Sunday, August 17, 2008

Previously laid off? Bought out? Share your tips!

Regarding prospects for soon-to-be-jobless newspaper employees, a reader suggests this good idea for a discussion topic:

If you took a buyout or got laid off from a paper in the last year, what do you do now -- and what advice do you have for the rest of us in surviving this, and reinventing ourselves? What professions have welcomed your experience and skills? I'm especially interested in hearing from former newsroom employees.

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.

[Image: today's Register, Newseum. The paper is laying off 15 of about 1,000 workers. Paper-by-paper layoff list]


  1. Actually, I am on the verge of taking a buyout, and got this advice from someone at another paper who was bought out last year. His tips:

    -- Get all the names and numbers of people in HR and benefits. The instant, repeat, instant you leave, they will forget your name.

    -- Send emails to ALL sources with a new email, address, and phone number to reach you at.

    -- Have someone collect your mail for a few months after you leave so you still get it until senders can get the address.

    -- See if the company will keep your email active for 30 days after you leave so you can contact anyone who mails you that you have left.

    -- If you get a job during the buyout period, you can defer your income over and above the buyout pay until the buyout ends and your salary goes down.

    -- Get a financial adviser.

  2. This is a duplicate of a comment I made on another post, but it is relevant in terms of planning.

    In Re unemployment compensation: Eligibility varies state by state. It is very important to go directly to the agency that administers comp in your state to find the answers.

    In Ohio, voluntary buyouts do NOT exclude you from unemployment comp, when they are accompanied by the prospect of later layoffs -- as these buyouts are.

    However, your severance payments are deducted from your benefits, and in many cases the severance is going to be more than the comp.

    You can apply for unemployment after the severance ends, but in my case that will be too long after the required work-credits period.

    It's complicated. So do your research on this. Do Not Wait for HR.

  3. On the advertising side, I've been gone from Gannett for nine years. The memories remained hurtful and harmful for years. Try to clear the brain, memory of as much about Gannett as possible. Those so called "friends" will be but a short memory.

    Get with the program and get re-matriculated as fast as possible. Drive from town to town, and city to city, and fill out application forms...ask to speak with the HR or VP in charge. Make an impression. Its a numbers game.
    The internet sucks as an employment venue. One of but hundreds of resumes.

    If you have the money, and want to stay in advertising sales/management arena, there are franchises to buy. Travelhost is but one.

    And it may mean the sales career will take the turn towards insurance, finance, or banking.

    Good luck. Put Gannett behind...and fast.

  4. No. 1: Get a financial adviser. I was able to get the services of one for free because I have an account at a credit union. First thing she told me to do was sell my Gannett stock. Glad I listened.
    Get the word out to all those people you interviewed in the community. You never know where one contact might lead. There are plenty of venues to use the mad skills you've accrued while multitasking @ Gannett.
    Don't be afraid of change. With the right attitude, it becomes a wonderful opportunity. Although I'm not earning what I once did, the people I work for now appreciate my work and tell me so, often. That has taken some getting used to. The work climate is like that of a family. I'm having a big problem adjusting to their work pace, after years of the thoroughbred race-like speed I went through at Gannett. Guess this is the "normal" the rest of the world knows.
    Best of all, I'm HAPPY, I'm HEALTHIER and after years of being beaten down, I'm OPTIMISTIC.
    My friends, don't worry. There is life, sweet life to savor, outside the Gannett universe!

  5. Advice from an O.C. member who left Gannett more than a year ago because I couldn't (morally) do what was being asked of me and what I foresaw would be asked of me:

    -- Take as much time off as you can financially afford to do so.
    -- Spend as much time as possible with your family and friends.
    -- Do something your typically wouldn't, or couldn't because of the demands of your job. (I visited a friend and a family member - two separate trips - that I never felt I had time to see because what little time I did take off, I spent with my family. And I actually attended "Family Weekend" at my daughter's university.)
    -- Breathe. Try to eliminate as much pent up stress as possible.

    It took me a three to four months before I was able to get to sleep without tossing and turning, and could sleep through the night.

    I also lost 12 pounds in the first three months.

    Good luck and God bless to all.

  6. Thank you to all above posts and 11:17. So many of us need this as the dreaded week begins. What a shame we are subjected to that little torture weekend after all the years of hard work and dedication so many of us have put into this company.

