Monday, November 01, 2010

Week Nov. 1-7 | Your Layoff Comments: Part 1

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  1. Let's start a contest.

    First time someone in corporate - during a Wall Street conference call or in a memo to staff or in a press release or at a meeting - uses the words "news" or "journalism" someone wins a prize (maybe an Indiana lottery ticket).

    It's become ridiculous. Even in the old days there was at least talk of our mission, our higher purpose, or what we stood for.

    Now what is it? PointRoll?

  2. Yesterday, Anonymous @3:39 PM said:

    "I just want them to fire me or lay me off at this point. I can't quit because I want to be able to qualify for unemployment in case I have to use it. I am just emotionally and physically worn out from all of this. Being let go would be a relief."

    This attitude bugs the piss out of me. If you don't want to stay, why are you taking up space? Are you looking for alternatives, or just riding the gravy train as long as you can, and contributing to a sloppy product in the process?

    I hate what Gannett has done to once-great media brands. But some people still want to be in their jobs and show up every day with a positive attitude. If you want to leave, for God's sake, do it and perhaps someone who wants to stay will be able to do so.

  3. 8:55 AM here again. I wanted to add that I recently decided that I no longer wished to work at my "profit center," and gave notice.

    Remember, you're free to take your talents to a better place any time you choose to do so.

  4. Congrats to 8:55 !!!
    It would be so appropriate if others had the balls to leave and there would be a mass exodus.
    That would be so fitting .
    Let's see if Gannett can put out the printed garbage with no employees ,except fot the ad reps who whore themselves for Gannett revenue.That is the Gannett goal anyway, no employees except money producing reps.!!!
    Then let's see how the Profit Centers make budget then.!!!
    Wouldn't it be just a thrill to see Gannett stock fall to like $2.00 and see how the
    million dollar salaried big wigs scramble!

  5. My week looks just as unemployed as it did two years ago when I got laid off. Would have been nice if Gannett had some heart and not laid off so many 50-and-over people (statistics prove we are the least likely to be re-employed), but it didn't play at that way. I should have known better, so I partly blame myself for showing loyalty to a company that is infamous for pushing experienced folks out the door, even in good times. But I thought my particular boss would show his appreciation for my years of service, through thick and thin. In hindsight, I should have taken offers outside of Gannett when I had the chance several years ago. Now I am stuck with a bleak-looking future as transitioning from newspaper work to other related professions has proven to be next to impossible. All of my contacts, experience and work ethics seem to mean nothing in this economy and at this stage of my life. That's how my week is looking.

  6. Sucks for you 9:39. Looks like you should have been a little more proactive! Just saying!!

  7. Hey all. Those of you still with Gannett, stay strong! I got laid off July '09, but have a new job now. You feel like it's the end of the world to get laid off, but it's SO not. There's a lot of death imagery surrounding layoffs, but you're not dead just 'cause you're not with Gannett any more, not one bit.

    A lot of my worry, anxiety, and anger melted away once I wasn't working for Gannett any more, and then it was almost like I was missing something, not to be carrying around so much anger any more. I won't say "it was the best thing that ever happened to me!" or any kind of crap like that, but it wasn't the end of the world either, that's all. My life was turned upside down, but has gone on.

  8. Sorry, 9:39. I know it's not feasible for many people to leave an established job even with other offers.

    And, as someone posted yesterday, I don't think it's feasible to volunteer for a RIF and save someone else's job. Last year, our newsroom was told we could not volunteer. I am sure then - and now, with "targeted" layoffs supposedly coming - they decide who's most expendable based on their salary and duties. Tough luck that higher salaries often belong to more talented, experienced - and yes, older - people.

  9. Hey, 9:49 a.m....I know people, good people, who've updated their education, their skills and have excellent reps as dedicated workers who can't get squat in this economy.

    Many companies simply aren't hiring - not just newspapers - and when they do hire they're taking on "contract" and part-time people.

    That 9:49 a.m., is what you have to be "proactive" for: a future without benefits, without paid vacations, without pensions, and with the certainty that you could be unemployed on any given day.

    Gannett is simply one player in the greed parade. So, if you're looking to be "proactive" get to night school and train for a new career in some capacity of medical services. That's where the action is today, NOT IN NEWSPAPERING NOT ANYWHERE FOR ANYONE.

