Sunday, August 17, 2008

Giving peace a chance, is it time for detente?

Regarding whether we should expect Gannett's official spokeswoman to be more candid, a reader offers an intriguing suggestion: "I agree that you should give Tara Connell a break. She was a terrific reporter, a fiercely focused editor and she has navigated the new world of corporate-speak with more integrity than many who hold such jobs. No, she doesn't volunteer much, but her very minimalist approach -- even before all these layoff woes -- has kept her from missteps, dissembling or deception. The truth of the matter is she said very little before this blog; it would be unusual to expect her to be verbose or volunteering now.

"Should she, though, answer your questions? I think the answer ultimately should be yes, because this blog, as mean-spirited as it is at times, is a full-blown news entity now. It's a two-way street, though. If the blog stops using her as a punching bag, and respects the position she is in, it could very well be useful for the company, through Connell, to occasionally communicate here.

"Right now, though, the blog is a mob scene. Understandable given what's going on. And Gannett itself -- Tara, too -- bear part of that blame for the unbelievably poor manner with which this was all communicated. This isn't five years ago, where Romenesko was the only game in town and maybe he'd publish a memo or two. This blog has gone Gannett-viral, and it is a new part of the company and the employee mindthink. With that, I believe, comes more responsibility on all sides to make it work for everyone.

"It would be less fun to drop the poking of Tara, but maybe a lowering of rhetoric -- given that people are losing their jobs -- might be good for all sides. There are a lot of inept people in all this --- bad managers, scared-silly employees, hangers-on and rubberneckers -- but most everyone involved, yes, publishers, too, are trying to get through this. There are a lot of enemies. Tara isn't one of them."

Confidential to Everyone: I have nothing personally against Tara Connell. She was responsive until around the time of the annual shareholders meeting, April 30.

But since then, Connell has replied to my e-mails on only a few occasions, and our relationship has grown more contentious. Meanwhile, Gannett Blog's readership continues climbing. This site likely has more readers than any other GCI employee publication (see chart, above, of last 30 days' traffic). It's now the virtual watercooler for a significant share of the 46,100 employees. Those readers aren't going away. I don't think Connell's going away. And I'm not going away. Given that, perhaps it's time for a truce?

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Chart: Nearly 24,000 unique visitors read Gannett Blog over the past 30 days, Google Analytics said today. About 20% were new readers, drawn especially by news of 600 newspaper layoffs last week]


  1. I'm liking this line of thought.

    I'm sure the company doesn't like it, but this blog has become the main way in which employees communicate their frustrations. But really, if you expect any kind of corporate response, this whipping of Tara (who I don't know and have never met) is just not going to encourage anything in return, Jim.

    You're in a symbiotic relationship with her and I doubt either of you like it, but so it goes.

  2. We are all in the same boat. Let’s help each other get through this with some positive feedback, useful information and resources for those who will lose their jobs next week and the following months to come… as I’m sure more is to come.

    The past is the past, lets look to the future and all the things we can start doing today to help prepare ourselves and move beyond this.

    It’s a sad situation, but truly we are all accountable and responsible for creating our own happiness and well being. We should never expect material things and our employer to create the happiness in our lives.

    We are our own life managers, so if we don’t like how our lives are going, only we have the power to change it and sometimes that starts with changing our attitudes towards things.

    We have a choice on how we react to things and we can either chose to let this situation upset us or we can chose to go out and celebrate a new challenge and a new beginning.

    I am thankful for the many opportunities this company has given me and if next week I’m one of the chosen to be eliminated; I will leave with a professional attitude and with dignity.

    It makes no sense to burn any bridges. Your manager may be included in the layoff and they may want you to work for them again.

  3. I've been thinking that Tara isn't your problem, and I bet she is dealing with a lot of strings controlling what she confirms and acknowleges. As you see from the movement of GCI, there's a lot of money money riding on her answers, too. That being said, there is no excuse for Tara ignoring you when Gannett did put out a public statement. And she did sell her soul when she went over to the dark side, so her background in a newsroom is now irrelevant. Like others who have used Charon's services, she can never come back, and I think she knows that.

  4. Here's the deal:
    It only takes a moment to type:
    "I'll get back to you on that."
    "I don't know, I will have to ask."
    "We aren't commenting on that just now."

    Considering the readership of Gannett Blog, one would think that some response (however unsatisfying) would be better than silence as far as GCI is concerned
    That said, I think we should remind ourselves that Tara (who I never met) merely relays the answers. She doesn't come up with the answers and likely had no authority to even answer about the things she does know without somebody above her giving her the OK.

  5. I suspect that she only responded to you originally to correct incorrect information you were putting out. Now that this blog has become a bit of a car wreck, it's not even worth attempting to correct the inaccuracies.

