Friday, November 21, 2008

Asheville | Print moves to Greenville; 60 jobs lost

Asheville Citizen-Times Publisher Randy Hammer says there had been talk of combining production at the North Carolina paper with its sister Gannett paper, The Greenville News, 63 miles south, in South Carolina. “The economic downturn we're seeing across the nation has pushed us to make this move sooner rather than later,” Hammer said, according to a story on the paper's website.

Although 60 jobs will be eliminated in Asheville, some of the employees laid off could transfer to new jobs being added at Greenville to handle the extra work, the paper says. But any press job cuts will be on top of those eliminated at Asheville in the 10% workforce reduction now underway; those additional layoffs will be announced early next month, Hammer's memo says.

31 comments:

  1. Let's see ... fewer night time sports scores because of earlier deadlines ... no papers or papers a day late about eight or 10 days a year when they can't get the trucks over the ice/snow on U.S. 24 between Greenville and Asheville. ... another hour needed to deliver papers to far western N.C. -- which is already a couple of hours from Asheville.
    Yep, looks like a surefire way to increase subscription numbers to me.

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  2. should have been US 25 above, not US 24. Sorry

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  3. Aside from delivery problems (which are enormous in the mountains as well as the city itself) noted above, this may be the final nail in the coffin of content. Already the Citizen-Times has missed a deadline and page makeover that would have carried the UNC-Kentucky basketball game, which ended about 11:10 pm this week. You will effectively write off coverage of any sporting event that begins at 9 pm, not to mention late-breaking news. The AC-T already has written off any substantive coverage of the 16 western counties that surround Asheville. And with gas prices, how many of the 90 laid-off production workers will be able to make a living commuting 90 minutes to Greenville, even if openings there exist? So good-bye Citizen-Times, it was a nice 125-year ride before Gannett bought out Multimedia Inc.

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  4. anybody know if this print move affects the 10% layoff at either site? i seem to remember reading about another print merger here and there was still to be a 10% layoff.

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  5. Yes the 10% layoff is still a go.

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  6. The newspaper industry is Jonestowning itself!

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  7. So they let 60 folks go at the print facility and Gannett is still going to lay off the 10% down town. Sounds like a well thought out plan. So who will be left to deal with the issues that arise at night.

    Oh I forgot. The customer service people in India can help out.

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  8. Why is it when things go very bad for newspapers they axe, axe and axe again? They invested 3 million dollars on this press plant over the past two years. What good does it serve to shut down a profitable printing operation? Of, I know the big wigs get to keep their jobs. The problem with all big chains is that they are top heavy - think auto industry. God forbid that one of the publishers or ad directors or finance directors would forego their annual bonus. When I was with Gannett in 2003 stock was around $75.00 a share today it is $18.00. They can't continue to do things the same way with the same ineffective managers and think that the economy is going to get better and they will see better profit margins. Ineffective and inept - but lots of middle managers get to keep their jobs.

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  9. $18 a share? What exchange are you on and can I get some??

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  10. Several times a year the main route to Greenville is affected by ice and snow. The road between the two cities, while mostly four lanes, winds through some rugged terrain that can be dicey in winter. It's no fun at all even in the rain as the grades are very steep. With a press start that will be earlier, one good dusting of snow or ice could effectively result in non-delivery of papers with any local sports scores, or late-breaking news for that matter. Remember, this lifeline of a road is handled by two Southern states not known for dealing with winter weather all that well. Even if as a backup the paper uses I-26, things can still be problematic.

    Assuming the paper DOES get to Asheville, remember that this is a mountainous area. Delivery in the winter can be a big mess given the paper's reach into many rural counties in WNC that are accessible in places only by winding two-lane roads.

    If I were WLOS, the broadcast competitor in the market, I would be all over this one, since the station will effectively have a later deadline perhaps than the AC-T.

    But if your paper is late, you can always call the COE, so it's all good, right? Oh, wait, COE doesn't even know Asheville exists, much less the Western Hemisphere.

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  11. Honestly people, put your news on your Web site and then you don't have to worry so much about mountain roads. C'mom, are you listening to what's happening in the car industry? Do you not think that all of your jobs are in jeopardy? And you're worried about whether people get a sports score or not in the print paper?? They'll get it online or on their iPhone for God sakes. Advertising is in the toilet. Wake up and smell the coffee. Print is not the future. What is the future is the question. Come up with some ideas.

