Monday, November 12, 2012

Nov. 12-18 | Your News & Comments: Part 1

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  1. I have read many comments here about the "Blue Ball" and USA Today, dismissing most comments as written by angry or frustrated individuals.

    Last Thursday morning I stopped by a MacDonalds in Seekonk Mass.for a cup of coffee. While waiting, I saw a rack of publications with a sign that indicated that they were for sale for 20 cents and that the 20 cents would be for a donation to the Ronald MacDonald house.

    It sounded to me like a nice idea so I picked one up and expected to read local area news since the publications front page clearly appeared to be some sort of local weekly newspaper.

    As I took it from the open small flip cage rack I saw the Blue Ball and immediately thought that there was a "copy cat" in the area. I had never seen the "new" USAT since it's new design.

    You've probably already figured out that what I was looking at was USAT. Shock was an understatement. If this is an example of the day to day design changes at USAT, those responsible for the approval of these changes should be no longer employed by Gannett.

  2. 7:39 - It is amazing, isn't it? I was at a hotel this weekend and stepped over the paper as I walked out the door on Thursday. I saw the ugly big blue ball and had to leaf through the paper to see the innovative things they had done to the balls inside. I think there was a picture of a bear or something on the red ball? Not sure of the pic or the color because it truly looked like a third grader had done it. And no, I didn't bother to read the paper because the logos set the tone. I was truly surprised by how dumb it actually looked.

  3. Do you really believe that the possibility layoffs should not be discussed here?
    This has been the focus of Gannett for 4 years.
    And with continued shortfalls in print revenue,the tax situation,and health insurance changes,it will certainly be part of all of Gannett's future planning.

  4. 8:28 - What do you want to discuss about them? I am sure layoffs are a part of corporate's everyday planning. If people aren't polishing up their resumes and seriously looking for employment elsewhere on a daily basis, there's no helping them.

  5. Strike all posts related to the health care act? writes 11/11/2012 9:31 PM

    Wow, what an unbelievably closed-minded comment as if some think it and its effects won’t touch this company they’re not paying attention as at last check, Gannett generated revenues from consumers and businesses, not via printing money on its own presses.

    Talk to sales reps. Talk to business reporters. Talk to store owners, managers where you do business and what all will learn is their net spending will be less, not more. That means on ads too.

    Frankly, myopic, head-in the sand comments like 9:31’s exposes thinking that has held this company back. From deciding not to write stories that readers were interested in – or should be, to ignoring “metered access” until it lost so many subscribers it had but no other option to adopt it, to failing to properly plan beyond the next Gannett period or quarter.

    And, in this case, it should plan smartly as material revenue growth, if any at all in the coming year likely won’t result and all should know by now what results when revenues don’t keep up. Coming tax hikes will only exacerbate the problem, no doubt 9:31 wishes to ignore that too.

  6. Gannett moving ALL papers, well except USA Today of course, to hubs opy editing, design and perhaps even graphics now. Sick. Massive layoffs coming very VERY soon. Serious, sorry.

  7. If Gannett was worried about the effects of the ACA then there would be some mention in the annual report and prospectus. At this point there is no evidence Gannett is considering layoffs, let alone because of the ACA. As to the ad hominem rants about the ACA, take it somewhere else.

  8. Brent Jones should not be making public videos about what makes a good journalist. He is not qualified as a reporter or editor. His latest disaster hiring in Money makes him unqualified as an administrator, too. What are his qualifications, exactly? The fact that someone gave him a title?

    Why does Usa Today continue the charade parade on so many key levels?

  9. A welcome voice of reason - starts with:

    "The press throughout the western world is preoccupied of late – engaged in an existential convulsion that threatens to cast down the foundations of some of its greatest and most august institutions. They’re losing money, and they’re firmly convinced that it must be because of some new technological advance that is irresistibly and irrevocably changing human behaviour: it’s the Internet; it’s blogs; it’s Twitter; it’s tablets and smart phones.

    The great institutions of the press have convinced themselves that the only way to save themselves is to re-invent the way they deliver the news. They think that perhaps if they write shorter stories and deliver them with trendy appliances, people will be more eager to read them.


    See the rest:

  10. 10:27: The move toward design/copy editing hubs has been going on more than a year. Are you referring to some other planned consolidation?

  11. Anyone else getting charge in 2013 for not doing the health survey and whatnot, when in fact, they DID jump through the hoops properly, and before deadlines?

    They say mine and my husband's biometric testing was not done, but it was, and our doctor's office confirms paperwork was sent well before the deadline.

    So now Gannett plans to charge me a few hundred dollars a month extra. Because THEY have not processed the paperwork.

  12. Right.
    Gannett would never consider layoffs as way of offsetting increased employee expenses.
    Dream on.

  13. 7:39...You almost could have been picking up the "local" paper. YOu find the blue ball, and sometimes others, inside our local every day for it seems half our stories have USA bylines. It has helped lessen our sales as people say if they wanted to read the USA Today thye would buy one. They don't expect or WANT their junk in the local.