  6. Charon is the ferryman who carries souls over the River Styx.

  7. Jim, you write a lot about your blog's growth, but we haven't heard much about your ad revenue lately. Is it still pennies and nickels? If it is, why not seek out paid ads (CareerBuilder would be perfect!)and make your part-time job more profitable, so you can ensure the blog stays around. If you're not comfortable making money, you could turn it into a foundation or a non-profit. Either way, give us the goods on how much loot you're bringing in from Gannett Blog.

  8. Jim, you should have employers looking for journalists, middle managers and even upper management pay for advertising on this blog.

  9. 11:04: The company is a car wreck, not this blog.

  10. 10:22AM

    RIGHT ON!!!!! Finally someone wrote something that makes sense. All of us control our own destiny. Move or get run over.

  11. Tara,is just a the P.R. voice of Gannett. No matter who is sitting in her chair, they would be saying and doing the same things. So do not hold her personally responsible, for GCI actions. What I would be interest in knowing does anyone, know of a similar type of Blog, for another publishing business.

  12. Another thing to keep in mind with the viewer statistics - "Unique Visitors" doesn't really mean "Different People" - it means "Different Browsers that don't clear their cache".

    I read this blog on three separate computers depending on where I am at the time. I count as three of those unique visitors. I suspect that I'm not the only one...

  13. I could care less what the Gannett PR flack has to say. Regardless if it's Tara or anybody else, the message to this audience would be the same convoluted, highly filtered, corporate BS. Given how (rightfully) hostile most of us are on this blog, what's the Gannett PR flack have to gain for engaging? Nuthin.' I think dropping an e-mail to correct an egregious error contained here is probably the best policy from her end. Anything else that needs to be said will be contained in the same canned tripe the rest of the world gets.

    Jim can kiss and make up, but the truth if is the Gannett PR Flak were to provide anything substantial to this blog, many of us would simply mock and scorn. Tara is bright enough to know that.

  14. To 2:27 PM, if your only goal is to mock and scorn what anybody has to say, what real value are you bringing to the table? I know most people want to believe that the executives don't care about anybody but themselves but that is simply not true. I know one publisher who is absolutely in anguish over the masses losing their jobs. It's not as easy as most of you seem to think it is to pick and choose who has to go. It's a necessary evil that has to be done in order to sustain the company. To mock and scorn what anybody has to say is very short-sighted and extremely immature. And no, I'm not an executive with the company, and I have no affiliation with Gannett at all. I just happen to know some people who work in the business that have had to deal with all the bs being thrown at them.

  15. Tara Connell is dead to me.

  16. Anon 2:50 PM
    The anguished publisher you mention has every reason to feel terrible about the massive layoffs if he/she contributed to the job losses by not preparing for the future.

    Please tell the anguised publisher there's a much better way than the old personal pick and choose "do they stay or do they go" method. Tell the publisher to look to the future, set goals and simply staff accordingly. Some positions will get cut and others won't.

  17. 2:50 p.m. You got to be kidding me. Publishers are relishing this moment. There is not an ounce of anguish in their hearts. It is what they took the job to do. They love holding the future of families in their hands. They get a real kick out of keeping employees on edge worrying if their next paycheck will be their last. Why do you think they dribble this out and prolong the agony. They are little boys who enjoy pulling the wings off of flies, or little girls who grew up chewing off the arms of their jelly babies before eating them.

  18. Yes indeed. It takes a special breed of sub-human to do what these folks do for a living. But it's somewhat reassuring to believe that every bad deed gets repaid in the end.

    As for Tara, I don't consider her much more that "the messenger." The bigger problems lie elsewhere.

  19. Two questions, Jim, I hope you will consider featuring as their own threads now or soon.

    ONE: If you took a buyout or got laid off from a newsroom in the last year, what do you do now and what advice do you have for the rest of ourselves in surviving this and reinventing ourselves. What professions have welcomed your experience and skills?

    TWO: Do any Gannett properties have an editor they still respect? I can think of two. And believe me, those two are broken-hearted to have to tell even one hard-working person they are out of work. For the record, I don't work for corporate, am not an ME or even close, and I am not referring to my current EE.

  20. Of course I meant the rest of us, not the rest of ourselves. I, for one, could use more copy editors, not fewer.

  21. Does anyone have any information about The Tennessean? Which department(s) are being targeted?

  22. Anon 2:50.
    You missed the point, little fella.
    No Corporate Flak would provide anything of substance to a blog such as this. What would be submitted for public consumption would be the S.O.S. just shoveled a different way. The Corporate Flak is right in not responding, because the watered-down, intellectually dishonest corporate speak she'd regurgitate here would only be fodder for mock and scorn.
    Now, if we were to sit down off-the-record over a bottle of wine, the Corporate Flack would probably be enlightening. But she ain't gonna be here.