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  12. Don't want to travel 60 miles to work to retain your job?
    MOVE.
    With today's home prices, you likely can get into a nice place in a great town for a reasonable price.
    It may take a while to sell your house, but if you're working you'll be able to manage.
    I'm always annoyed with people who are unwilling to take some risk in order to succeed [or stay employed]. The days of being employed by the same company and living in Momma's house for your lifetime are OVER!

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  13. @9:21 - You are an idiot. Why would you buy shares at $18 when you can purchase them for 6.8?

    Perhaps you were looking to sell at $18?

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  14. Website "news," moms blathering to moms, and Johnny's First Day at School photo galleries are not the answer. The AC-T "contact us" directory still lists a marketing director who left for Atlanta in May. Plus the site loads as if it's on Dial-Up.
    I may be a dinosaur, but I'm not going to sit around breakfast Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and scroll a goddamn laptop.

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  15. Maybe Randy can do for Asheville what he did for Huntington.

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  16. Well if he can't they still have dead-wood Virgil Smith on the payroll as a "Chairman". So let's see, we don't need department heads but we do need two worthless ego-maniac publishers?

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  17. 11:27

    What did Randy do for Huntington?

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  18. "I may be a dinosaur, but I'm not going to sit around breakfast Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and scroll a goddamn laptop."

    Amen! That's why I buy a New York Times on Sunday. The Citizen-Times, Sunday or any other day, won't last through a cup of coffee any more. God bless 'em, the paper is less than mediocre on a GOOD day. Raising it to 75 cents recently was a sad, desperate joke. I pray that the rank-and-file employees have some chance of getting a decent job somewhere else soon. The management can go rot.

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  19. Sadly...Asheville is dead...this is the last nail in the coffin. The IWANNA should start a bi-weekly paper , they will clean up on all the commercial work and pick-up the local
    ads. There is no need for a daily paper in Asheville. Virgil Smith can
    lay the wreath and hopefully Jackie Stenseth will be in the grave.

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  20. 11:40

    I am with you on the New York Time. Such a better read. But remember it is not the writers, it is the environment in which they work, that spurns creativity.

    The Citizen Times managers are trained to not trust anyone. If they can't see you working they assume you are not. That is why they installed the low wall cubicles.

    You should see what the Graphic Designers have to work in. It looks like a textile mill sweat shop.

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  21. Ashvegas, a local blog, has more info on the AC-T sellout of its production than the newspaper itself. And the newspaper has BLOCKED COMMENT on its on-line announcement.
    Here's the Ashvegas report:
    The Citizen-Times, in its story today about the fact that its shuttering its printing facility and cutting 60 jobs, reveals its own hypocrisy in the way it treats the story. Here's a quick look:

    -The story is played at the bottom of the local news section front. I've seen the Citizen-Times give front-page treatment to stories with much less impact. This is a story about a local company shutting down an entire production facility and laying off 60 workers in the midst of a down economy, and it gets bottom-of-the-page, inside section front play. Also, the story is not linked from the front page of the newspaper's Web site. Most local news stories have some presence on the newspaper's home page.

    -The newspaper has disabled commenting on the story. That's a rare move for the newspaper, which claims that it wants an open dialogue with readers and Internet users. The Citizen-Times almost never automatically shuts off commenting, even when the people making the comments spew the most vile, hate-filled, racist and homophobic rants. Just look back at the threads on such stories as the Woodfin immigration raid from a few months ago.

    But guess what? The comments are wide open right here at Ashvegas.
    www.ashvegas.squarespace.com

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  22. Honestly, why does the controller retain her job? Or the publisher for that matter, the ad director?? All three are awful communicators and just clueless. They'd be better off not carrying those large salaries while most of the real employees work hard. The others are just looking for ways to cause more harm, and they are cold-harded in the process. Brutal.

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  23. Ashvegas, a local blog, has more info on the AC-T sellout of its production than the newspaper itself. And the newspaper has BLOCKED COMMENT on its on-line announcement.
    Here's the Ashvegas report:
    The Citizen-Times, in its story today about the fact that its shuttering its printing facility and cutting 60 jobs, reveals its own hypocrisy in the way it treats the story. Here's a quick look:

    -The story is played at the bottom of the local news section front. I've seen the Citizen-Times give front-page treatment to stories with much less impact. This is a story about a local company shutting down an entire production facility and laying off 60 workers in the midst of a down economy, and it gets bottom-of-the-page, inside section front play. Also, the story is not linked from the front page of the newspaper's Web site. Most local news stories have some presence on the newspaper's home page.

