Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Going fishin' | I'm now handing in my notice

Jim says: I had planned to post this on July 1, the start of the third quarter. In fairness to my more than 10,000 monthly readers, however, I'm moving up the publication date.

I've always said that Gannett Blog was planned as a short-term project: two or three years max. That was because I assumed management intended to break up the company -- something it might have accomplished, if the board of directors hadn't waited until it was too late (i.e. the real estate bust and the credit crisis that followed).

My plan did not, however, anticipate the rate at which readers would post comments: I am now anticipating at least 50,000 over the next 12 months. For both news-gathering and ethical reasons, I am committed to reading them all.

That would be OK, except the tone of comments shifted in December -- for entirely understandable reasons. Many of Gannett's 41,500 employees came to understand what was taking place in the company. They are now fear-filled, desperate, angry -- even suicidal, on occasion. Blogging can be very stressful, of course, Now, I'm finding it may be psychologically harmful, too.

This is not about Corporate winning or losing; this is about adhering to my plan.

The bottom line: I began publishing Gannett Blog on Sept. 11, 2007. On Oct. 1, 2009, I will stop active management. I intend to lock the blog in place, with all content and comments visible. No more comments will be allowed, nor removed. Basically, Gannett Blog will become a point-in-time snapshot of a Fortune 500 company in transition. I hope to find a permanent custodian for the content, in lieu of Google's Blogger division.

I am no longer soliciting or accepting donations, as I've now got my exit strategy on the calendar. I look forward to working with you, although on a more limited basis, through Sept. 30.

Earlier: My year of blogging, dangerously. Plus: Five questions

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 rail, upper right.

[Photo: Mystical Es Vedra island, from Cala d'Hort beach Ibiza, Spain]


  1. Many thanks, Jim -- you have been a great help to us still in Gannett just by giving us a forum and a heads up when the axe is in the air.

  2. what? no succession plan?

  3. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! This is a sad day indeed. Jim, thanks for giving us this forum. It's given me a lot of solace -- a virtual support group, if you will.

  4. An understandable move. Good luck to you in your future endeavors. I was always impressed most with the journalism you did here. Every big company needs a Jim Hopkins keeping them honest. Or at least trying to.

  5. Well at least I have time to wean myself off... Thanks for all the information and entertainment.

  6. Good luck, my man.

  7. You're only human, Jimbo, and you've got to get back to life. This was an extremely helpful blog for people being mistreated by a God-awful company that doesn't deserve their loyalty and commitment. By leaving two years' worth of postings up for all to read, future job candidates will be able to see what a scuzzy company Gannett is, in spite of all its representations to the contrary. Gannett is a poster child for corporations that could care less about customers, employees, even shareholders. With its board of blind monkeys, Gannett is nothing but a vehicle for self-ingratiation by managers who enrich themselves, are accountable to no one and who commit blunder after blunder with impunity.

  8. Army Timeserer!5/26/2009 11:09 AM

    "Blogging can be very stressful, of course, Now, I'm finding it may be psychologically harmful, too."

    Truer words never were written.
    That's why I quite blogging.

    Rock on Jim!
    gods' speed to you.
    //outta here.

  9. grateful Gannetteer5/26/2009 11:14 AM

    Thanks for a job well done, Jim. You did some excellent reporting here, digging into and exposing things our corporate overseers would rather see kept secret from their employees.
    While I'm sure they are dancing with glee in McLean, they should take a lesson. The journalist you lay-off, buy-out or fire can very easily use their skills to shine the light of truth on their former employer. You did this and we are in your debt.

  10. Jim, My thanks to you, sir, and to the other Gannetteers (current and former) who've posted here. Valuable stuff, and deeply appreciated!

    May you find success, happiness and fulfillment in your future work!

  11. Thanks Jim. Reading this blog helped me in ways I can't begin to explain. I wish the very best for you.

  12. Jim found out that Sparky was banging another man and decided to focus on his relationship instead of fighting a losing battle against corporate!!!!!!!