  7. 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.

    i'd add that if you can get a part-time job while looking for new work, it will help with holiday expenses and/or job-hunting costs (which i think are tax-deductible, by the way. if you're 50 or older, check out aarp site for companies friendly to older workers.

    speaking of tax-deductible, if you can itemize your taxes, this would be a great time to donate excess books, music and movies to your public library (keep an itemized list, get a receipt and find out how much they sell such donations for so you know your donations' "market value." same goes for clothes, toys, household items, etc. given to charity thrift shops (amvets, women's shelter, etc.)

    or if you know you can't itemize or if you need ready cash, have a garage sale -- preferably with a cople of neighbors to split the work and costs, and get more buyers.

    if you can prepay for something like orthodontia to boost medical expenses to a deductible level, or do anything else to raise this year's deductions, do it -- and then file taxes as early as possible next yr, preferably online and with refund direct-deposited.

    and remember -- no matter how much the company tries to guilt-trip you, this wasn't your fault! don't tear yourself down with negativity.

    and for those who still have jobs after this latest purge, don't feel "survivor guilt."

  8. Make sure to take your rolodex home now (some companies regard them as company property) and also print out or forward to your home all emails of people who might be able to help you find work. This includes flaks, sources and anyone else who knows of your job skills. Once you're gone, you'll find that it's next to impossible to find that specific telephone extension or email address for someone you dealt with regularly. You probably also have their cell and home numbers, too. Keep them.
    I left a year ago and am now in better shape in every respect because an industry colleague suggested I call someone who jumped at the chance to hire me in a field related to my beat. Networking is going to be fairly crucial when you go job hunting.
    If you don't have your best clips, try to get hard copies from your library before you leave. They make a better impression than art-less Nexis printouts.
    Make sure HR gives you the phone number of the people at Gannett who handle your pension (not your 401k). You will have the option to take a tax-free lump-sum rollover into your own IRA (which you should set up if you haven't already). Gannett will write the check to the fund (Fidelity, Vanguard, etc) and mail it to you. You then mail it to the IRA. It's pretty easy.

  9. Just know that it's going to be an emotional roller coaster. I think there are very few people in the newspaper business who don't really love the work. Leaving was very hard for me.

    Another thing that might surprise you is how little you'll write after you leave the newspaper. I took a buyout 18 months ago and went right to work for Fast Horse, a top-notch marketing/PR agency in Minneapolis. (

    Yet writing is a very small part of what I do. There's a lot more planning and strategizing than I realized. That's been a challenge, because as a reporter I rarely planned beyond the end of the week. Now I develop 6-month plans with a lot of moving parts that all have to be kept track of and brought together at the end. It's not a seat-of-the-pants business like newspapers are. I think you'll find that true of almost any other business you might enter.

    Another thing for you reporters and editors: Just as the web is overrunning your business, it's changing every other business, too. Our clients are interested in all things web-related, and less in dealing with the traditional media. That makes all my knowledge of how the traditional media works less valuable than it would have been 5 or 10 years ago.

    So, you don't get a pass on learning about the web just because you leave the newsroom.

  10. I'd just like to take a moment and say, as one of the hundreds starting this week in fear for their job, thank you very much to everyone who has posted their advice and stories. The thought of no longer having work is frightening, but knowing that so many of you have gone on to successful and happier lives is a comfort. And thank you to Jim for creating this blog in the first place. Without the information given here, most of us would probably still be in the dark.

  11. 8:51's advice regarding the rolodex is excellent. When I knew I was leaving for a new (and better) job, that was one of the first things I took home -- even before I announced my departure. Then I started taking my files -- old story notes, clips, etc. My last day, the only thing I had left to take was my personal books and photos.

    Regarding the pension/401(k) money -- they are required by law to give you the info in a timely fashion. I think it's no more than 30 days after you are gone. I rolled out both my 401(k) and my pension and had no problems. But I highly recommend communicating by certified mail with them on those issues. Put it in writing, dates and times. That paper trail protects you in the long run. However, if someone needs the address/phone number, email Jim. I will let him know I have the info (unless those people get the ax, too).

  12. Ditto to what 10:19 said. I hope everyone keeps us posted on how they're doing after they get their pink slips. My thoughts are with everyone this week. I'm hoping the majority of people are surprised by how much better life is outside of the Gannett walls.

