Thursday, April 02, 2009

Urgent: Gannett launches stealth round of layoffs

Only days into the second quarter, the company has begun a fresh round of payroll cuts, starting in economically weaker states like Michigan, where the auto industry collapse is sapping five papers and a TV station. Also on the hit list: Arizona, where the Tucson Citizen may be shuttered at any moment, and the giant Arizona Republic reportedly just laid off several dozen in circulation.

The layoffs come less than two week after newspaper division President Bob Dickey ordered 29,000 U.S. newspaper workers on week-long unpaid furloughs by the end of June; some higher-paid employees must take two. Gannett's second round of furloughs was meant to "minimize the need for additional layoffs during the quarter," Dickey wrote in a March 23 memo. But he didn't rule them out entirely. Now, we know why.

Today in New Jersey, Asbury Park Press circulation managers were told their jobs are being outsourced to a private Maryland company, PCF. And in Indiana, another automaker-dependent state, The Indianapolis Star laid off eight classified advertising workers yesterday, tipsters say.

The scale, geography and timetable for this layoff round is unclear. I've received reports over the past 48 hours from the U.S., almost entirely at newspapers. But I've heard nothing from the Newsquest U.K. division. Whatever its size, this would be the fourth since Corporate started paring thousands of jobs last summer, in the first of a wave of devastating cuts.

The latest came yesterday, 60 miles west of Detroit in Howell, Mich., where the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus confirmed it laid off more than 12 of 95 employees. "It had nothing to do with their job performance," General Manager and Executive Editor Rich Perlberg told stricken workers. "It had everything to do with an economy that continues to stagger our community and ultimately our newspaper."

In Arizona, the Republic apparently just laid off more than 30 circulation and other employees; with KPNX-TV, Phoenix rivals the Corporate-USA Today headquarters in McLean, Va., as Gannett's single-biggest worksite. And at Neptune, N.J., the Asbury Park Press is handing over delivery to PCF of Towson, Md., after weeks of speculation a move was in the works. About 18 managers were told they could apply for work at PCF.

Roll Call IV: at least 124
Before I lose track, I've posted this fourth edition of our Roll Call series -- a follow-up to what we've tallied before: At least 2,200 jobs cut in December. Around 100 directors in September. And the first big one: 1,000 jobs, last August. Now, from Alexandria, La., to Wilmington, Del., we once more say goodbye to our departing friends.


  1. 30+ in Phoenix this week, mostly Circulation a few in Marketing and Advertising. Marketing may be close to a 1 to 1 manager to staff ratio.

  2. The following was posted yesterday:

    The Indy Star laid off at least 8 people in classified advertising today.

    4/01/2009 9:34 PM

  3. This is what I've been saying for months. There will not be one big chopping-out day as in December. It'll all be done a little here and a little there.

    That's how it's going where I am, so it'll be less obvious and harder to calculate.

  4. Louisville just dropped its classified section to four days a week from three. Don't know if that resulted in any job cuts.

  5. Thanks from a (long gone) GCI alum for mentioning Fremont and Port Clinton.

  6. How are you going to get the NJ numbers with the jobs moving to APP?

  7. dude, you are so far off base. this is not a "round." these are consolidations and other targeted moves, and this is just our life going forward as an industry. you are trying to stir the pot, which is understandable because of the traffic it generates for you. but it's unfair to our colleagues for the "round of layoffs" alarm to be sounded.

  8. Don't forget to add in the quiet ones at St. Cloud last week. Way to fight for your staffers, Mr. Albrect,

  9. To Anonymous 5:11 p.m.:

    "this is just our life going forward as an industry. you are trying to stir the pot"

    Please have the guts to say that to the people who are losing their jobs today.

  10. How are you going to get the NJ numbers with the jobs moving to APP?

    4/02/2009 5:02 PM
    26 people applying for 16 positions - chalk up 10 for this part

  11. Why is Wilmington on the list with no numbers?

  12. @5:11 p.m.

    Precisely what defines a "round" of layoffs? What sort of P.R. demon within you gave rise to that post? A "round" is a series of events. Multiple company-owned papers are laying off. Hence, this is a round -- one that may even continue.

    I think removing "round" from the headline would hardly allay fears here. But maybe I'm just another hard-core alarmist.

  13. 5:11 pm. First, I'm not your "dude." Second, those "targeted moves" are real Gannett families whose lives are now being shredded in Howell, Mich., and in Tucson, Ariz.