  13. Thanks, Jim. Despite all the trolls and losers who camped out at this blog in recent months, thousands of us regular employeees came here anyway, knowing we'd still find more legitimate information than from our own bosses or corporate owners. Your hard work is very appreciated...

  14. Jim: Thanks for the wonderful service you have provided to current and former employees of Gannett. This blog has been a great outlet for tens of thousands of people to share their thoughts about one of the nation's most important but little understood media companies.

  15. Jim:

    You have provided an important service to all current and former Gannett employees. Good luck in your new endeavor! Any chance you can solicit for someone you can hand the blog-reins to, since I don't forsee an industry turn-around anytime soon. We all need a place to go to for information, for feedback, and to just plain vent.

  16. Jim - the service you've provided here has been invaluable. Thanks very much for putting so much effort into it - it has helped in ways you can't imagine.

  17. Sorry to see you will be closing up shop, I wish you the best.

  18. I learned things by reading the Blog, it was important. Hope there is someone else or a way to continue it.

  19. Well, one thing's for sure - if the idiotic, homophobic and personal attacks lobbed at Jim in this blog were indeed an attempt by corporate to shut it down - it worked.

    That's too bad. A corporation as big and corrupt as Gannett needs a steadfast watchdog.

  20. 12:31 PM writ:
    "Hope there is someone else or a way to continue it."

    See Usenet.
    Been around even before the internet was born.

    Kind of like what blogs were when they crawled out of the swamp.

    See googlegroups.com
    You can even start your own group.

  21. Interesting that my post critical of Jim and his reasons for discontinuing this blog were removed. Always eager to lay it on Big Bad Gannett, but skin too thin for a little criticism, Jim?
    Take your toys and go home, baby.

  22. Jim, thanks for the important work that you did with Gannett Blog. Too bad that the meaningless and witless personal posts ramped up over the past 6 months or so, but kudos for following your planned strategy despite them. Although I thought some issues and tactics that you took on were a little over the top, you had a superior blog and audience. Well done, and good luck.

  23. Thanks Jim and all fellow bloggers for giving everyone the inside scoops of Gannett. I'm sure corporate will be taking a sigh of relief that we won't have this blog anymore. Now they can screw us all even more behind our backs...

  24. Do you think Tara is running around saying "I won. It worked!"

    If she had a hand in this, she's going to get a ring.

  25. Jim has a ring, but he doesn't wear it on his hand.

  26. 11:38 AM..... Go out and try to get laid!

  27. Thanks for an informative blog that also allowed many of us to feel we did in fact have some control of what went on in this horrible company. Indeed, if nothing else, it was a great place to vent. USA TODAY's top editors hated that all their dirty secrets and various shortcomings were revealed. I come here at least once a week because I can't stand the environment created by the flagship (your former shop) managers who have revealed themselves to be some of the worst liars in any business. I needed to know that we could still speak out somewhere without being punished. USA TODAY has crushed freedom of speech in the workplace. They've done it through subtle and not so subtle means. Managers pretend their doors are open, pretend to be your friend, but most of us know now that this isn't the place that it once was. It's following the rest of the company in creating such bad karma that you can almost feel it in the air on most days.

    Good luck to you Jim. I hope someone else starts a blog similar to this. I would like to see one dedicated to USA TODAY and I bet there are more than a few people who could create such a blog about a brand that the public needs to know a lot more about. What's being marketed is very different than what exists here in the Crystal Palace. This has become a sneaky, back-stabbing place that shows no loyalty to good people. The quality of the product has been diminished in many ways that will eventually be more obvious to the public.

  28. >>>USA TODAY has crushed freedom of speech in the workplace. They've done it through subtle and not so subtle means. Managers pretend their doors are open, pretend to be your friend, but most of us know now that this isn't the place that it once was. It's following the rest of the company in creating such bad karma that you can almost feel it in the air on most days.

    Regardless what we may think about this blog, that kind of thinking (above), is just crazy. Anyone who thinks they can't say what they think at USA TODAY doesn't have much of a backbone. Seriously, what kind of mindset do you have that you'd feel that helpless?