  13. As a veteran writer whose job was eliminated, it took me several months to find work. GCI just made my situation so difficult so as to force me to leave without any offer. Eventually, I got a severance package. I found could forget media jobs because nothing came close to my pay scale and nobody was hiring. So I looked at the skills I had, the ability to write quickly and accurately and work under tremendous pressure, photography, videography, I was very computer savvy, I could interview people and delve through paper trails, etc. The opportunities exist: PR, law firms, investigative firms, insurance companies, contract writing, due diligence work for banks or brokerage houses. Teach part time at a college. The work is there and once you break in, it will come in droves. Last words, if you have a chance, hose all personal data from laptops and copy all your personal data from your pc to a jump drive and then delete that info too. Roll your pension over into an income producing vehicle. Sadly, I did not sell my stock and I have paid the price for it. My personal experience with unemployment was that the severance did not affect it, but pension payments did because I took a lump sum to survive. My biweekly unemployment check was offset by the monthly pension payment equivalent. But the offset did not cost me money, it just meant they paid me less each week, but for a longer period of time. I still got the full $9,600. Always keep a month's cash in reserve if you can. Cut your unnecessary expenses to the bone until you are working again. Try to bulk up on any mail order prescriptions; and remember any outstanding 401K loans which are not repaid are converted to a highly taxed withdrawal.

  14. Some other tips:

    -- Set up a gmail, hotmail, .mac or other (alternative) Email account. Communicate the new address to those closest to you.
    -- Archive your Email and save it to a portable (SanDisk) drive you can put in your pocket.
    -- Export your contacts from Outlook and save those to the portable storage device.
    -- On your last day, archive / save your remaining Email and delete EVERYTHING in your Email ... Inbox, deleted items, Sent folder and your archive files.
    -- On your last day, change your voice mail stating you are no longer available at that number and provide a new extension where the person calling can get assistance.
    -- Delete all messages in your voice mailbox.

    If you don't know how to do this, hopefully you've nurtured a relationship with someone in I.T. who can assist, or a person in your department.

    This is for your protection. And since Gannett no longer needs your services, then it no longer needs your Email and documents.

  15. great point on meds, anonymous 11:05.

    around here, several chains fill a generic rx for $10 for a 3-month supply. if anyone in your family takes such, get docs to fax 3-month generic rxs to pharmacy right away if you have little seniority. if you must take name-brand, consider ordering from canada. we save about $200/3 months on one rx. also, your doctor can give you samples and/or help hook you up w/big pharma's programs if you're in bad $$ shape.

    pretax withholding for medical (and day care) may not continue coming out of checks when you are laid off -- be sure to ask someone knowledgeable in h.r. -- if there IS anyone knowledgeable.

    don't be ashamed to apply for free or reduced-price texts and school meals for your kids if resources run low. you've paid taxes all these years -- you deserve help.

    and remember to have some fun: shoot hoops or ride bikes with your kids. get movies, books and music from the public library. go to all those free events you've missed for years because of working crappy hours.

  16. I left a 250,000-circ paper in spring 2007 because I loved my work but hated the way my company treated me and my co-workers. I also found it pretty sad that I could not afford groceries and regularly pay my rent on time.

    I moved to a media-related field and the biggest adjustment is learning how to work without daily deadlines. I was really knocked for a loop as I entered the newsroom directly from college. Weekly and monthly deadlines just make me feel like I've got a 10-page essay due: I want to put it off until tomorrow! But, really, it is true that most other people have a much slower pace at work than journos. Still not sure if I think that's a good thing.

    I get paid much more now to do what feels like less work. Sometimes that frustrates me, but overall... it's pretty sweet.

  17. Substitute teaching gave me a little income while I looked for a job once.

  18. All this sounds great for you guys that have a specific profession. There are loads of us out here in lower level management jobs that have worked for Gannett long enough that we are now too old and too "untrained" to come even close to compensate for what we are losing, poor though that compensation has been.

    We have mortgages, car notes, and kids in college too.

    Talk about a kick in the nuts.

  19. In an e-mail, a reader asked me to post this comment:

    I'm new to Gannett, but not new to downsizing.  I've been through it before and here's some advice for those about to have it happen to them ...
    When looking for a new job, be relentless.  Don't let your wounded ego send you into a tail spin.  Get your resume together, hit the usual (and unusual) job-listing websites, and keep your nose to the grindstone.  You WILL find another job.  It may not be overnight (it took me almost six months -- this was a few years ago, not my current job w/ Gannett) but you will find something.  You're smart.  You have skill sets.  You're going to make it.
    STAY POSITIVE.  When you finally get that new job, you'll look back on this chapter as an awakening.  If I had a nickel for every time some told me "being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me" I'd be rich!  It pushes you out of your comfort zone and empowers you.
    I'm SURE I'll be downsized again somewhere down the road (maybe even next week!)  Don't take it personally, just let the experience take you to a better place.  Don't ever let your job title, employer, or circumstances in life "define" you

  20. Great advice, 1:31 PM.

  21. My plan, if it turns out I need one, is that once I get the word I am being downsized, my immediate new job is finding a new job. I have been working on a daily/weekly schedule of activities geared toward finding a new position. I'll report to work on the first day after my last day.

