Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NYT: GCI 'paid a price' for ignoring blogosphere

From, "In Era of Blog Sniping, Companies Shoot First," a new story today in The New York Times, by Claire Cain Miller, a Silicon Valley business beat reporter.

Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper chain, ignored the blogosphere and paid a price for it. The company told publishers on Oct. 28 that it would lay off 10 percent of its staff. Jim Hopkins, a 20-year Gannett veteran who left the company in January and now writes the unofficial Gannett Blog, had been reporting rumblings along those lines for several weeks and broke the news on his site that morning, just as he had when Gannett laid off workers in August.

Gannett, which does not have a company blog, never issued a press release and does not return Mr. Hopkins's calls. His posts detailing layoffs at the company and individual papers brought dozens of comments, most of them anonymous, including one from a Gannett employee who said people "might have been blindsided with news of the loss of their jobs had it not been for this blog."

"I try to give the unvarnished truth," Mr. Hopkins said. "I don’t think the company offers the same level of candor to employees." In a plea to get readers to pay for the blog, he wrote, “How else will you learn about your layoff?"

Tara Connell, a spokeswoman for Gannett, said the company thought that "the overwhelming majority of employees" had heard about the layoffs from their local publishers. "We attempt to make those personal communications happen as quickly as possible," she said.

Read the entire story.

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.

[Photo: Corporate's offices in McLean, Va., Kohn Pedersen Fox]


  1. Now I'm not a NYT capital-j Journalist, I just got me some lurnin' down at the state university on that writin' thing.

    But if I dun wrote "Gannett...ignored the blogosphere and paid a price for it..." shouldn't I eventually point out the price Gannett paid?

    Did the writer point to stock price loss, directors canned, employees jumping off buildings, or even total corporate embarrassment because Jim posted the notice roughly the same time it was sent email to most of us? No.

    If Gannett paid any price, it must have been a better deal than we got for PointRoll, because I'm not seeing it. Corporate ignores the blogosphere and there has been no literal or figurative cost.

    At most, corporate is more transparent because of Jim's blog and the knowledge that we talk to each other.

  2. Well, the paragraph in the NYT story that precedes the Gannett reference posted here states:

    “Today, whatever you say inside of a company will end up on a blog,” said Rusty Rueff, a former human resources executive at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo. “So you have a choice as a company — you can either be proactive and take the offensive and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on,’ or you can let someone else write the story for you.”

    The price is pretty clear -- Gannett let somebody else write the story for them and lost control of how information is disseminated.

  3. And the blog gave us a heads up days before the official notice, if I remember correctly.

  4. A company that specializes in information dissemination should know better than to keep life-changing secrets.

  5. Keep hating, Tara.

    I savor it more each day.

  6. Now that I'm in PR...and using my 2007 Bacon's (which is outdated, I know), let's talk about the value of that placement.

    OUTLET: New York Times
    DETAIL: Gannett blog mentioned in Nov. 4 story by Clair Cain Miller
    IMPRESSIONS:1,142,464 (Bacon's 2007)
    AD RATE: $585.

  7. Gannett is using the method LBJ used during the Viet Nam when dealing with leaks and controversy..... Lie, Deny, Defy.

  8. I'm with 6:43 on this one. The headline is misleading, and we see way too much of this in modern journalism. It's one reason we're struggling.

    Sure. Gannett may have been a little embarassed by the comments on Jim's blog, but I don't see what price they paid. Tara continues to ignore the blog and there is no actual cost to Gannett. There is a pretty good argument that her job is pointless if she refuses to answer tough questions. But if she gets canned, she'll be the one who pays the price ... not Gannett.

    Note that stock prices have increased since the layoffs were announced. So, Gannett arguably saw a gain from from its actions. Who knows what would have happened if they had been more forthcoming.

  9. The price you pay is that you end up looking stupid; that you lost control of your spin; that internal information leaked before you released it. That's a price for any corporation to pay and it also says something about the mindset of the company. Very old school ...still.

  10. 8:13 a.m.

    Sounds like reader-submitted content to me. It's cheap and it's easier than hiring reporters.

  11. The price Gannett pays, you blithering idiots, is the loss of credibility with the very people who have made the company successful and are in the best position to lead Gannett out of its death spiral, if the suits would only embrace our ideas. Gannett began fostering an "us versus them" attitude toward employees years ago, and it has become clearer that highly skilled reporters, photographers, artists and others who don't generate revenue are liabilities in Gannett's profit-greedy view. That theme will play out loudly in the coming weeks when veteran employees making too much money receive pink slips, while younger workers with rudimentary news instincts and news-gathering abilities are treated like gold. Absolutely there is a lot of dead weight that needs to be canned, but it's time for the company to nurture and recruit real talent instead of disemboweling newsrooms primarily by HR and payroll guidelines.