    And to be clear...when you say this publisher pal of yours is trying to "sustain the company," you're spinning things. The company is still making a profit, little fella. Sustain massive profit margins? Yes. The "company?" Uh, no.

  23. Jim,
    I sure hope you don't turn this into a cheesy "I reinvented myself thanks to Gannett," and "Gannett has swell and highly respected editors."
    Sorry 3:51 PM, but I just don't think that's why people come here.

  24. 2:50 pm -- I would like to point out that Gannnett is far from being one of the companies in dire straits, no matter what your publisher buddy might allege. I can only refer you to last February's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (it is online, and you can pick it up on some financial Web sites under Gannett stock symbol GCI). What that statement shows is that Gannett's after-tax profit last year was $976 million. That is 976 million fold-em, put-em-in-your-pocket, crinkly dollar bills. Contrast that fact with the prospect that 1,000 employees who helped make all those dollars are going to lose their jobs this week.

  25. and adding to what 6:08 says, contrast those 600 lost jobs and 400 unfilled ones with the 0% pay cut that ANY gannett exec has taken to try to prevent loss of staffers.

    someone mentioned that european ceos make only 14 or 15 times as much as their average workers do (though i'm sure they get stock options and bonuses when the companies are thriving.)

    a few years ago, when eli lilly drugs was in a financial bind, their ceo cut his own pay to $1 a year until the crisis passed.

    years ago (pre moonys), when there was a recession and the washington star was in money trouble, a 20% slash of workforce was in the cards until the unions got management to keep everyone on at 80% pay

    anybody see any gannett execs making great financial sacrifices to save jobs?

  26. 5:13 p.m.

    I am not looking for platitudes for fake praise. And I hear what you're saying. But I genuinely NEED to know what all those laid off and bought out journalists - especially those over 40 - have done to resurrect their careers and if they have any advice for the rest of us. I'm not looking for "c'mon get happy,'' I'm looking for practical advice for those who will lose their livelihoods this week and those who may someday soon - or who are bracing themselves to jump ship and take their chances sometime soon.

    AS for the editors question, I really want to know if everyone thinks their respective editor is just a KoolAID lush, or if there are some old-school journalists in corner offices feeling our pain. But I think question #1 is more immediate and useful, Jim.

  27. The answer to question #1 is to take charge of your career and just start interviewing for jobs that interest you. Look on and see if there is a good fit anywhere for you. Evaluate your situation and begin thinking about relocating to further your career. Get a headhunter to look for you. In most cases you don't pay them until they find a job for you that's a good fit. If you want to continue your career in journalism, start applying to any company that interests you. Why wait until you're laid off to do this? Start now. You may find something better than your job at Gannett. You can take charge of your life and stop waiting for the ax to come down on you. The best thing to do is get a job while you're collecting your severence and you'll be paid double some months, in some cases. As for question #2, most of the people on this blog who think that editors and publishers are Kool-Aid drinkers don't really have a clue. It's easy to say that they don't care, but that is so far from the truth. I won't even go there because it will just spawn some more immature comments like the ones from 3:17 & 3:23.

  28. joe grimm, longtime freep recruiter, discusses going thrugh his own buyout, and working on a poynter project for displaced journos at

    when you call that pg up, you'll also see links to related items about questions to ask, things to consider about finances and more.

  29. 7:46, your advice about not waiting for the ax to fall is fine and point taken. But what you and others fail to consider is that this layoff -- and the others that will likely follow -- isn't just disrupting one person's life. In many cases -- and I can promise you it's the case for an awful lot of NJ folks who read this blog -- it's going to disrupt entire families. Most of us in Jersey are two-income families and with Gannett owning so many papers in the state -- and the others in the region cutting jobs or freezing hiring -- the options are a) leave newspapers or b) attempt to move your entire family to another part of the country. That means pulling kids out of school, praying that your spouse can find a job where you move -- doubly difficult if you're both in the business, and that's not a rare occurrence in NJ -- praying that you can sell your house and not take a bath in the real estate market, and a million other little details that while they may seem simple on the surface, compounded together are a massive undertaking.

    That's why the "don't worry, be happy" platitudes anger people. It's not as simple as just taking charge of themselves alone. That's why people -- particularly those in the over-40-but-way-too-far-from-retirement group -- are so agitated at the lack of information and communication on this. I can promise you that an awful lot of couples spent the weekend trying to figure out what the hell they're going to do when they get that pink slip on Wednesday -- if not sooner.

  30. Were Tara to answer any of your/our questions is neither here nor there. Would you trust the information that filtered down from her? Not that she would set out to intentionally mislead, but those around her may give her misinformation or change direction even as she responds to whatever the topic du jour is at hand. Suffice it say, "What is, is; and what's gonna be, will be." Enjoy your week, all!

    On The Chopping Block As Well


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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