Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sept. 19-25 | Your News & Comments: Part 6

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  1. I find it rather amusing that one (or a handful of people) in the last thread were defending the bloated management at Gannett as necessary so that the rank and file will have positions to be promoted into.

    The rank and file will not be promoted into these positions not because they don't exist but because the rank and file are being fired to maintain those positions.

    If a company is to truly "right size," as Gannett keeps saying it is, it needs to start with management and then cut the larger staff as needed. Then, once the company is smaller overall, it will have the "right" number of management positions, and the remaining rank and file will have a shot at being promoted to those jobs.

    This notion is silly in other ways, too. For instance, anyone who wants more money has always been better getting "promoted" to another paper. I've seen countless co-workers get promoted to higher-ranking positions at the Gannett paper they worked for and see raises of something like 5%. Why? Because management knows exactly what they're making and knows they can get by with such a small bump.

    In the meantime, I spent my career jumping from property to property and company to company and would generally see raises of 20% or more each time.

    The argument that Gannett needs to maintain a bloated management staff because it's GOOD for the everyday employee is an argument that only someone in Gannett management would be silly enough to make. It would be funny ... if it wasn't such a sad indication of what the company deems worthy of executive pay.

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  3. 11:39, I think the days of being able to jump from paper to paper at will are finished.

    In fact, the concept that people needed to make those jumps was a big flaw in the newspaper hiring system.

    But I see you are one of those people who thinks that because something worked for you, then it should work for everyone. I generally ignore "advice" from those types of people because they have proved themselves to be closed-minded.

  4. Good points in your first two paragraphs, but unfair parting shot, 12:32. (I'm not 11:39, btw.) 11:39 made a lot of good points that needed to be made, because that string from yesterday justifying the inexplicably top-heavy GCI management structure because it's actually GOOD for employees was beyond absurd. Besides, it's a bad business model because, duh!, there are less people to do actual work.

    Agreed, however, that the days of newspaper hopping to get raises are over and that it was a lousy way to ask reporters to get paid decently in the first place. But I saw nothing offending in 11:39 reminding us of those old (and surely bygone) days.

  5. 3:28, no one was justifying a bloated management structure or saying it was good for employees. The refusal of you and others to look at any arguments without distorting them is why smackdowns have to be attached to some of these responses.

    No one said it was good across the board for employees. But I will say that some people here (probably many) have little management experience and don't really know what's involved. You can have the absolute bare minimum of managers needed, but then you will have problems. How do you cover vacations? Illnesses? Split shifts? Believe it or not, there are dayside people and nightside people. Plus, we have the Web.

    Also, and I hate to go into this issue because people here don't understand how benefits and work regulations are defined, but you need a few people who can work longer than a 37.5-hour week. Those people have to be salaried, and to do that, they generally (note the word generally here, for when people start distorting) need to be managers who actively manage other staffers.

    So your fantasy world with all sorts of writers and only a couple of editors probably cannot happen.

    In the future, please take more time to read and comprehend what's being said. When you reduce everything to the lowest common denominator and distort in the process, you lose the chance to get a respectful response.

  6. 12:32 -- This is 11:39, and you are probably right. It's not going to be as easy to jump from paper to paper today because there aren't that many jobs to jump to. I would argue, however, that it's going to almost as easy (and typically better for the employee) to jump from one paper to another than to stay with the same paper for what always amounts to minimal pay bumps. Neither scenario is going to be easy because papers are downsizing, all of which reinforces the fact that bloated management is a bad idea.

    4:14 -- I think most people would agree that management at Gannett is bloated, particularly when you look at the size of the workforce being managed. It wasn't always bloated, but positions of rank-and-file workers have been cut substantially, and management has seen only minimal cuts. When somebody argues that this is the proper way to do things, they are arguing for bloated management without coming right out and saying it.

    All of the problems you mention - vacations, illnesses, split shifts, etc. - are problems with the general workforce as well. The thing is, Gannett has cut that workforce to bare minimum while leaving its management structure largely intact. So, you have situations where the people who actually put the products out day to day are barely achieving that goal. But you have lots of folks - many of whom refuse to dirty their hands with non-management jobs - overseeing their work.

    I understand the value of people who can work more than 37.5. But if you're going to cut the size of your overall workforce, you don't need as many of them. At the property I work at, you have situations where one assignment editor is supervising five reporters. And there are many more editors in the building. It's ludicrous.