  12. My favorite line was the last one: "“There are hold-out companies that still wish there was traditional P.R. control of the message, but that day is long over.”"

    Gannett to a T!

  13. Since Jim's Blog does a much better job of disseminating company information, doesn't that make Tara unnecessary?

    Paying a company spokesperson a six-figure salary to NOT comment on the company seems pretty stupid. I mean, if she was part of the 10% reduction, we'd STILL get the company information here (at NO cost to Gannett) and the papers wouldn't lose as many content creators.

    Sounds like a win-win to me.

    Are you listening, Craig and Bob?

  14. As an ex-Gannetter, I love Jim's website because I hate and loathe Gannette with a passion beyond all reason. I am not alone. I am thrilled to see the stocks plunge, I am happy for the anger and animosity, and I ever don't care about the layoffs. Sorry folks, you work for Satan, you will feel the heat. I quit this horrid company years ago and sold all their miserable stock when it was $80 a share. Ha! Gannett has ruined too many careers and destroyed too many lives to earn any sympathy from me. Jim's site is a God-send. I read it laugh out loud every day at the unbridled misery I am seeing.

  15. When the downward spiral started years ago, Gannett should have done the following:
    1) Push hard to "hook the young" with new media. (Look at cigarette companies - they're the best at this. If you create a new customer who is 18, you're better off than creating a new customer who is 58.)
    2) Made sure is most-skilled veterans were committed to the continued growth of the company.
    3) Cut back on the incredibly-excessive perks and seven-figure salaries that the top people had enjoyed when Gannett stock was always going up year-over-year.


    They ignored young readers; made their most-skilled journalists, who possessed so much institutional knowledge of their communities, walk the plank; and kept paying themselves obscene salaries, bonus options, and perks.

    Egro, we have what we have.

  16. And I was among those told to walk the plank. Kinda ironical, right?

  17. Jim, you were forced out? I thought all along you took, voluntarily, a buyout? What's the "truth" you always promise?

  18. Being offered a buyout under the threat of a forced layoff is coercive behavior near its lowest.

  19. Jim,
    Was your job eliminated?

  20. Jim:
    If Gannett offered you Tara's job at 50% of what she makes, would you take it? You already do a better job, with NO pay.
    Hey then, maybe she could start a blog that you wouldn't be commenting on!

  21. As a blithering idiot, I hadn't given the company any points for credibility for some time.

    Company didn't lose anything worthwhile by not responding to blogs.

    The only credibility in the equation is that Jim's would have increased if Tara would have deigned to answer his questions.

    As that gains nothing worthwhile for the company, that too will never happen.

  22. 11:28 a.m.

    I can certainly understand the bitterness, and even the satisfaction to see the company collapse, but why the animosity towards the hard working folks still stuck? Why relish others' suffering, especially now, when it is so impossible to find work.

  23. 12:12 p.m.: Yes, I believe my job was eliminated. I'm pretty sure that my news-gathering team shrank by one position.

  24. 12:15 p.m.: Hah! (Answer: no.)

  25. Sorry to be anal about your layoff/buyout situation. But it seems to me you have played both sides of this, depending on which side looked better in the discussion at the time. So, to be clear, one of your bosses led you to believe you were to be layed off? Said so in their outloud voice?

  26. I was among about 170 USA Today newsroom employees who qualified for buyouts. We were all told that if an insufficient number of us stepped forward, layoffs could follow.

    No one told me that I had a greater or lesser chance of being laid off. Indeed, managers were told they could not have such discussions with us.

    Does that answer your question, 1:48 p.m.?

  27. 11:28:

    Bravo - you couldn't have expressed it better!!!!

  28. Thanks 2:01 p.m. I do not mean to imply ill will on those "in the trenches" Gannett workers, it is not their fault. Sadly, these are the unsuspecting employees most damaged by Gannett's brainless, vile hiring and profit policies. This company lives by the "flavor of the month" and being "respected in the industry" and worshipped by the media publications and the AP. They care only about their own gratification. Curry is a great example of this. So are the "favorites" among the executive editors, the Silberman types. My bitterness and anger toward Gannett, however, precludes any sympathy for the innocent bystanders who are warned to jump ship before the iceberg shows up but choose to stay aboard.

  29. OK, so the iceberg analogy was a stretch... but you get my drift (ha)


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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