  14. Latest on Groupon,0,1451396.story

  15. I've taken that dn health assessment test twice and have confirmation numbers, but the site still hasn't given me the points for it. What a royal waste of time.

  16. Look, whether you're disgruntled or not, you have to admit the USA Today redesign was, at best, a sub-par effort not becoming of a national general news publication. It is not brilliant in its simplicity. It is not elegant or newsy. It is a joke, to put it mildly. This is not some subjective opinion. I can list the dozens of things that are fundamentally wrong with this design, but I don't think this blog allows for long comments.

    However, there might be a silver lining here. You see, this design project exposed a lot of USAT's weaknesses. This is not just a creative matter. This is an indication that USAT leaders, and even some mid-level managers, are not dedicated or skillful enough to be making the nation's newspaper a prominent product. The group who has thrown out the real pros and threatened others in favor of what they perceived to be cutting edge journalists, now needs to go. They've turned the brand into a laughing stock. They've broken ties to the very successful past for no real reason other than it was fashionable during tough times. They've betrayed countless USAT employees and pretty much pissed on institutional knowledge. And they came up with or approved of the blue ball.

    It's time to get rid of a whole lot of people and turn USAT back into a well-edited, well-design brand, whether online or in print. We can't afford to carry amateurs, people who barely understand anything about current events, let alone have the writing, design or editing skills to product a reader-friendly product. We need dedicated journalists on all levels, not just people who stumbled into their jobs. We need folks who bleed ink and pixels on the front lines. We also need more integrity at the top. Good people doing good things. People who are in for the long haul and who are honest.

    It's time to put an end to this horrible design, the countless errors and lack of urgency in the paper/website. It's time to get serious about the news and about enterprise. If this just continues to be a refuge for flavor-of-the-day transients, kiss asses and people who probably couldn't tell you who the Speaker of the House is, well, USAT will either take a big fall or will have to transform itself into something other than a credible source for news.

  17. what's up with another GPS reorganization? more consolidation, more layoffs? something is cooking !

  18. Charles Everett11/12/2012 5:23 PM

    USA Today Executive Vice President/General Manager leaves Gannett to become publisher of the Austin American-Statesman. She starts her new job in Texas after Thanksgiving.

  19. Statesman names media industry veteran as new publisher
    Susie Ellwood assumes post on Dec. 3

  20. Elwood out at USA TODAY.

    Off to Austin...

  21. 5:38 Thus is loyalty rewarded. She was a lifer and yet there was no room for her?

    1. Geez Jim are you a sycophant? She did a horrible job. Name one success at USAT.

  22. One of USA Today's recent sports hires, NFL writer Tyler Dunne, has returned to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after barely 2 weeks with USAT.

    On Oct. 23, Dunne blogged that he was leaving the Milwaukee paper after covering the Green Bay Packers for 16 months. On Friday, he blogged that he was returning to his old job today.

    Don't know the back story, but interesting regardless.

  23. She coulda run the Enquirer. I guess the taint of Hunke was even too much for her to overcome.

  24. 4:54, usa today editors are so insecure they hire novices to write about major doings. Check out the "exclusive interview" with the JC Penney Ceo. Its a public company and no where in the story is the stock performance mentioned or a stock analyst tslked to about expectations. The Wall Street Journal editors must be laughing their heads off,

  25. Now, if they can only push out the rest of the high paid office holders and meeting goers, maybe Callaway can beef up the editing and reporting staffs and get some people who know what they are doing to run digial.

    And speaking of lame, expensive do-nothings, how about cleaning hise at Weekend?

  26. Actually, Jim, there was a role for Susie in the ongoing revamp under Kramer/Callaway but she opted to leave on her own. This was not an ouster (though of course no one will believe that). But she was not forced out.

  27. I have no specific knowledge of the reasons Ellwood left.

    But sometimes a person is offered a role that is unacceptable.

    As well, I note that the Austin American-Statesman's circulation is considerably smaller than even the Detroit newspapers, where Ellwood worked as CEO before coming to USAT.

  28. 6:37 I also would have included the Penney CEO's 2011 compensation: He got a whopping $53.3 million, virtually all in stock, basically for agreeing to come to work for the company from Apple, according to the company's annual proxy report to shareholders.

    Penney's shares haven't done as well. They've fallen 47% from a year ago, according to Google Finance.

  29. 8:28 - "If people aren't polishing up their resumes and seriously looking for employment elsewhere on a daily basis, there's no helping them."

    What kind of job will a resume with a J degree and Gannett experience fetch?

    Oh yeah, I hear and are hiring!

  30. Photogs in Appleton, WI get priority parking. Sales execs and reporters get a few priority spots ( of course not as close). The photogs have "heavy equipment to carry" though. Let's see how long it takes for the publisher to realize that they are in the office ALL day and any photos published online are by the reporters with their iPhones or other grunts (or part-time photogs) and readers.