    I'm sure different properties have different structures, but we've had situations where there are three or four editors hanging around in the building but they are having trouble finding reporters to cover a story. Is that effective management?

  7. 5:38 nails it. Again.

    We comprehend what you're saying 4:14. We're not morons. But to protect GCI's incredibly out-of-whack top-heavy structure based upon your reasoning ("we need all of these managers because of vacations ... We need them because they work longer than 37.5 hours a week") is not only absurd. It's bad business.

  8. "When somebody argues that this is the proper way to do things, they are arguing for bloated management without coming right out and saying it."

    No one is arguing that. Again, read and try to comprehend. The argument is if you are going to keep calling for management cuts within your own organization, then you aren't necessarily helping yourself.

    The rest of what you say sort of makes sense. But you aren't going to have a situation where you have one or two managers for the whole newsroom, and then everyone reports to them. There are just too many things happening at different times of the day, seven days a week.

    Continuing to claim there should be that number of managers exposes a deeply rooted ignorance of what's happening.

  9. Read, 5:47. No one EVER said: "We need all of these managers."

    Try to say something sensible. Then you can claim you're not a moron. Stop distorting what was originally said.

    Deeply rooted ignorance of what's happening -- that's the conclusion that must be drawn from what you say.

  10. You know, we see this tack a lot here. Some people have to put everything into an either-or scenario before they can comment on it or understand it. It's sort of pathetic, but I guess that explains a lot about how things have transpired.

    With management, there are some posts that could be slashed. But there'd also be less need for some management if more of the people in the place could do the job they're supposed to do. I know a few people who would quickly lapse even more into non-productivity if they knew they'd have less supervision.

  11. You can cut management ranks deeply in most cases. The reason it is not done is if gives you a cadre than can work 12 hour days if necessary at a flat rate. Calculate it out at a per hour rate and most likely it's cheaper that having the correct number of hourly employees. Of course, if the management ranks were cut to the appropriate size then the same people would meet all the time. They wouldn't have meetings to prepare for the meetings.

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  13. If they were any good at what it is they're supposed to do, they wouldn't need to work 12-hour days. That's the problem- too many of them are unable to complete their tasks efficiently. And God forbid if you suggest o them there's a better way to do something!!! That requires meetings and strategy sessions and more meetings. At The Journal News, we could easily cut half of these do-nothings and efficiency would increase.

  14. Newspapers in New Jersey, Tennessee and Louisiana were the early adopters to the idea of a multi-unit consolidated copy desk. Ann Clark came over and helped them chart out a course and, at the persistance and insistance of their respective group presidents and veeps (who were stomping feet for savings), they pulled together combined shops for each cluster, reducing people at the respective sites to form the new desk.

    When they reduced jobs at our sites, they did so with certain assumptions: The new combined desks will do this and that, the sites will do this and that. And, based on these assumptions, we decided which jobs to eliminate at the sites and which jobs to move to the new desks.

    Now, the design studios arrive! And we learn that the people hired for these studio jobs are not editors. They cannot cut stories. They cannot write headlines. They don't pick wire stories or do wire briefs. They don't post stories to the wire. They draw lines. Nothing else.

    So, who does those jobs? The sites do. Use your copy editors, the studionistas say. We don't have any copy editors any more, the sites say. Then, figure out someone to do this stuff on your staff, they say. But the people we kept are content generators, not copy editors, the sites say. Then retrain them, they said.

    Meanwhile, the late-adopting sites, the ones who resisted change to the very last minute until being phased into the studios, are being rewarded: They can selectively keep one, two or more of their copy editors and turn them into studio liaisons, really on-site copy editors with skills at (gasp!) cutting stories to fit, writing headlines, grooming the wire and building brief packages.

    So, the early adopters are screwed. The jobs they eliminated were cut more than a year ago -- they no longer have a budget footprint. They have to turn reporters (who we kept for writing stories) into night copy coordinators, so they can answer to studionistas who call for the more menial editing tasks ("Uh, we need 10 lines out of this story, please") as well as all the other things that their old copy desks used to do.

    OK, great, they don't have to design pages any more. But at a small community copy desk, they used to have multi-talented, multi-taskers who helped us get the job done. Now, under the new studio concept, the studionistas don't do none of that stuff -- period. And there's no one left at those small shops to do that stuff any more.

