone-headed since USAT advertising chief Gordon Lee Jones III wrote about Bruce Dewar's departure last August as vice president for advertising operations and administration.

Under the circumstances, Hunke's reference to a "communication lapse" is more than a little ironic:

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

Got a tragic memo? I'm all ears! 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. I agree with the comments about Ed Cassidy. For all of the mismanagement of the marketing department over the years, hiring Ed was the best decision a USA Today publisher has made in nearly a decade. As others have noted, staff and advertisers like, admire, and respect Ed. He always made the most with what little money and staff he had to work with. That's more than I can say for many executives at USA Today. That said, the way Ed's firing was carried out is telling. Just when you think USA Today management coudn't do anything that would surprise us, they sink to a new low. So this is what we can expect for the forseeable future, I guess.

  2. And they wonder why the rank and file have not bought-in to the Hunke transformation and the 46 new senior management people he's hired. They are incredibly arrogant, handle communications so poorly, and carry a "we-know-better-than-you" attitude. Funny thing is, for all their arrogance, they have very little to show for their time here. Maybe that's why they are no longer with their former companies.

  3. Plain and simple - the handling of Ed Cassidy's dismissal was atrocious. These people should be ashamed.

  4. Every group in USAT will feel Cassidy's loss. And you can count on impacts to several bottom lines too. Congratulations David L. Hunke on another inept decision. This is how Gannett recognizes the best. Maybe those of you in HR or the director of employee engagement monitoring this blog will have the guts to post Cassidy's reviews so we can see what he always brought to the table and then his lack of rewards and eventual treatment.

    I think Cassidy's biggest shortcoming was that he was never a woman working for Banikaram from one of her past jobs.

  5. Several of my customers would like to reach Cassidy. Anybody know his contact information?

  6. Ed Cassidy is on LinkedIn. Message him there. He is a very humble and honorable person so don't expect any bitterness on his part.

    He'll end up doing his usual great job for a more deserving company.

  7. HR, wake up. This is how you treat outstanding employees?

    Every single employee within Gannett should know this is how the company values you. Do everything right. Exceed all expectations. Give up all your weekends, evenings, and life for 15+ years only to be thrown out when some new manager takes she can bring in her own team. When Maryam Banikarim eventually resigns, people will be wishing Ed was here to clean up the mess.

  8. Gracia, where are you in this mess? You want to earn respect from the rank and file....speak up about what a mistake this was. Everything about firing Ed Cassidy speaks negatively about Gannett.

    Why should people care? He's just one guy. I'll tell you why. This firing represents everything that is wrong with your employee morale.

    You simply should not fire great people and leave incompetent people on the payroll....just because your new CMO felt like it. What the heck could Maryam Banikarim possibly know about Ed Cassidy's life long work and commitment to Gannett after only a few months on the job?

    It's just wrong. And the way it was handled was even worse.

  9. 3:09, Gannett stopped thinking of "Employees" long ago in favor of simply counting "Heads". Converts a caring, nurturing environment to a meat locker.

  10. Wow! How sad!
    Sorry for what happened to Ed, but after reading the article and comments coupled with the photo of Chivas Regal makes me wanna go and get my damn "Drink On!"

    Getting your drink on: Having a drink to improve your mood!

  11. Ed Cassidy's removal was handled just like all of the other lay offs - his *position was eliminated*.
    Per company policy, if a position is eliminated, the person occupying it has to go. This approach alone has led to the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of quality employees.
    Management's hands are clean ("It's not personal, but his Job was eliminated"), and they are rid of yet another long-time inconvenient, and expensive, employee.
    There was never any interest in retaining a quality employee, or Ed would have been asked to apply to a different job.
    Is this normal corporate strategy? Has anyone heard of other companies using this euphemism to get rid of employees?

  12. Hunke has long maintained that the only dept complaining about all of the upheaval is editorial. It is clear from this botched firing that the digust is far more widespread.

  13. Heh 3:21 out of curiosity how many years do you think Ed worked for Gannett? Life long? How long exactly

  14. 9:12 if you are management trying to make a point, you are not welcome here. You clearly miss the entire point of how disgusted everyone at USAT is in this botched removal of an exemplary and well-liked employee.

    NO rationale makes any sense. There are no good excuses.
    Go back to your spreadsheet and find another scalp to wack.

  15. According to Ed's linkedin profile, he had been here since 2005. Does the amount of time you have been here matter when your departure is handled in such a shitty manner? Hunke and his team have no compasion for anything than their fat salaries and membership in the club of the clueless.

  16. Ed had been with Gannett since 1994. He did such a great job in Fla and Nashville that he was promoted to USAT.

    16 years.