    That doesn't mean you will prevail, and yes, the mood at USA TODAY is pretty dismal right now. But afraid to speak up? Or speak out? The only way out of this mess is for everyone to start speaking up, and speaking louder -- about what's new, what's achievable, what's the future.

    There's no crying in journalism. If you're afraid to speak up, or feel muzzled by managing editors who at USA TODAY are actually fairly tame and nondescript compared to a big-city newsrooms almost anywhere, then you really are in the wrong business.

    People get all bent out of shape when some are labeled "whiners.'' Well here's a perfect example. Afraid to speak up??? Give us all a break.

  29. Jim,

    Given your decision, can you provide the reason(s) for waiting until October 1 to suspend the blog? Not that I'm anxious to see it go, but it would seem to be giving it time to die a slow and possibly embarrassing death.

  30. Good job Jim. Thanks for a great blog.


  31. 2:46. Would you like a list of the people who spoke up at USAT and who are no longer here as a result? Not a great time to test the waters. It has nothing to do with backbone or being in the wrong business. In fact, why should a USAT employee have to even think twice about speaking up? It should be a given that speaking up is welcomed and does not require any great act of bravery. Yet at USAT, speaking up ends careers. The proof is in the list of ex-employees. Anyone who has been here for any length of time, who doesn't have some built-in protection, will agree. So I am assuming you haven't been around very long or have just had your head in the sand. Look at most mass meetings. Hardly anyone says boo during a Q&A. Those who do tend to ask the most benign questions possible. Some brave souls have been shouted or stared down on occasion, which is never a lot of fun. In time, they either get passed up for promotions, are put into the most meaningless jobs possible or are pushed out -- sometimes via buyouts/layoffs. What a convenient way for managers to rid itself of people it perceives as non-cooperative.

    How many people really feel they can challenge authority here without being labeled something less than a team player? Yes, we can get someone's ear to listen, but rarely is anything ever done to fix a damn thing, which is another reason why people have given up in trying to raise important issues. And if you seek out someone to listen to you too often, you are playing with fire.

    I do agree with one thing. I do think more USAT people should join together to bring important matters to the top. There is strength in numbers and this paper's insecure leaders can't put everyone on the "next to be laid off" list.

    I will also add that it wasn't always this way here. You could have a healthy debate or two with management in the past without being characterized as disagreeable or insubordinate. In fact, some managers use to welcome the devil's advocates. Those managers were more secure, more mature and less petty. I don't think that is true any longer, particularly in some departments.

  32. Let's face it. USA Today rose quickly on the strong work ethics and talents of some hardcore newspaper peeps (not to mention marketing) and fell just as fast. There are many reasons for the crumbling empire, but mostly it has to do with horrid leadership and some pretty bad mid-managers who brought in some less than stellar hires who are still roaming the hallways of this place. The bad economy lit the fuse, but the bomb was being built as far back as 2005 or so. What toxic place it's become!!!! Kind of pathetic in a way. People with big salaries scrambling around trying to duct tape things back together. The constant spinning. The gorilla warfare. The sheep dressed as wolves. The only cheerleaders seem to be the ones hanging out in the gym all day or peeps earning six-figures. This blog and any negative comments here or elsewhere that threaten their gigs are always attacked. These are always the people who say if we don't like USA Today we should just leave. They never acknowledge the smoke so they never see the fire.

  33. I have seen USA TODAY betray countless employees over the years for no damn good reason other than they were too old, said too much, didn't say enough... Jim is probably one of them. They fell out of favor for a variety of reasons.

    These were talented folks who were loyal to a fault and through thick and thin thought they'd always be part of the family. Maybe not favorite sons or daughters, but still respected, functional and honest. They helped build the brand through many days and nights of long hours, stressful deadlines, no food, etc. Somewhere along the line, something went wrong, and in time they were gone. I can't even count how many talented colleagues I have lost here, and not for very good reasons.