    It's criminal what they have done in all three states, but even more so what they have done in good old Tennessee to those three small dailies who just moved into the studio. Similar shame in Louisiana and New Jersey, not not as bad as the poor "volunteers."

  15. 10:15 makes some great points. But he also sounds like one of the editors from one of those "early adopter" sites. "We decided which jobs to eliminate," he said. "The people we kept are copy generators."

    I wonder if he's the general manager who also cut his photo editor and watched his online department disappear while protecting his do-nothing managing editor and saving the editor of his pet project, a food magazine he insisted would be called Eating Jersey. Or who wasted months redesigning the newspaper [including spending thousands to get input from the public] without corporate approval, only to see the entire project denied in the weeks before the design hub took over.

    If 10:15 is that editor/gm, he really needs to take a closer look at his own decisions before complaining.

  16. 10:15's post should come as no surprise. Anyone who thought these studios would be anything other than a flop was mistaken.

  17. 5:50 - This is 11:39 again. For the record, I have never suggested that a site have two managers for the entire paper (unless of course it's a very small site). But the operations I know of have FAR more than that, several of which could be cut.

    One mid-sized daily that I know of has six high-level editors and multiple lower level editors. I don't think they could operate with two editors, but I think the operation would be more efficient if they dropped down to about five (including the lower-level editors).

    It's worth noting that between furloughs, sick time and corporate meetings, the executive editor of the paper is out of the office 35-40% of time and the operation runs as well when he's gone as when he's there. I realize that part of the problem is that Gannett requires endless layers of paperwork and that his job largely involved churning that paperwork out, but that's part of the broader problem. Eliminated a lot of that paperwork and the highly-paid positions created just to fill that paperwork out and the company would be in better shape.

  18. USA TODAY's management structure :
    1 senior editor who is rarely seen or has any sense of what it actually takes to produce daily content.

    2 executive editors.

    1 news editor for content who never comes out of her office and makes edicts without reading what's been posted on line hours earlier.

    1 deputy news editor who is a glorified copy editor.

    1 Money editor who has no one reporting to him.
    1 Managing editor overseeing the copy desk. Duties unclear.

    1 cover story editor. Enough said.

    1 special projects editor. Ditto.
    1 page one editor. Likewise.
    1 night page one editor.
    1 overnight editor.
    1 swing shift editor.

    5 senior editors for Your Life, a director of editorial content, a General Manager for Books vertical, a GM for a non existent Money vertical, and a GM
    of overall verticals reporting to a Vice President for verticals. Most have no working knowledge of basic operational editing functions or USAT editing standards.

    None of these people fill in for vacationing editors who handle copy or for the most part, deal with reporters' copy. And no reporters will ever be elevated into any of these jobs.
    Now, what was the argument for retaining senior managers again?

  19. 10:15's post illustrates the great unspoken (or rarely spoken) evil of the Design Studios. Kate M. talks all the time that it's about quality, but the reality is that those copy editors did much more than layout pages. They, er, edited copy. They put stories up on the web. They did local briefs, wire briefs and wire pages. At our NT-31 site, we have to have a senior reporter fill in as night editor two nights a week. She's terrific at reading stories, but not all this other stuff that our copy desk used to do.

    So, we got rid of our copy editors -- multi-taskers, like 10:15 said -- and replaced them with a slot on a design desk? We don't need a design desk. We need a copy desk. We would be OK with a consolidated copy desk with copy editors doing what our copy desk used to do.

    Memo to Kate: WAKE UP! Help. Start asking tough questions. Are the "early adopters" being screwed? YES!

  20. if 12:22 is accurate in her headcount, that is ridiculous. Can someone.verify this is true?

  21. Nice try, 12:22, but we're not just talking about reporters getting promoted. There are other positions, you know. Or perhaps not, as you seem to have no clue about what a copy desk supervisor would do.

    Also, are you really claiming that no reporters would ever be put into a city desk position? Most newspapers require reporting experience just for someone to be considered. That claim seems ludicrous and probably yet another distortion of the facts.

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  23. 11:07 has no understanding of usa today. As a national paper, there city editors. The combined desks have supervisors already. And many senior.level.editors have no reporting experience. The post was meant to illustrate top heavy management at this paper.

  24. Back in the day, I worked at a gannett paper where the city editor was a former foto editor and his deputies were off the copy desk. No reporting experience whatsoever.


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