Thursday, February 09, 2012

Buyout survey: Why you want one, why you don't?

Gannett is suddenly dangling buyouts before a pool of nearly 800 qualified U.S. newspaper employees who are 56 years old with at least 20 years' service -- a deal they have 45 days to accept or reject, the company said today in a memo. A maximum of 665 buyouts will actually be granted.

The offer is being made "instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future,'' the memo says -- leaving open the possibility of layoffs if an insufficient number of people step forward.

Why, then, wouldn't everyone volunteer? There are plenty of reasons, based on my own experience getting a buyout at USA Today in November 2007. That time, about 170 newsroom employees were eligible for a maximum of 45 buyouts.

Only 43 applied. When I asked, many of those who didn't apply told me they worried about finding health insurance if they quit. Others couldn't afford to stop work altogether, because retirement was still many years away, and they were concerned they couldn't find a new job that would pay enough.

A buyout survey 
  • Are you among the nearly 800 who qualify for one of the new buyouts? 
  • Which way are you leaning -- and why?
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. Jim HELP!
    Is the new GPS division included in the buyout offer? What about unemployment and severance? Do people get the full amount of each for 26 wks. or as long as they are eligible?

  2. Received offer today, have until March 31 to decide and have a lot research and thinking to do. But at first glance, leaning toward accepting and turning away from the only profession I have ever known ,,, before it turns its back on me.

  3. 7 pm. How old are you? Do you have a spouse with health coverage? Both are key.

  4. This whole thing is joke. Gannett wants people over a certain age to leave, period. The buyout offer is nothing more than a warning shot that might save them a lawsuit or two down the road for wrongful dismissal. A modest buyout package for a few hundred people will cost the company far less than a dozen age discrimination suits.

    A couple years ago, I turned down a buyout offer, thinking I was still a pretty valuable resource to the company for various reasons. I don't say this out of ego or even sour grapes. I was the last editor standing in chain of command that was vital to the operation, to the very quality control of the product we put out every night. Most people (other than my supervisor) knew it. Most people were thrown by my being laid off, even the folks who didn't particularly warm up to me in my 15 years with the company.

    I underestimated how vicious Gannett is and how much they wanted us "oldsters" out.

    I should have known better. Long before the recession, Gannett had a rep for treating older employees pretty badly, forcing them to do ridiculous things so that they would leave on their own. In addition, my boss was a particularly deceitful, self-serving person who would sell his soul if it meant he could keep his job another year. But he didn't have to sell his soul ... he just needed to sacrifice mine.

    A year after I passed on the buyout, I got laid off. I suspect that will happen to most people who turn down the offer this time, too.

    This is the way Gannett operates. There is virtually no integrity or honesty at the top, regardless if you're at the smallest newspaper in the chain or USA TODAY. Gannett's managerial style -- even in the middle and lower ranks -- is to give you a lot of lip service about how valued you are but turn against you at a moment's notice. The year before I was laid off, I got my best annual review ever and was carrying more responsibilities because of the prior buyouts. One year later, I was yesterday's news.

    It took me two years to find a new job. No buyout offer from Gannett would have covered that time span.

    My advice to anyone who still needs to work: Don't take the buyout. Make them fire you. Collect your severance and unemployment benefits. Sue them if you think they did something illegal. And in the meantime, while you are still employed, have an exit strategy. Begin interviewing elsewhere. Think about opening that small business. Whatever, just be proactive because your days are numbered. And, by all means, save money. Whether you survive another year or three years, it doesn't matter. You will most likely not make it to the finish line unless you are already close to being there.

    A word to the young'uns at Gannett. You have a birds eye view of how Gannett deals with people -- good, loyal employees who just happen to have a few more gray hairs than you. Many of these folks are very capable of transitioning to digital media (and granted, some aren't). Don't buy into the propaganda put out by Gannett that these senior employees aren't willing to learn new tricks. Gannett is trying to create a type of age warfare. Support all of you colleagues and understand that if a better opportunity comes your way, while you are still young, you should take it. Much easier to find work at 35 than 55.

  5. WOW 8:37, now I'm really depressed. I like all of you do not trust this company and especially Bob Dickey. I was offered the buyout today and I'm still weighing my options. Four of us at my paper were offered. I'm pretty sure two will accept.

  6. 8:27: What a well thought out and caring post. Your wisdom is greatly appreciated. I know you will never get over the deceit. It is incredible how many people feel as you do. I hope you have found peace with your new job and that you have been able to put Gannett behind you.

  7. Don't count on unemployment after the year. You're not taking a buyout. It's an early retirement

  8. accepting has to do with how close you are to retirement and how many years you have been with gannett. Longtime employees will get a year's pay with no unemployment strings, like the Draconian TPP. You can get another job right away, to supplement your Gannett pay. and you can get retiree benefits, so you can take a job with no benefits. Closer you are to 56, though, that makes for very tough decision. some of us have been there before.

  9. Gannett wants to cut older, higher salaried people and replace them with younger, lower salaried, less vacation, less health issues (gannett is self insured remember). If they laid those people off they could not hire replacements with younger people without facing a major class action suit.

  10. Furloughed Fury2/09/2012 10:55 PM

    So can Jim now say a big Nelson Muntz "HA HA" to all the trolls and haters who said he didn't know what he was talking about when he reported that Early Retirement buyouts were coming?

    Say it with the rest of us who depend on the blog for the real news corporate doesn't want you to hear.

    Gannett Blog VINDICATED!

    1. So Jim if Troll is once again an acceptable blog term may I start calling the lock steppers Lemming Trolls again? It only seems fair.

  11. It's too bad the people who are laboring (for free) to post all the numbers here weren't this industrious when they were still working for Gannett. Maybe things would be different.