  17. Ed Cassidy was as professional and dedicated as they come. So were many others who had their jobs "eliminated" and shown the door in such a cold, shitty way. I was one of them. Loyal, dedicated, 12+ hour days, award-winning, results-driven, excellent reviews, etc. But IT DOESN'T MATTER. It is very apparent that when you hit 50+ you make more money than Gannett wants to pay since they think they can get the same job done under another title by someone else with less experience for less money. Never mind the quality of the work, the strategy or expertise. They don't give a crap and have no respect or understanding of what you provide. Remember, it's not personal -- you are just an expense number. If any Gannett employee has any doubt that it can't happen to you because you are so darn good and irreplaceable, you are fooling yourself. Sad that it is this way and the company doesn't recognize, respect and embrace the years of experience and quality work loyal, dedicated employees like Ed and so many, many others have provided. Instead they "eliminate" their jobs knowing full well the difficulty that finding a job is these days, especially for those 50+. So glad I dedicated my career to Gannett just to get screwed over.

  18. 10:31 you forgot he went to St Pete Times for five years in between Nashville and USAT.

  19. 10:49 sorry for your situation. Gosh this company is heartless. I hope you found work and life after Gannett. Everything you say is, unfortunately, the truth. Which is why every employee is at risk....every single one.

  20. When are you going to wake up? Hunke doesnt give a damn about you.

  21. 11:42 PM Hunke isn't the only one!

  22. Im in my fifties and ive been running up substantial health insurance costs through our medical plan. Now im worried this will be factored in when the next round of layoffs comes. Should I be worried?

  23. I have been reading this blog for years. Usually when someone is fired, there might be some support and a few haters. I have never seen this kind of 100 percent support for anybody. And people seem really pissed.

    I don't know Ed, but someone really f'd up letting this guy go.

  24. Ed Cassidy lived USA today. Sit in a meeting with him and he was the best in ways he thought we could advance USA Today. Didn't matter if it was with the newspaper - he called it the print product which was annoying sometimes, websites, for advertisers, all our failing mobile projects, even all those books and magazines we put out that went nowhere. He always had a plan for a way he thought we could "elevate" USA Today. That was his favorite word. Three days into this mess and all I can say is he is missed very much. Nobody ever gave him the credit for also "elevating" spirits around here when nobody else cared. We just think this is unbelievable. Who is really to blame? Hunke? Ellwood? Banikarim? Pence? Micek? Hyatt? Horning? The buck should stop with Martore. But to her Ed is just another salary she can pocket and pretend it is a transformation, consolidation, reorganization or whatever other smokescreen they put up.

  25. I give up trying to explain this stupid move to some perplexed associates. Just sending this link out. Maybe they can make sense out of firing him. I can't. We obviously can't turn to our PR crisis manager to dig us out of this one.

  26. I would bet Dave and Maryam are spending most of their days now trying to figure out how to put out this Cassidy fire raging that they so ignorantly ignited. Dismissing, discreditng and demeaning usually is the best Gannett approach, right Dave? And Maryam is already hard at work doing just that.

  27. Hunke is a milquetoast. (Well, scotch-toast, but that's another discussion.) He delegates everything of importance to incompetents while he flies around the country, speaking to Rotary and other local business organizations. That kind of activity is fine for a metro publisher, but not for the head of the formerly largest paper in the country.

    And, oh, the irony: Ed Cassidy wrote and produced the presentation that Hunke trots out during these visits. In fact, Hunke doesn't say much that's coherent and did not come from Cassidy's keyboard.

    If, as others have said, Banikarim had a hand in Cassidy’s position being cut, then it’s doubly bad on Hunke, as he allowed that to happen to the one person who’s kept him afloat since he arrived. (And, it’s worth noting, was not among the cadre of know-nothings assembled by Hunke himself.) If the cut was Hunke’s doing, it’s even worse as he repays dedication and performance “above and beyond” with treachery.

    I have no doubt that Hunke will get his due and be on his way soon. It’s just sad that he’ll have made a fortune before that happens, and that he gave a good shove to a paper that was teetering on the brink. I don’t want to be around when it hits bottom.

  28. 9:39am Thanks for stopping by Robin Pence. You survived the Maryam hatchett this round at the expence of Ed Cassidy but you won't survive forever.

    The fact that Robin Pence is still in PR at Gannett and the best PR person in the company, Ed Cassidy, is gone says it all about how inadequate Maryam is as a CMO.

  29. A solid, well-liked, productive employee like Ed Cassidy gets the boot, but cast-offs from other companies stay on here to guide this ship toward the rocks. You can't make this stuff up.


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