    Any layoff is a big deal; I decline to join management in trying to minimizing these growing employee field reports as just stirring the pot. Have you no heart?

  14. 6:16 pm: Wilmington and -- marking the start of the alphabet -- Alexandria, La., are just placeholders. Assume no special meaning, please.

  15. Ah, thanks. I was starting to get a little worried.

  16. Jim
    sounds like it was 11 in Poughkeepsie, at least, between copy desk and graphics. I assume it's the same as everyone else, that they could lose their jobs anytime in the second half of the year - oh, but they're welcome to apply for a spot down in Westchester - though no one's sure if it would be at the same salary.
    heartless corporate bastards.

  17. 5:11

    You're an idiot!

    Using Phoenix as an example, what would you call the loss of 30+ of my friends? Following other layoffs over the past many months with no clear direction from management one can only sit and wait their turn.

    So dude, you tell me what would be the best way of accepting this in Phoenix or other cities where people's lives have been changed.

    And by the way, you are an idiot, "but it's unfair to our colleagues for the "round of layoffs" alarm to be sounded." Round of layoffs alarm? If someone's just hearing an alarm they've been living in ignorant Gannett bliss versus you who's just blissfully ignorant.

  18. 5:11 is exactly the sort of suit, be he/she high, middle or lower management that not only drinks, but bathes in kool-aid.

    There is no compassion for the families and lives and careers Gannett has destroyed since August alone.

    Statistically, I believe the vast majority of folks who have been laid off/fired/bought off, are still without work. Many have run out of unemployment and are being victimized a second time by hireing standards that well could be discriminating against age.

    There were heads of households, single parents, sole bread earners cast adrift in the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the suits are calling it "consolidations and targeted moves".

    Time to call the spade the spade.

    This is nothing more than the High Commanders tossing the empty life boats adrift from the sinking ship, then sacrificing the passengers(readers and viewrs) as well as the crew (worker bees) overboard to buy a few more hours above water while they get their golden life vests buckled on tight.

  19. dude, you are so far off base. this is not a "round." these are consolidations and other targeted moves, and this is just our life going forward as an industry. you are trying to stir the pot, which is understandable because of the traffic it generates for you. but it's unfair to our colleagues for the "round of layoffs" alarm to be sounded.

    4/02/2009 5:11 PM

    Well, I totally support this statement. All this is just kicking sand to make dust.

    Layoffs suck. You see it everywhere in virtually every industry. It isn't good but unless someone figures out how to turn the economy around it will happen. Businesses are in business to make money. When more goes out than comes in something has to give.

    When it comes to Detroit, of course there are layoffs. You can't go from publishing 7-days a week to just three and keep the same number of employees. You might actually blame that one on unions since they have a great deal to do with the limiting policies of auto companies and also drive costs up at the Detroit newspapers.

    So, "dudes," we have to stop whining or go see a therapist. The whining has been going on for some time and it has changed nothing. Jim isn't even making his revenue budget even with all the pleading and kicking sand.

    And by the way, I'm not some executive. I am another worker that is very afraid for his job. Sadly, there isn't anything out there that would make me feel safer so I'll just stay put.

    And finally, it seems I only stop by this blog now every other week, down from weekly which is down from daily. There just isn't much here any more other than what Jim (the dude) can stir up.

  20. Instead of lambasting Jim Hopkins for not knowing what the hell Gannett is doing to you as employees, why don't you suck it up and ask your news editor, assistant managing editor, assistant city/state editor, deputy local editor, business editor, city/state editor (are you getting the drift here...maybe newsrooms are TOP HEAVY with frickin' editors?) features editor, photo director, design director, executive editor or publisher to tell you what's going on?

  21. Howell is up to 12; 2 people were on furlough Tuesday, didn't get the news til Wed before the 2pm meeting Perlberg held.

  22. Anonymous 8:55 p.m. - the editors don't have a clue what's going on - which is why Jim is needed and if you're still making statements that we shouldn't come on here to get news, get real.

    And Anonymous 8:43 p.m. - yeah, something's got to give in this crappy, crappy economy. You're absolutely right. So why couldn't it have been those executive bonuses? What about that? What happened with the furloughs - are they not enough to cover those bonuses?