  22. Pound on the doors of the local TV stations. The more progressive stations are looking to hire seasoned reporters to manage/populate content on their websites, which have historically been nowhere near the quality of newspaper sites. Local TV wants to catch up and will look to former newspaper people to do it.

  23. I went through one of these situations several years ago, and was astonished at my American Express bill that showed up a month later. So my advice is to avoid the daily after-work bull sessions, which only repeat what you already know, and can be very expensive. Remember misery loves company, so avoid co-workers and rediscover your families or old friends who have nothing to do with newspapering.

  24. I voluntarily left GCI over four years ago. From my own experience and observation of others leaving, I offer the following advice:

    - Email and contact lists have a nasty habit of being restored from backup tapes that aren't supposed to exist past the 3-day mark, so remove them with as much lead time as possible. Switch over to a paper-based system for more security and take it home at night. Do not use the work computer for ANY personal email in the days leading up to leaving, not via Outlook or a web browser - as nothing is private and everything done via a company-owned computer is recorded and monitored.

    - Keep everything personal secured and _closed_ (zipped or clasped shut) in a satchel, bag, pack or briefcase - this is for legal protection in the event of an unwarranted search.

    - Don't take company confidential data, papers, copies, etc. - no matter how angry or unfair things feel.

    - Remove everything and anything of personal value (photos, mugs, clothing, awards, books, etc.) from the office or cubicle prior to the big day, which eliminates scrambling and possibly forgetting something during the 15-minute escort out the door. It also guarantees that everything that is valued is in hand, rather than _maybe_ shipped by others later.

    - Tally up any travel, training or other business expenses still owed to or from the company. Same thing for keys, computer accounts, ID cards, equipment, software, task deadlines, crucial data files, etc. The point is to be fair, professional and take the highroad, even if it personally feels otherwise. This also helps to establish liability for anything on the part of both parties before leaving.

    - Once out, rollover both the 401(k) and the pension into a new 401(k) account of your choosing. Get a financial advisor.

    - Switch health coverage over to another provider (spouse employer package, standalone, whatever).

    - Get the names, phone numbers and email addresses of everyone that participates in the leaving process, and that includes HR and others. It's surprising how fast "close friends" forget good times and working relationships.

    The best advice I can offer is to keep everything professional and low-key. Finding a new position in the current job market is tough and a good reference from the company goes a long way towards new employment. This can be VERY tough to follow, but can be beneficial in the end.

    As others have echoed in previous posts, I'm now working for a bit more money, for less hours and responsibilities. I now have time for my family and other quality of life aspects that were lost to me during my time at Gannett.

  25. I work at a Gannett newspaper, in the online department. I am flabbergasted by some of the comments I read in this blog. I feel badly for all these people who have been treated so poorly by Gannett management, but as a member of that management (joined Gannett 5 years ago) I have to say that people around this location are simply not treated that way.

    What I can't understand is why anyone would stay with an organization that mistreated him/her. I have worked for less than desirable bosses before and my response? find a better (hopefully) place to work and get out of there. Only you can prevent forest fires.

    Now I'll sit back and watch for the barrage of comments telling me I've been drinking the Gannett KoolAid...

  26. 2:59, no Kool-Aid comment here, but I can tell you that knowing you should get out and figuring out how to do it are two very different things. If you have a family, there's a lot more to consider. It took me two years to do it, and it happened in part because I was able to get a new job without moving my family. I gave up newspapers and the rush of the daily deadline, which I loved and still miss, and I took a pay cut to get out. Not everyone can afford to do that.

  27. Yes, a Kool-Aid comment here. Ok, so you don't believe everything you read. Good for you. But take a little advice from an old-timer, and start putting aside enough cash that will keep you running for six months. Just save it in an interest-bearing bank account and forget about it. I think you will need it one day, but if I am wrong, then you will have a cash reserve for your retirement years.

  28. 2:11 Great advice. Surround yourselves around positive people who can help you through this and stay away from those who just want to rehash the past and their hurt feelings.

  29. I'm an endangered ad designer in NJ. Am I allowed to use some of the ads I created for our advertisers in my own portfolio? Or are they the property of the newspaper? If I'm using a design I did for Bob's restaurant, do I need Bob's permission too?