    They were spit out when someone decided they weren't needed any longer. Or maybe someone higher up just resented the fact that some of these people were smarter than they were. Some were left with no alternatives. They left. Some waited around and were forced out. Others were dismissed under shady circumstances. It's gone on forever at usat. Sports editors. Copy desk folks. Reporters. Graphics people. The purging of gifted people continues year in and year out. Many of these losses could have been prevented with a more honorable and aware management team at the helm. Instead, we've had a slew of leaders who simply let things deteriorate.

    Some of these former usat'ers might be inclined to start a blog about the flagship. That could get real interesting. There are a lot of ghosts in the usat closet.

  34. >>>In fact, why should a USAT employee have to even think twice about speaking up? It should be a given that speaking up is welcomed and does not require any great act of bravery. Yet at USAT, speaking up ends careers. The proof is in the list of ex-employees

    This is just crazy. Sorry, but I've been here enough to know what's up at usat, and there is no pattern at all of those who left being malcontents or people who "spoke up.''

    Case in point: No offense intended, but was Jim Hopkins someone who "spoke up'' and that's why he's gone? Oh, right. He was "made fun of" at a meeting. Spare me. He saw a good deal and took it. His career was neither threatened nor in jeopardy. I know. I was there.

    In fact, the opposite of all this is true. In most cases, those who left usat were the quiet make-no-waves types. And a lot of very talented people who were able to find employment elsewhere.

    But to actually believe that the voluntary (emphasis: VOLUNTARY), buyouts and later layoffs were used to weed out revolutionaries is just nuts.

    That is not to say everything is fine at usat. It's not. Age is an unacceptable factor, it seems, in who ends up leaving. Nor could there not be a case or two where some manager did target someone. It's a big newspaper.

    So there's lots to criticize. Weak managers? Sure. But this fantasy view of reality about managers using buyouts to get rid of malcontents is just baseless propaganda.

    Again, anyone too scared to speak at a meeting is just too scared to work anyplace, frankly. Boo.

  35. To the meanies and the creeps, I hope you're satisfied.
    The Gannett Blog was a great place for some of us to restore our sense of control in our lives. When we were newspaper men and women, we relished being "in the know." With Gannett blog, after we left the company, we felt connected again. We met a lot of other former Gannett people who shared our anxiety. Sometimes they posted our thoughts even before we could get them written.
    I'm glad the blog and Jim lasted long enough for me to let go of my attachment to my 20+ year career and the identity that was so closely connected to Gannett.
    Thanks, so much, Jim. You done good and I will always appreciate it.

  36. Age discrimination is a problem at USAT. It needs to be addressed.

    Poor communication is another issue that seemingly has gotten worse.

    The loss of even one employee because of some rogue manager with a personal beef is unacceptable and should be fixed. I think we all agree that that has happened more than once.

    There are other problems.

    Uneven workloads. Some get two hours a day in the gym, others can barely find the time to make it to the vending machine.

    Gapping holes in coverage.

    The loss of some pretty snazzy, large-scale graphics, and the reporting/editing that went along with them.

    The lack of will to fix some longtime problems.

    Page one. Nuff said.

    People do feel on edge. Whether it's because of intimidation or just the climate in the industry...I don't know. But it is real. And it is toxic. Managers need to prove they can be trusted and that they truly want to hear alternative opinions.

    Mistakes and just plain old sloppy work are increasing. When and how is that going to improve?

    So on and so forth...

    USAT has a lot of work to do on almost every level in the newsroom. Anyone who denies that simply has some other agenda.


  37. Jim,
    THANK YOU...For the nasty Sanchez!!!

  38. Jim, you performed an important service, and as a veteran Gannettoid and as one of your classmates in USA TODAY's first buyout, I appreciate how your reporting and attention have validated my decision to leave. Not that I'm not grateful I got the chance to leave with enough time (meaning, buyout pay) to make the transition to something else for a living. I am. But I also gave the company at least as much and probably a lot more. In the end, there was no encouragement from above to stay and keep up the good fight. No one had to say it, but I knew, and they knew I knew, that I'd be vulnerable "next time" -- maybe age, maybe location, maybe department, maybe a lot of reasons. I said so long to the best line of work (if not the best job) in the world. But since then, so have thousands of others. We're still alive. We move on. We adapt. And so, it seems, will you, too. Good luck.

