Thursday, December 22, 2011

Your best -- and worst! -- holiday party stories

Anonymous@10:48 p.m. writes:

I had to share this with your readers. I have been in the circulation business for 40 years. My two terms with Gannett total 17 of those years. I’m now at a fourth-generation family-owned newspaper. Last Saturday, we had an old-fashioned Christmas party. The editor asked me what Gannett used to do for their employees for the holidays. I had to think about it; then answer: laid people off. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Earlier: Awkward going-away parties for departing co-workers.

Tell us about your best and worst office holiday parties. 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.

[Image: NBC's The Office]


  1. Best: At The Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, Ark., in the late 1980s, when Craig Moon was publisher. As I recall, one smashed female employee danced on a table top -- with an ice sculpture. There might have even been an open bar!

    Worst: Louisville, Ky., in the late 1990s, when The Courier-Journal opted for an alcohol-free Sunday brunch. I remember finding the publisher as quickly as possible, getting in the required face time -- followed by a fast exit.

  2. No doubt Palm Springs in the early 90's. Grand hotel, great meal, lots of drinks, great music, that team knew how to party.

  3. Nothing could beat the Reno parties. I still remember the 2005 conga line throughout the ballroom at the Nuggett!

  4. Back in the day, the Enquirer would have a sit down dinner, open bar and a real, live orchestra.

  5. 5:45, I dunno, I've made some pretty good videos over many years of the RGJ's parties. They were usually all-out. I watch them occasionally today, and it looks like a completely different company -- and not just in having actual fun, but it was more a genuinely social thing on its own without having to be pedaled to the staff, no matter how disparate..., but worse, that most everyone in these vids, enthusiastic and so loyal, really good people and good workers, are no longer there.

  6. Florida Today used to have a Christmas party for the entire paper at a nice hotel with lots of food, music and an open bar.

  7. The worst experience for me was back in December 1991.

    I was in production, freakin' night shift, and it had just switched over that past January to Macintosh computers, dropping CompuGraphic.

    As is characteristic of Gannett now, not much training then besides a sprinkling of magically imaginary pixie dust.

    But I was familiar with it -- both the little Mac platform and the clunky DOS PC, these what are now antiquated like Sanskrit today.

    Point is, big switch to new tech, no idea how to use it. The problem was how to organize the workflow.

    So, familiar with this stuff, I suggested a structure. Wrote it out. (No e-mail then.)And heard nothing back.

    This suggestion was invoked in full, specifically tailored to our workflow.

    My superior had do idea how. My manager had no idea how. But ultimately some asses, I think, were saved.

    My structure was used. Not that anyone ever came back and said thanks.

    So, here's the deal: That year, it's insisted that I attend the Xmas Party where recognition is given to productive efforts. So, I go. No one's ever insisted before. I always went and to be asked by some higher ups was unusual.

    My manager gets up to the podium, describes everything that I did, and then names someone else more in line with his redneck mindset, i.e., that kid's going to a Naval academy to work on nuclear submarines, no profession in the media, and that beat-up old hippie, he, he hates America.

    No, he TOLD me that through his gleaming white caps. Whispering in my ear. We all called him Darth.

    There at the podium, some event I'm attending having been insisted I should be there, he gives a cash award to someone else, giving him credit... when all this kid did was say to 'em, "Yeh," that I could work, and sorry he hadn't thought of it.

    True, the dude could have said something into the mic at the time, just mention my name. But nope.

    It was, frankly, gut-wrenching humiliating, smiles all around. Handshakes. A check. It was really weird.

    Some people who knew of my involvement stared at my table, embarrassed, but silent. Merry Christmas.

    So that was the worst party.

    I just go up and went home. Fixed to green tea. With a splash of bourbon this time.

  8. The best holiday parties that I ever attended were Frank Vega's New Year's Eve parties when he was in Detroit. That guy sure knew how to throw a party! He had a huge house in the Grosse Pointe's that was perfect for partying. Always had a band, great food, free flowing drinks, valet parking and several hundred guests. Those were some good times...

  9. My first Christmas party was 9 years ago and it was at a nice restaurant with bar and gifts. The next year we were at the Moose hall with a nice catered meal. Third year was pot luck in the press room. Christmas parties like Gannett, are a dying breed.

  10. I can't remember the last time we had a party of any kind that wasn't a buffet, in the building, during work hours.

  11. The pRty at our site was great. Cost a small fortune. During the best tines everyone would attend with the exception of the newsroom. For some reason we couldn't get them to the party.

  12. No party this year. Good, because none of us wanted to have be around the boss.

  13. Gannett Christmas Party?
    Now that's an oxyMORON, if I ever heard one.

  14. Reno always had 'em in a swanky hotel. The whole point was to get out the building. They really went all out. And they were always fun because the staff was different back then. A supervisor, a manager, a director... with the exception of few anti-social misfits, they were all having a feast, some good wine, dancing, together with everyone, most of whom couldn't wait to get past the awards that always went to the same types, by now amusing.

    Still, there was lots of laughter and genuine "screw the awards, we're all a team" thinking.

    But, yes, it did change. As the RGJ became more and more Gannettized, most of the management types began to sit in a certain cluster; most of the others in another.

    Live musical talent, plucked from among my co-workers and friends (which back then were the same thing), it was replaced with a DJ playing CD's -- all of the same genre. More importantly, I noticed a lot more people guzzling too much booze than in years past.

    In short, one could witness a soul dying.

    And soon attendance dropped off. And the whole thing was cancelled. We were, however, permitted to hold our own festivities in our department in the building if one were so inclined.

    I was not inclined, but lots of folks were -- still in some kind of euphoria in the midst of a by then very dysfunctional workplace.

    I would have nothing to do with it, and of course be mocked. I just kept working, doing my job, while they stopped working and partied in this dank dungeon.

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  16. Heh 3:09 those parties were awesome right up until the end. We had a blast. Unfortunately the economy imploded and it was just wrong to spend $20,000 when people were getting laid off. Those parties were fabulous. Thanks Sue and Adeline!

  17. 11:06 p.m. 12/22: Same here. Maybe an e-mail telling you to go to the cafeteria, load up a plate from a small buffet, back to your desk, get back to work. That's about as good a Christmas party as I've seen at Gannett.

  18. met my girlfriend at a GCI Christmas party.....

    a year and a half later, we moved 600 miles away and out of the news-media industry, and are still happily together.......

    not everything about Gannett is bad.

    Merry Christmas all!!

  19. Our department has had some of the worst parties in recent years. Can you imagine sitting around a conference room where you could hear a pin drop? Talk about fun....

  20. The worst Christmas parties ever were in the tech group at the Enquirer. The VP at the time made them wear party hats and play kiddy party games. It was obvious that the majority was pained to have to go through it. It was humiliating just to attend and watch.


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