  23. Know of one is classified in Wilmington that was told their job was eliminated. Hear rumors of Ashbury Park being the hub for classified for Wilmington

  24. Nobody in the newsroom was on furlough this week.

  25. Once again, Gannett WON"T tell their employees what is going on. They just hide behind their curtain like in the Wizard of Oz. When the heck are they going to wake up and realize they have to let their employees know what is going on. I think it is totally irresponsible.

  26. Tough times everywhere. The Dem-Gazette in Little Rock is asking salaried employees to take a 21-day furlough of some sort (unclear whether it's all at once or spread out), while the Texarkana Gazette, another paper owned by the same family, is asking workers to voluntarily go to a four-day, 32-hour work week.

  27. 2 graphic artists, 1 graphics supervisor-Elmira, NY fired 2 weeks ago at "the first Gannett Newspaper" whatever bearing that holds anymore, I guess where the nightmare began.

  28. To 10:03 p.m.--Not for a second do I believe many editors don't "have a clue" about what's going on. Several editors had direct input on "the list" of who got canned in December at the site I'm familiar with. Many of them believe they are untouchable because the big cheese digs their acts. They would badmouth colleagues to save their own precious hides, I know that much because I've been in this business for many years.

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  32. 12:11 a.m. -- Time to wake up!
    If Jim were any more open he'd be on TV.
    He is offering information not available elsewhere ... certainly not from the GCI chain.
    Remarks like yours are inappropriate and way off base.

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  34. Hi,
    I'm a former Gannett worker still in the biz and wondering why those who produce the paper at night, and hold the real power over its publication, don't walk out one early evening and watch the managers wet their pants when nothing comes out of the presses for a change. Where are the calls for strikes? What's happened to American workers' pride and potential solidarity amid this economic and publishing revolution? Nothing will be "fixed." So why take it up the pneumatic tube anymore? What's left to lose? The brass have parachutes; we're just freefalling, and it's not going to be a soft landing for us because the ground is closing quickly. At least with strikes, we might gain some valuable time for alternative jobs. And that's the point, too. They are all merely "jobs" now in America. And "newspaper career" became an oxymoron almost as quickly as an EXTRA edition used to hit the street. But the real morons are in the glass offices! There are no heroes there.

  35. 4:12 -- Nobody's walking out because it's so damn hard to find a job these days.

    That would be grounds for dismissal with no severance pay, and no unemployment compensation. As nice as the idea sounds, it's not very realistic for employees who need to feed their families.

  36. Jimbo - Don't get so self righteous here.

    You became our dude when when you assumed the mantle of chief eviscerator in charge.

    You do stir the pot. I don't think reporting on layoffs is doing so but there have been numerous other times when you made a poor judgment call, a mistake or just have chosen to push something because it would get you page views.

    Truth is Jimbo while you might think this has some level of journalist integrity your are just a very sad bitter person who can get beyond the seven stages of grief/loss. You're anger shows clearly though your actions and to be very clear it's become and old tired tirade.

    Eventually, even the bad news well runs dry. Then what will you do?

  37. 4:12 -- Nobody's walking out because it's so damn hard to find a job these days.

    Y'all have been told to walk out. That's what a furlough is, except y'all aren't doing it correctly.

    They gave you all a deadline like "you must take your furlough by the last week in June". Inaction on your part will shut the furlough down. You meet with your managers, they explain the rules, and you abide by them, and JUST DO NOTHING. When you all get to the last mandated week that you have to take the furlough, take it. Gannett will be forced to rethink the furlough rather than face a company wide shutdown. The beauty of it is by simply doing nothing, each week that goes by will cause corporate all kinds of angst, and all you're doing is abiding by their rules.

    In effect, you're doing a walkout, only using the furlough as a vehicle, yet still following Gannett's rules and company policy.

  38. Regarding: Nobody's walking out because it's so damn hard to find a job these days.

    This is exactly the point, and it's amplified by the number of reductions the company has to make because of the economic situation. Do you think Corporate just dreams up ways to cut job? I doubt it. They have bank covenents and requirements that, to stay in business, they must accomplishment.

    Usually, this is based upon revenue...for instance, you need x in revenue or you are in violation of your loan agreement. If you miss the revenue then you MUST cut expenses. And not a few bucks, but tens of millions.

    Yes, you can cut pencils or bonuses or whatever, but those are drops in the bucket to cuts that have to be made. So it's then newsprint, production costs and or people. Those are the three choices.

  39. Dude! Like, dude. You're all, like, dude. Good luck keeping a job, dude. I'm all, like, outta here, dude.


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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