    Thanks...the camaraderie on this site has helped me make it through this excruciating day of no news.

  30. NJ ad designer: If the ads have run in the newspaper, I can't think of any reason why you couldn't include copies in your portfolio. The ads you created are the property of the newspaper, but you are only using copies to show your level of experience and artistry. If they have appeared in the paper, Bob would not need to approve.
    If they have not appeared in the paper, that is completely another matter and you would need to talk to a lawyer because very complicated copyright issues are involved.

  31. amen to 3:14 p.m. single parent, little child support no family backup, kids with big medical bills. when gci bought us where could i go? all i could hope was that the awful things i'd herd about ganett were untrue.

    they were worse. my department got slammed last year, so my chances of getting paid to leave are low. i just wish they woudl tell us and get it over with.

  32. For those of you concerned about losing your home, your bank is not in the foreclosure business so most will work with you to keep you in it.

    If you feel you're not getting the assistance you need, contact your state's attorney generals office for the foreclosure hotline number. My understanding they will work with you and your bank to help you stay in your home.

  33. So from this date forward it behooves all of you to just consider yourself laid-off. This way you may take a proactive stance and begin to prepare for round 4, round 5, etc. The writing is on the wall and you would be fool to think you will be spared. Save money. Redo your finances. Rewrite your resume and send it out. Get some training. Secure health benefits elsewhere. Do whatever you need to do to adjust and if you still find your job secure 1 year, 2 years, etc. down the line, so be it (I won't say great, that's up to you). Don't play the role of the victim, it's not professional and it's not good for your well-being.

  34. Stop. Do not under any circumstance take a check from Gannett for your 401k. If you have an IRA with Fidelity or other brokerage firm, fill out forms at the brokerage and let them retrieve the money. Under most circumstances if you receive a check it can become taxable. Miss the redeposit by a day and the entire amount becomes taxable with penalties.

    There is no reason to move your 401k on the day you leave. As long as it is over a certain amount ($5000?) Gannett cannot make you move it.

    The best plan is go to the firm with your IRA and let them do it so it gets done right. If you don't have an IRA go to Fidelity or Vanguard if they are in your city/town. They are the lowest cost fund managers with the largest selection and among the most financially stable. Schwab is also a good choice. Be careful on all fronts. Moving 401k money improperly will cost you a lot of money. Talk to an IRA rollover specialist first. That's the safest way.

    I'm a Gannettoid and I have no financial interest in any of these firms. I do have a self directed 401k within the Gannett 401k and have spent a lot of my personal time on this.

  35. In an e-mail, a reader asked me to post the following comment:

    First, for those offered a buyout, early retirement or whatever they call it, take it. Don’t think about it, debate it, analyze it or worry about it. Just take it.
    As some who were laid off this week found out, if you are offered a buyout and don’t take it, when the layoffs come, you are first on the Hit Parade.
    If you’re offered a buyout, you get medical coverage from that time to you are eligible for Medicare, even if that’s five years. If you’re laid off, you just get medical while you are getting your separation pay. That could only be a few months. Also, with a buyout, you get a boost in your pension eligibility. No, you won’t be able to sue Gannett for age bias, but so what. In today’s legal and political climate, you probably wouldn’t win anyway.
    Don’t worry about what you’re going to do after retirement. I’ve been out for 2 1/2 years and am so busy I don’t know where I got the time to work. My colleagues who also took the early retirement buyout say the same. If you can afford it, take a nice trip, but don’t blow your nest egg at once. Social Security doesn’t go all that far.
    If you are lucky enough to get a buyout, roll over your 401(k) into an IRA or a Roth IRA (if you can afford to pay the taxes) as soon as you can. Just get it away from the Gannett handlers.
    If you are lucky enough to have a defined-benefit pension, keep saying to yourself that you are the luckiest son of a gun. If not, find an adviser and get your pension payoff working for you ASAP. The market stinks, but this is a good time to buy in.
    And most important, if you get laid off, don’t you dare think this is your fault or that you did anything wrong or you were bad at your job.
    The suits who are staying were bad at theirs, which is why you’re getting the boot. Hold your head up high and good luck.

  36. Health insurance coverage until Medicare time? That wasn't what you got, was it Jim?

  37. Okay how about if they say your job was eliminated, but filled it someone with a lower salary and who was younger?
    Is that a lawsuit?
    What about bringing back employees who were bought out or laid off to fill jobs that weren't posted?

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


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