Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Jackson, Miss. | Here's a job that money won't buy; reader calls it a deal 'only Gannett could dream up'

As Gannett newspapers relinquish longtime columnists to layoffs and buyouts, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., has joined many of its sister papers in devising a new low in cheap, replacement labor.

"ClarionLedger.com is looking for Mississippi’s next great columnist," the paper said in a story yesterday. "Those with an interest should know from the start, however, that the position is a labor of love -- the perfect hobby for someone who cares deeply about the state and its people and who also has a passion for writing."

The 319-word story never uses the word free, relying instead on the more euphemistic "labor of love" -- twice! -- as an enticement to "grace" the paper's Web pages.

The paper's readers weren't snookered.

"So let me get this straight,'' Amy Hervey wrote in a comment on the story. "The C-L fires (aka early retirement) its staff that had the experience and ability to coherently put three words together to make a spot for free guest columns by a member of the general public, while rolling out a fee to read online. They want content with zero production costs but they still want us to pay for the privilege of reading it. Sounds like something only Gannett could dream up."

Last year, GCI reported about $460 million in net income. Bob Dickey, the president of the U.S. newspaper division, got paid $2.7 million, according to regulatory filings.

The C-L was hit especially hard in the spring round of buyouts, turning its newsroom into one of GCI's most traumatized in terms of the loss of leadership and talent. At the time, one of my Jackson readers asked: "Does this look like a company positioning itself to deliver new and unique content that will make readers want to subscribe?"

Hurst: C-L furthering democracy
That is even more true today, as GCI starts charging readers for digital access through newly erected paywalls.

The work-for-free offer comes under Publisher Leslie Hurst's stewardship of a paper known nationwide for its Klan-busting news coverage. Shortly after she was appointed in December 2010, she told readers:

"When I come to work, I feel a real sense of respect. I literally believe that what we do is important . . . to further us as a democracy, to shed light on things that people otherwise might not know about. There is a great amount of pride in that, but also a huge sense of responsibility."

Jackson's daily circulation is 57,710; Sunday is 72,386.


  1. I hope all the Mississippi readers are smart enough to see through this idiocy. I'm kind of surprised that the big G. isn't offering a shiny new coffee mug as renumeration.

  2. "Labor of love" translates to "job doesn't pay shit".

    1. Amen! I just quit one of gannetts papers because of that. They don't Pay squat and want you to do the job of three people while they talk down to you. They are circling the drain!

  3. Even in Mississippi this qualifies as "chutzpah."

  4. Should newspaper buyers value a person who wants to write as a "Labor of love" over professional, experienced, skilled writers who love what they do? In any business, when you ignore the importance of a value to the customer you lose. By the way, I suspect they think advertisers are stupid too.

  5. Gannett just gets more and more laughable and less and less credible every single day.

  6. We have people who write as a "labor of love," and see it as a "hobby." They write letters to the editor, which usually are incoherent, poorly written and littered with misspellings.

  7. What a great idea! I just fired my doctor and lawyer and am putting a want ad
    looking for an average person who can take care of my medical and legal needs as a "labor of love." Man am I going to save a lot of money and I'm sure I my health care and legal advice will be exactly the same!!!

  8. I'm glad I left Gannett when I did.

    My coworkers said it would never happen when I predicted Gannett would outsource photography after they bought US Presswire. I wonder how the USAT photographers not going to the Olympics feel about that now.

    When they outsourced page design to the Design Center, I predicted they would outsource writers as soon as they could figure out how to. I guess finding people who are willing to write as a "labor of love" is what they decided on.

    You get what you pay for. If Gannett's not willing to pay for real stories they're going to fake ones. I hope this company gets burned by fake content by one of these "citizen journalists."

  9. It shoudn't surprise anyone that Gannett would underestimate the intelligence of its readers. It's been feeding its employees BS for years, unaware that no one buys it.

  10. This is really disrespectful - not only to those you just dismissed, but to those who remain. And most of all it disrespects your audience. Gannett is getting limbo low.

  11. porky Pig, CEO6/05/2012 2:39 PM

    I plan on asking my mechanic if car repair is a labor of love and if he'll do my brakes for free. Ask Bob Dickey if he'll work for free since it is a labor of love or a "passion" for him.
    $2.7 million and the average employee get more responsibilities, furloughs and not a dime more. It IS all with in reach...if you're a Gannett executive reaching for a bigger check. Oink Oink

  12. Maybe the publisher should give up her salary, as her comments show how much she loves her job.

  13. If we won't pay for the content, why should readers?

  14. Just when you thought they couldn't stoop any lower.... Oy Vey!

  15. Excellent point 6:24

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  17. Ol' Les gonna hide in this office, too?

    Gad, what a bunch of losers ..

  18. USA TODAY Sports Media Group is taking the same approach with its CollegeSportsMadness.com site.

    "While we are not able to pay initially, as our site develops, we expect to offer editor positions to our key contributors and plan to offer a profit sharing program for writers."


    Where do I sign up?

  19. "I literally believe that what we do is important." Literally?

  20. So when I worked at Gannett it was a labor of love. The furloughs and pay freezes now make perfect sense.

    So glad I am not there anymore.

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  22. It's so sad! The CL used to be the place to go for news and information! Now the readers are turning to a neighborhood paper, known for community stories and fluff, to get their news. This paper is growing readership while the CL dwindles down. And several advertisingreps went to work there after being laid off from the CL. Unfortunately I believe it's only a matter of time!

  23. The board of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists had a small debate about the post "a job money can't buy." It can be read at http://www.columnists.com/2012/06/debit-side-of-clarion-ledger/ .

  24. The mighty Clarion-Ledger - what a joke! I was so proud to be a part of it when I was hired twenty years ago. I was so proud to wear the logo golf shirts they gave me. I felt like a part of something, something the people actually liked and enjoyed receiving each morning. I didn't mind having to go in in the middle of the night to fill holes where inept advertising reps killed ads without informing me at the proper time. It was part of the job. Now there's this fetid, rotting carcass of what was once "Mississippi's Newspaper" run by increasingly incompetent people brought in to pretend they are knowledgable of the community they report to. And the publisher has to beg for local details? They offer non-paying writing jobs to hopefully increase the bank account of the dying dinosaur while they continue to destroy what was once a shining beacon of light and information to thousands of readers hungry for their offerings? It will continue in it's death throes because like all other Gannett-owned properties, it lost sight of what made it so necessary to the community... It willingly gave away it's heart - the people that cared about it. Instead, Gannet fired them all and brought in "outsiders" who could care less about a single person in the state. Sad, so sad when such rampant arrogance completely and utterly destroys something so many helped to build. Just like our country, The Clarion-Ledger is being killed.


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