    Instead, those people pay Jim for the privilege to provide information. I'd say that's what gets the "ha ha."

  12. Laboring? Oh my, I just sprained my cut-and-paste fingers typing two numbers.

    That would have been the tipping point in driving our stock to $48. Thanks for the tip, 11:29.

  13. 8:27 p.m. Great post. The only thing I can add is that Gannett/USAT's treatment of long-time employees over the last three years, plus the lies, incompetency and deceit at the top, are now becoming pretty well known in publishing/media circles and even journalism schools. Gannett/USAT is going to have a hard time attracting new talent with the kind of reputation it has built in recent years. Without talented people and high retention rates, it's difficult for a company to remain a viable player in any competitive industry.

    Gannett's penny-wise, pound foolish approach to hiring cheap labor and coddling the "teacher's pet" types (most who have made a career out of kissing butt) will eventually cause Gannett to collapse. I've known too many people who have left Gannett, nearly broken in spirit, only to find that their new employer values and appreciates the heck out of them.

    There is nothing wrong with you if Gannett lays you off. In fact, it probably means you're a pretty smart cookie with a great work ethic. Gannett's inability to recognize and reward those traits will be another company's gain.

    As for the age discrimination stuff, damn I remember whispers about this being a problem at Gannett/USAT in the late 80s. In fact, back when I was starting out, a former Gannett editor told me that if I didn't get hired by a Gannett paper by age 30, odds were against me ever getting in. This guy was a former executive editor at two Gannett newspapers! During a time when papers like the Washington Post were requiring 5-10years of experience before you could even get an interview, there was Gannett/USAT casting aside resumes of anyone with more than 10 years of experience.

    Truly a rotten company that got worse and meaner when the recession struck. Gannett will get the propaganda machine cranked up to fight some of these perceptions, but believe me, the damage done in the last three years will last a long time.

  14. USA Today epitomizes what is wrong with Gannet. In bred management, a term often used here, begets a constant logrolling in upper management. If you have friends in high places, you are golden, no matternhow many news events you blow off or bad personnel decisions you make. it is not about talent or competence. Of course, its been that Way for years. But the turf protecting and playing favorites is way out of hand. The promotions and increasing power bases of the grossly unqualified are the final nails in the coffin. Sad that the veteran reporters are the ones that get shit on and continue to flee. They aren't the problem, unless, like Gannett, you are focused on the bottom line.

  15. 10:04, as 9:10 said, it is not only at USAT. It is company wide. And yes, everyone is noticing and it is going to be extremely difficult to change this reputation.

  16. Betcha miss the "old guard" at USAT now, don't you? Craig Moon, Brett Wilson, Lori Erdos, Wendy Matney, Ed Cassidy, Susan Lavington, Jeff Weber, Michael Davidson.

    All bounced and shoved out for the likes of Maryam Banikarim, David L. Hunke, Sandra Micek, Jill Heymer, Lee Jones.

    I suppose we can always have a serious discussion and voice our concerns with hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil Susie Ellwood or better yet, get engaged with our employee engagement officer Angela Phillips.

    Talent traded for an ever-shrinking bottom line.

  17. How long do you think we can hang on with Wall Street at the rate we're going down?

  18. Ok, its a no brainer to take the buyout no matter what your personal position or financial situation is. 1) If you don't take the buyout you will definitely be laid off on the next round & seeing how the company is performing it will be in less than one year. You and your position has been identified as non essential otherwise they wouldn't be offering you the buy out to begin with.....Do you think there are only 665 people 56 years of age and older at Gannett?? Of course not. 2) If you 56 you only have 3 more years till you can tap your 401(k) anyway and if you are even closer then this becomes less of a non brainer. 3) If you are 62 then you jump up and down and do summersaults with this amazing deal. You can draw SSI and Medicare for your insurance & to those that say I wanted to wait until I was 65 to draw SSI and medicare well guess what you can recoup your full SSI payments when you are 65 by just repaying the money you withdrew from 62 to 65 to SSI and you will have a recalculated SSI payment and still be covered under medicare the whole time. Gannett has very numbered days and eventually will not be able to afford to offer buyouts...I'm surprised they did it now so take it while you can....this truly may be the last hurrah!!!!! Heading to Retirement in Arizona from the Republic.

  19. Arizona is a great place to retire! Is it true the KPNX-TV folks also got buyout offers along with those of you from the Republic?

  20. 5:02 is wrong on one specific point.
    Buyouts are not offered because a position is essential, but because the person in that position is making too much money. Since Gannett cannot fire people based on high senority and pay without opening themself to massive age discrimination lawsuits, this is their only option. Giving 2 weeks per year, unlike last time it was offered 1 for 1, is just to sweeten the pie for the prospective takers. In the current job market this is a good deal, probably the best of what is to come, so if I was offered this I would have a hard time saying no. Not everybody feels this way, and some have a hard time letting go of a carreer that has taken them through life, kids through college and more. You leave behind good friends, co-workers and perhaps some guilt, but ultimately it should be determind on ones financial situation.
    I wish those offered this buyout best of luck whichever road they take.

  21. I forgot to add, in case of buyout's, the position can be filled. It isn't so with layoff's.

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

  23. If they were offered at KPNX, we haven't heard much about the other stations.

  24. 5:25/27, nice to see a thoughtful and informed post. Buyouts are indeed just getting rid of people -- successful people to have lasted that long -- so GCI can replace at starting wage. Pretty sleazy, but all through labor's history that's what one gets when there's no union.

    However, I'm not so sure about layoffs; the position itself cannot be refilled as you correctly note, but all they need to do is name it something different with some cosmetic changes in responsibilities.

    In the meantime, as others have noted on this blog, Gannett creates its own destruction with lack of experience at the moment when they could use some since the board has none in evidence.


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