  10. Talking about being proactive? Some of us were: went back to school, re-trained, got new careers. Then wham, our jobs vaporized and re-appeared in India!

    Newspapers aren't the only ones squeezing their employees to the max.

    I must say, however, that Gannett has been particularly cheap in its severances. A pal of mine at ABC-TV was offered an early retirement package recently that was three weeks pay for each year worked.

    How much was Gannett's most recent "cushion"? One week for every year? And meanwhile your executives keep getting their bonuses, while producing zero.

    What a joke!

  11. Reading posts on this blog, and you would expect Gannett to give you something. This company already pays you wages for your work, so what right do you have to ask for anything more? What right do employees have to dictate company policies or how they use your labor. Be thankful for what you've got.

  12. Be thankful for what you've got. Yep, that's a good way to keep tied to the yoke. That's exactly the way management wants you to feel!

    Coworkers losing their jobs? Be thankful. Pay cut? Be thankful. Pay frozen? Be thankful. Higher insurance co-pays? Be thankful. Heavier workload and no raise? Be thankful. Bosses getting their bonuses? Be thankful. No bosses losing their jobs? Be thankful.

    The idea ISN'T TO BE THANKFUL. IT'S TO GET YOUR ASS OUT OF GANNETT. Gannett loves "thankful" employees because it can grind them into the ground without a peep of complaint.

    STOP BEING THANKFUL AND START PLANNING YOUR NEXT MOVE. Don't wait for your bonus-laden manager to can your ass in the name of economy.

  13. 9:49, while most of us would agree with the spirit of your comments, you were needlessly glib and snarky to 9:39. Not everyone is in the same exact circumstance. Sounds like 9:39 was just misfortunate enough (and probably mislead to believe) that he/she was a highly valued, indispensable employee for year after year, and then the boom got dropped out of nowhere. That is GCI's MO and, unfortunately, there are too many 'true believers' in the workforce who honestly take their managers' words that they are 'safe' and depend upon that -- until it's too late.

    For year after year for more than a decade, I was told the same -- and didn't believe it. So I did follow 9:49's advice. I got proactive well, well before my once organization-critical performance was abruptly declared no longer needed. I walked out the door with my head held high and went right into what I'm doing now without missing a beat. And, yeah, it's going more than well right now.

    But I would never, ever, ever make light of someone else's misfortune in the process. 9:49, you owe 9:39 an apology.

    As for 10:44: Nice to see you read the blog, Craig.

  14. I recently discovered this blog while Google searching on some topics related to USA Today. I am not a newspaper professional. I do have some passing interest in journalism that dates back to my days on my college newspaper. But mostly I am just a reader. I am not sure if this is the appropriate place to comment, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

    About five years ago, I moved from a mid-sized East Coast city to a very rural area in Southwest. Prior to that move, I bought USA Today on my way to work each morning for several years. There was a box right outside my condo building. I preferred USA Today to the local paper for various reasons, but would occasional read the local paper when something was going on in the city of particular interest to me.

    Long story short, I stopped reading USA Today when I moved to the desert in 2005. The nearest box was about 15 miles away. I worked mostly from home and had no need to go into town on most days. So my USA Today habit faded, not because I didn't like it, but it just wasn't convenient and a mail subscription didn't seem necessary within the realm of my new life. I should add that my mail box was about five miles from my home. I got a couple news magazines to kind of stay current with national and world events. I don't watch TV news very much because it's, well, garbage for the most part.

    Fast forward to two weeks ago. I had a rare trip I had to make to Los Angeles. I read USA Today because it was free at the hotel. At first, it sort of looked and felt like the paper I use to read on most days. But then I dug a little deeper and noticed that it was thinner, fewer original articles and features, fewer fancy graphics and snazzy artwork, and typos and other sort of silly errors of fact or common sense that I hadn't noticed in the past. I also noticed it was more expensive.

    Guessing that the recession was the culprit behind a diminished USA Today, I snooped around online and found this blog last week. I read a lot of comments about USA Today and the bottom line seems to be that much of what ails USA Today was due to intentional decisions to cut staff and resources. This was really appalling to me.

    My guess is that I am not alone in noticing that USA Today is no longer a bargain. There aren't too many products in life that can get worse, charge more and expect the bottom line to be fine. I found the paper did not speak to me (a 50something, middle class male) anymore. In fact, if I were still living in my old condo, I probably wouldn't buy this paper anymore.

