Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gannett eliminates publisher's job at Tenn. paper

In an anticipated budget-cutting move, GCI has asked the publisher of the Murfreesboro newspaper to also lead The Leaf-Chronicle in nearby Clarksville. Andrew Oppmann takes over the duties of Gene Washer, 68, who retired last week after 45 years at the Leaf-Chronicle -- 13 under Gannett ownership. Amid consolidation of many high-paying publisher's jobs, Gannett Blog readers had speculated that Washer's position would be axed.

Oppmann has been publisher of The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro -- about 90 minutes from Clarksville, the Leaf-Chronicle says, in a bare-bones story that details little about him. Oppmann joined Gannett in 1994, according to a GCI link I found on his family's website. (Nice to see a digitally savvy publisher, BTW!) He and has family will continue living in Murfreesboro.

A Clarksville newspaper reader was skeptical about the appointment. "He's doing two jobs at once?" the reader wrote in a comment on the paper's story. "I wonder what the official reason is for that besides cheapness."

Gannett's Tennessee papers
  • Leaf-Chronicle, Clarksville: 21,253 daily, 24,551 Sunday
  • The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro: 14,635 daily, 18,159 Sunday
  • The Jackson Sun, Jackson: 31,596 daily, 36,915 Sunday
  • The Tennessean, Nashville: 162,911 daily, 224,318 Sunday
[Image: yesterday's Leaf-Chronicle front page, Newseum; circulation data, 2007 Annual Report to shareholders]


  1. Not that surprising, Oppmann was pretty much assistant publisher in Appleton, circ around 50,000. These two papers cover about the same.

    He is very digital savvy.

  2. ask NJ how it works with one Publisher at the CN and HNT.

    I think you will see these two Tennessee papers become one. With a change of the front page, Gannett still has two papers.

    Expect to see more jobs combined at the two papers in the future.

  3. Having been to both of these papers and familiar with their communities I can tell you that they have little in common other than both are among the fastest growing counties in Tennessee. It's going to be interestingto see how Clarksville takes the transition form a publisher who knows everybody in town, was considered a local boy and was as integrated and as wellknown in the community as any publisher ever in Gannett to a "Part time Yankee Carpetbagger". Claksville is more rural, home to the 101st airbourne and more conservative than Murfreesboro. Everyone in town who was anybody knew Gene Washer and could walk into Gene's office and say hello.. and did. A part time yankee publisher isn't likely to go over well there in a bastion of the old South.

  4. Couldn't agree more 9:39am. Then again...a Publisher like Gene cannot be replaced. Those days are over. Any reaplacement would have been a lesser figure than Gene.

  5. 9:09 don't you mean, expect to see more people cut in the future.

  6. I am no fan of Gene Washer, because he used his position as publisher for all it was worth and pandered to his advertisers. However, he did give 40 years of his life to that newspaper and Gannett sent him out the door without so much as a "thank you." That is pathetic. And Andrew Oppman? He's a clone of Ellen Leifeld. God help them!

  7. 9:30, you're spot on. As a former employee at The Tennessean, I worked with Gene often. I was sad to hear news of his retirement; I was surprised he didn't retire earlier but it looks like they finally pushed him out. There's no way the people of Murfreesboro or Clarksville will tolerate "sharing" a publisher - they expect a lot of the position in their community.

  8. I’m Gene Washer. I don’t post anonymously. Maybe I’ve lived in the dark, but I didn’t know this blog existed until someone called me and told me some things that were being said about me.

    My 45 plus year life in newspapers for a private company, Multimedia and then Gannett has been based on providing the community with information as accurate as possible, community service and a responsibility of producing profit for the owners and shareholders.

    Of one thing I’m sure and I’ve told my team members this many times over the years: There is no one who can not be replaced. And that includes me. In this changing world to make sure companies survive as strong as they can, it takes different measures to accomplish what in previous years was given.

    I know Andrew Oppmann and I think he will do a great job. I think the Clarksville community will embrace him when they get to know him. And I'll be there to help if he wants me to.

    I wasn’t given a retirement party because Ellen Leifeld, who wanted to give me one, granted my request that I didn’t want one. I don’t like all that kind of fanfare. The newspaper was never about me. It was about the community we serve.

    I assume, and newspaper folks really should not assume, that the folks who post on this site are newspaper people. If that is the case, my advise is to get the facts straight and don’t hide behind the veil of anonymous.

    Gene Washer and his family are happy, have the highest respect for all those with whom and for whom we have worked over the many years and to tell you the truth, I caught a 3 ½ pound bass on Barkley Lake this morning on a top water bait and it was a thrill.

    And I won’t be posting here again.

  9. Thanks, Gene! You're always welcome back!

  10. Nice comment from Gene and corporate could learn something from him. Clear, concise communication over what is going on and why with a bit of Sgt. Joe Friday thrown in.. just the facts mam, just the facts.

  11. It should be noted that the people of Clarksville have suffered one of the worst possible newspapers in the nation under Washer and its owners. Clarksville is one of the country's fastest-growing cities, yet the Leaf-Chronicle remains the birdcage liner that it was in the '70s. No investigative reporting and no memorable writing. A preference to cheerlead and avoid confrontation instead of serving its First Amendment freedoms as a watchdog over the powerful. In sum, a total journalistic dud.

  12. Just a quick note: Andrew Oppmann isn't a "Yankee carpetbagger." He's a Kentucky native and proud graduate of the state school, and thus a Southerner born and bred, facts he readily discloses if anyone bothers to ask. Or even if they don't, I suppose.

  13. As a former editor of a non-daily paper in the Gannett chain, I find it discouraging that the company's own website, in listing its Tennessee newspapers, leaves out properties such as The Dickson Herald, The Ashland City Times, Robertson County Times, Stewart-Houston Times, Gallatin News-Examiner, Hendersonville Star-News and others. After spending 16 years toiling at a non-daily (with Multimedia and then Gannett, and under Gene Washer), I can assure you that the staffs of non-daily papers have it a lot worse than dailies. When Multimedia was bought by Gannett, the non-dailies practically ceased to exist -- at least in corporate mentality.

  14. It doesn't matter where Andrew Oppmann is from; it's his reputation as an Ellen Liefeld buddy that is worrisome.

  15. Well, I worked at the Leaf Chronicle for many years. I worked at the paper when it was owned by MultiMedia and later when purchased by Gannett. Fortunately I moved on to another profession before the ax began swinging. To my knowledge there has been no story - or at least no substantive story - written about the bloodletting at the LC. The above claptrap from Washer is typical. I am glad I lived long enough to read the murder headlines of the LC on the day it read Washer was gone. I worked with a whole lot of hardworking folks who did not live that long. Good ole' boy days at the LC are gone, and probably the LC as well. Looks like the pendulum in the media ownership biz is swinging again. Now the big bloated media fish is being consumed up by the little fishes ( and the crappy economy papers like the Tennessean, LC and USA Today helped create.) Cry no tears for Mr. Wisher. He made his fortune on the backs of the little folk and the readers were never the wiser. I understand the LC does not even give tours of its facilities in Clarksville because they do not want word getting out about how barren the place is now. When the Human Resources director was told to go with no warning the days of the LC as Tennessee's Oldest Paper were done for. We will see Gannett try to form a bureau in Clarkville. Now will be the time to hit it and the other smaller Gannett markets with real newspapers. The LC hasn't been one for a very, very, very long time. How long was Washer publisher?

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