    -The newspaper has disabled commenting on the story. That's a rare move for the newspaper, which claims that it wants an open dialogue with readers and Internet users. The Citizen-Times almost never automatically shuts off commenting, even when the people making the comments spew the most vile, hate-filled, racist and homophobic rants. Just look back at the threads on such stories as the Woodfin immigration raid from a few months ago.

    But guess what? The comments are wide open right here at Ashvegas.
    www.ashvegas.squarespace.com

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  24. Virgil Smith and Randy Hammer - two super ego salaries (with complimentary Cadillacs) doing the work of, uh, none.

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  25. Here's what I don't get: if the production plant has been discussed for a number of years then why did Hammer and company pour so much money into it in the past two years? Why do they keep a facility open in another county that costs close to $60,000 a year just to drop off newspapers?

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  26. Susan, I will sell you all my shares for 10 bucks. You can keep the $8 profit. lol

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  27. I just thought I would chime in and say! I Feel very sorry for all the lost employment at the Sardis road facility. I see all the sorrow this bring's to the co workers and people I think of as close friends and family. I think building a fair, and friendly team in the work place has been what has made us a very efficent and productive facility. I know times are tough! And the fact we are all loosing our jobs in January really makes it tough to come to work each day as the end is near. I just hope through these sad times you all can find some comfort this holiday season. As we have had our good times and bad! I just wanted to say thanks for all the hard work and effort by production staff at Sardis Road. It has been a pleasure working with you all!!
    Kevin Arrington

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  28. To paraphrase the Wizard of Westwood : Preparing for failure is preparing to fail. Gannett's business model is clearly designed at this point to just stave off failure a little longer, rather than to actually retool for success. The AC-T is, itself a profitable venture, despite the trends in the industry as a whole. That's because it fills a niche service that 24 hour cable channels and the internet really can't provide: professional, in-depth local news coverage. But, instead of taking advantage of what local papers do well, Gannett has decided to make short-sighted, short-term cost cuts so they can roll the savings onto the balance sheet to disguise the money sucking black hole that is USA Today and most of the rest of their national ventures (ventures that cannot possibly be profitable, because the core service they provide is inferior to and more expensive than the new media alternatives).

    The great weakness of newspapers in the current media environment is that they are SLOOOOOOW. Their great advantage is the depth of coverage they are capable of offering. Gannett's response seems to be to minimize that advantage while maximizing the disadvantage. Consolidation increases deadline pressures (inevitably producing a negative impact on the quality and depth of coverage) while simultaneously making news delivery slower and less responsive than it already is. All to save the cost of paying a few dozen people less than 9 bucks an hour... It makes you wonder whether anyone at Gannett has any idea how a newspaper works.

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  29. "Don't want to travel 60 miles to work to retain your job?
    MOVE."

    These are mostly hourly, part-time jobs. $9/hr or less. How, exactly, does one purchase a house in a new city on that? We're mostly renters, not homeowners, so we'd have to pay the NON-TRIVIAL cost of breaking our current leases to go to Greenville and take pay cuts in the range of 15-20% on a per hour basis, with no guarantee that we'd get the same kind of hours. Kindly refrain from making assumptions about things when you don't have a fucking clue what you're talking about.

    kthnxbi

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  30. One of the more worrying this is how much this seem to not have been thought out.

    There are so many details. Other publications that we did that Gannet will loose.

    I would have to say the production facility made money. Its closure will cause a decline in profits from what the Asheville facility could produce.

    This decision will likely come back and haunt us.

    Many locals feel that the decline of the paper (From Multimedia Days) is due to the lack of local stories. Front pages that are meaningful to people in the area.

    Local writers, not a steady stream of A.P. "copy pasta".

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  31. The wizards at Gannett made sense when they closed the Asheville Citizen-Times production facility. Since the move, papers were delivered to the rag tag distribution center located on Pond Rd. Where the leased space is a joke and the building dosen't have adequate heat and the employees have to wear heavy coats and gloves to keep from freezing. So maybe, spring will come early this year, and maybe the papers can make it up from Greenville. There were many days that the trucks couldn't make it hwy 25 due to the snow and ice. The only thing this move has accomplished is, 60 jobs lost and a lot of pissed off carriers and subscribers.

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