  31. New VP of Distribution for GPS Midwest region is Joe Braunschweig. It's about time they bring in a 9 time President winner to get that are cleaned up. POOR CD'S THREW OUT THE REGION. Good Joe, you will have the support of some fine peps in that area. Wish you the best

  32. Austin's circulation may be smaller, but the quality is still there. Web site is decent, and there's still real reporting and investigative depth. The paper did a kick-ass job of covering the wildfires that ravaged Texas. Plus, it's the political paper of record. I'd trade Austin, with its art, culture, and funky, laid-back vibe, for my town any day.

  33. 9:33 True. Austin is a technology business center. If you've got to live in Texas -- heck, many places -- Austin is where you'd want to be.

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

  35. Additional middle managers being sought for our property. Current managers being moved to different managerial roles, while they replace their current positions. These managers are walking around all happy go lucky... They haven't seen the guillotine! Idiots!

  36. PENNEY'S

    Jim, if his bonus is in stock, and if it requires X years to vest, and the stock has dropped 47% --

    hasn't he lost 47% of that "bonus?"

    And will he lose it all?

    Yeah, I know -- Bush's fault. Got it.

  37. The stock is his as long as he sticks around ling wnough to fulfill his contract. He wont. Another arrogant executive who didnt listen to his customer base or employees. Sound familiar?

  38. 8:21, congrats on three conflicting statements -- " .. stock is his .. " .. ".. if he stays long enough" .. and "he won't."

    He will? He won't?

    Either way, he could lose it all, it has happened -- which most "reporters" do not understand.

  39. @834 Reporters don't get those kind of options, true. But they've lost plenty to this board of directors and the mismanagement of this company. So ... they understand financial loss, thanks, especially with this bunch.

  40. OK, let's repeat the facts --

    Most "reporters" do not clearly understand how stock options work.

    They make a big deal out of the maximum potential - $53 million!!!! -- without a factual understanding of the potential downside ($0.00 outcome).

    Yeah, yeah, write it first, correct it later. Got it.

    Any wonder why, so many are abandoning the everyday newspaper? With so many obvious and glaring errors? And unwillingness to improve?

  41. He gets the stock if he stays around long enough. He probably wont because his big idea is not working and sales are tanking, so is the stock price. When the board utlmately wakes up, it will push him out. He then wont get all of his stock. What dont you understand about this?

    I am not a journalist, but I do understand how companies report stock options and stock grant values. It is public record. So when I see a newspaper or magazine article talking about $xxx million worth of options or a restricted stock grant,I tend to believe what I am reading. Yes, if the stock price goes down, the options are not worth as much. But that is not the point.
    What do you suggest as a method of improving the way this gets out? what would you correct?

  42. I would start by correcting statements like this one:

    "He got a whopping $53.3 million ..."

    He didn't. Yet Jim says he did.

    Jim has made this mistake before, too.

  43. 11:45 He received $53.3 million worth of stock on Nov. 1, 2011, when he officially started as CEO. This is restricted stock -- not options. The value is based on JCPenney's market price that day.

    Unlike typical restricted stock awards, he doesn't have to stick around for years until they vest. In fact, these 1.66 million shares vested Jan. 27 of this year, according to this press release.

    He got these shares to replace the value of Apple stock he left on the table when he joined JCPenney. Here's the relevant paragraph from the press release:

    "Mr. Johnson's award of 1,660,578 restricted stock units (RSUs) was granted yesterday, Nov. 1, 2011, when he assumed the position of chief executive officer of the Company. The vesting date for these RSUs is Jan. 27, 2012, but may vest earlier in the case of employment termination due to death or disability, if Mr. Johnson terminates his employment at the Company for "good reason" or if the Company terminates his employment for any reason other than cause. This RSU award was designed to partially replace the value of equity granted by Mr. Johnson's former employer, Apple, Inc., which was scheduled to vest in March 2012 and September 2014 but was forfeited upon termination of employment."

  44. Jim, what you are saying, JCP had to give him those shares, 'to make him whole,' to get him to leave APPL and his APPL options.

    That is: not sure even Mother Teresa would leave behind, $54MM in APPL stock options, don't you think?

    And, since 47% of the value has been lost, that's now about $29MM, a loss of about $25MM.

    Did you check, if he actually cashed any of those shares in, as of today?

    Or was he holding them, so as not to frighten off investors? Which means he LOST money?

    Or he was selling off, so few, so as not to draw attention to himself? Which means he LOST money?

    The JCP analysts have probably written that up.

  45. NYTIMES EDITOR: we have issues with numbers

    "As careful as we try to be with words, sometimes our eyes glaze over and our brains freeze when we encounter numbers. Just pausing for an extra moment over a number — does this figure make sense? — might be enough to save us from some unfortunate corrections."

  46. Has anyone heard if there are layoffs coming in Phoenix?

    I've heard rumors since the price hikes due to a large amount of newspaper cancellations. Should I worry?

  47. I've been hearing rumors about layoffs at the end of the year in Phoenix.

    I overheard a high-level manager in the photography/visual department that reporters and photography staffs will be cut in half as they merge into one staff.

    Has anyone else heard this? That information is making me awfully nervous.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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