Monday, August 12, 2013

Anatomy of a forecast for this round of layoffs

A Gannett Blog reader said I was "spot on" about the recent round of layoffs, prompting Anonymous@2:39 p.m. today to write:

"How was he spot on? When someone predicts every week that 'Layoffs are coming!' that person will be right eventually. But not right very often. You should have someone explain this to you. It's obvious that your inane attempts at supporting rumors have you all confuzzled."

To be clear, I did not predict this round of layoffs. In fact, my first post related to the subject actually focused on furloughs -- which a source said were the more likely option at the time. In that July 10 post, I wrote about:

"prospects for another round of unpaid one-week furloughs for U.S. Community Publishing's 81 coast-to-coast dailies, from Elmira, N.Y., to Palm Springs, Calif. A reader in a position to know tells me publishers could be given new cost-cutting targets as early as this week.

"Any such cuts, which also could include eliminating open positions or more, would arrive in time for the second-quarter earnings release, set for July 22, when CEO Gracia Martore and other top executives brief Wall Street media analysts." [Emphasis added.]

Questions for Martore
After that post appeared, my reader in a position to know told me Corporate had considered furloughs, accepted the idea, then rejected them in favor of layoffs and other cuts, such as in newsprint use.

On the basis of that information, I posted an item on July 21, where I suggested that employees ask Martore two questions during the "Town Hall" meeting with employees the next day, after the second-quarter earnings release:
  1. Is Corporate now reviewing fresh cost-cutting proposals from the U.S. newspaper division, including furloughs in the current quarter?
  2. Have publishers submitted updated RIF lists, with names of employees targeted for possible layoff?
In fact, I knew the answer to those two questions was, yes. But I hoped -- a slim one, I admit -- that employees would ask Martore, so she'd be on record with her reply.

Beyond that, I didn't make any predictions. Instead, I waited for a week, expecting the layoffs, and possibly furloughs, to begin. And the layoffs did, on July 29, starting with The Indianapolis Star.

It's certainly true some people predict impending layoffs nearly every week, and often as a quarterly earnings release approaches.

But readers here were especially active in posting comments suggesting something was afoot in the weeks before this latest round.

And by July 29, anyone reading this blog was not surprised when the layoffs began.


  1. Furloughed Fury8/12/2013 9:07 PM

    In defense of the blog and its readers, the layoff chatter among readers ramped up in the last few weeks. Furloughs had been previously mentioned at my site, particularly if summer advertising didn't pick up. The bottom line is this blog is STILL the best early warning we employees get. Don't knock it unless you can provide something better.

    1. And the rationalizations for rumors begin. I thought this would happen sooner.

      You were wrong. Own it.

  2. Jim,
    Don't worry about your ability to read the GCI tea leaves. Someone added pot leaves to the mix years ago, and GCI brass has no idea what's up. Layoffs will always happen. This is a management team that has no vision, no competence, no working business model, no adherence to its fiduciary duty to shareholders and no concern for its employees or customers. The only thing it can control in the equation is cost, and that means terminating workers, disemboweling products, selling real estate and not reinvesting profits into operations. What a pathetic company.

  3. Rumor has it, and I am saying rumor, that layoffs in Wilmington could be as early as tomorrow or Wednesday.

    1. That's nice. Will you come back and own it if you are wrong?

    2. To be precise -- which is what good journalists strive for -- someone can correctly report there are rumors about something.

      That doesn't mean the rumors are correct, of course. In other words, 11:06 can correctly report rumors that later proven to be incorrect.

      This is why newspapers and broadcast stations attribute information.

      To your point, 11:52, this distinction is lost on the vast majority of readers and viewers. All they know is "they got it wrong."


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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