  39. 3:59 PM

    Yeah, right! Like you don't!

  40. Do You?

    Anonymous said...
    3:59 PM

    Yeah, right! Like you don't!

    5/26/2009 6:50 PM

  41. My god in heaven, you would think the world is coming to and end. What will everyone do without a place to bitch and share rumors? How about you talk to other people - actually in person? No blog, no text, no e-mail...not even a telephone. Just in person, face-to-face conversation.

    Or does that make all of you uncomfortable?

  42. All good things must come to an end. Thank you Jim for showing us the mental midgets in charge of this media 'giant'. I will miss this blog. Best of luck in all you do.

  43. Actually, maybe this will a trend for all blogs and people can start to really THINK before saying something.

    Blessed is he who having nothing to say, refrains from giving wordy evidence to the fact.
    George Eliot, 19th century British Novelist pen name for a woman, Marian Evans

  44. Good luck, Jim! Thanks for all of the layoff tips for Paper Cuts.

  45. jim, i truly appreciate what your blog gave me: information, validation (yes, other gannett papers are run as badly; yes, the top bosses elsewhere are fools, incompetents and bullies too) and a place to vent.

    i'm sorry that you're signing off this fall -- i'd happily have continued my subscription although i'm now blessedly retired, because i still care about our industry and about the colleagues i left behind.

    thank you for planning to keep the posts accessible. it would make fertile ground for someone working on a thesis about mismanagement and ineptitude.

    btw. i think my identification word is spelled wrong: it's fouspar, but it shoulda been fubar.

  46. Thanks for all the hard work, Jim and best of luck going forward!

    And all you disgusting homophobes and immature kiddies can bite me...

    a New Jersey middle manager.

  47. I'm going to miss this place.
    Thanks Jim.

  48. Thanks Jim,
    We will miss you. To the trolls and paid commenters from USAT, what goes around comes around.

  49. Another win for the "news gathering" industry. Another loss for journalism.
    Thank's Jim for being our sacrificial lamb. It took courage, something corporate hacks no nothing about.

  50. I left Gannett to take another opportunity - right before the layoffs, the furloughs, the wage freezes, etc.

    Thank God - and this blog - I was able to decipher the proverbial writing on the wall and made my exit in the nick of time. The cons definitely outweigh the pros of practicing solid journalism at any Gannett franchise, in my opinion.

  51. You filled an important need during a critical period. But now I think the tone has become too vicious, too nasty. The posts become less valid in my mind as the nasty meter gets turned up each notch. So I don't blame you for packing it in. Thanks for all your efforts to provide a home for the lost and broken toys of a once-great industry. Good luck!

  52. Jim, so sorry to read that you are leaving. Your blog was a must-read in the I-65 chain of newspapers, among reporters and other IC folk! News about a newspaper chain turned out to be -- surprise! -- good reading, and I'm pleased that a few newspapers now "cover" their own industry's struggles -- layoffs and furloughs, etc. Not all do, but some now "get" the transparency thing. I credit you for that. It was a good tipsheet and brought the employees a sense of togetherness. Cheers and best wishes!

  53. You've done a fine, fine job, Jim. You've certainly earned a rest if you want one. But the blogosphere needs more folks like you. Best wishes!

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

  55. Jim, thank you for giving us a voice and a virtual support group. I'll miss you.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  56. Jim.
    Good luck. Great work you have done with Gannettblog. Hopefully someone in the industry will learn from it and try to duplicate it.

  57. Know when to fold 'em, and "before it makes you nuts" is a good time to fold 'em. Well done, Jim. You've earned some R&R and a smooth onramp to the Next Great Project.


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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