    Nothing stays the same in life, not even McDonald's, but for McPaper (think that's what it was called back in the day) to basically turn its back on once loyal readers is pure madness, particularly nowadays where there are many alternatives. I know times are tough and corners are being cut, but my sense is that USA Today went overboard and gutted the essence (sharp editing, appropriate visuals, good story selection) of what once made the paper enjoyable to people like me.

  15. 8:55, For worker bees, it is inadvisable and financially reckless to abruptly quit in the face of impending layoffs, unless you are the beneficiary of an unusual safety net (e.g., family wealth/inheritance, wealthy wife/in-laws, a fabulous job offer requiring an immediate decision). You might not be aware, but you've been paying 6+ percent of your salary into the state unemployment benefits pool (Gannett pays the other 6+ percent.) You won't get that (and Gannett's share) back if you walk out, but you will if you're laid off. To do the former is to play into Gannett's game plan. Gannett knows that if they make the working environment miserable enough, a certain number of people will up and quit, and Gannett will save on severance costs. All of corporate America knows this. The only ones who should be walking out, other than the aforementioned lucky ones, are those in upper management, with high net worth, who should quit in the name of journalistic integrity. But since Gannett's publishers and top editors aren't of that breed (think Ann Marie Lipinski, Dean Baquet and Jay Harris, among others), I guess we're not likely to see that happen.

  16. mericans prefer print. here is link.

  17. I'll join the pool, 4:44 AM, and up you one! Watch for the words "credibility" and "integrety." Bet you won't hear those.

    Now, I'm betting these buzzwords will be used at least the stated number of times:
    -transformation - 12
    -deployment - 9
    -leverage - 7
    -rolled out - 3

    I sure want to win that Hoosier lottery ticket!

  18. Oops,dropped some type. should read E&P says 2 out of 3 Americans....

  19. 12:28 is right. Not to mention the fact that many people have been paying into Social Security for quite some time and will probably never see a dime of that money.

  20. To Gannett current employees:
    The former Gannett employees out here are all wondering....
    How is the stress level at your location?
    Those of us who left or were thrown out,know what it was like back then during 08 and 09 when layoffs were emminent. It was hell coming to work each day and wondering if this was the last week that we would be employed and hoping
    it would be a co-worker and not me.
    The back-stabbing,the dreading of when a top manager would come into your office,the hoping the conversation would be work related and not
    a close door the behind session.And then when that Friday was over,wondering if it would next Friday when the layoff news came down the pike.
    Then, when next Friday came, hoping that layoffs were announced ,please get it over with and hoping it would be everyone else and not me.I'll do anything you ask,but Please,don't let it be me!!
    I am not writing this to be mean,this has to be hell on your health,both mentally and physically. I would guess you probably thought you were safe by now,and that makes this all much worse.Keep in mind ,and remember what life was like before the Gannett layoff era.

  21. Congrats, Jim, on the Nieman write-up. You should be flattered:

  22. Get used to it. This company is not going to change. Middle managers are clinging on, trying to keep the troops energized and hoping their future will be to move up into the ranks of those who really cash out in this company. But it's only a fraction of a percentile who make those ranks. The rest of us are peons, and peons get pissed on.

  23. This article/survey points to strong evidence that people still prefer reading something on paper versus on a computer screen. Not the best of news when you consider that Gannett has gutted its print operations and thrown all new resources into digital content. I am not denying that there isn't a place for digital initiatives, but I think GCI heads fell into the same trap radio station operators fell into when TV came along. They didn't see that maintaining strong print products was essential in any plans for a new business model.

  24. Update on the little lottery situation.

    Well, USAT still shows the Hoosier jackpot at $35 million for Wednesday's draw. But another Gannett publication in Indy is reporting that one person matched all six numbers Saturday, bringing the pot to $1 million for Wednesday.

    I'd think the ContentOne initiative would make sure that something like this doesn't happen. Silly me.

  25. 10:33 sounds like an overpaid manager

  26. I wonder if all the 50+ workers who were given their walking papers could claim age discrimination? Be an interesting class-action lawsuit.

  27. 8:55 -- Read 12:28's post because he/she is dead on. I think there are many of us who would prefer to be canned than continue working under the horrible stress that Gannett is subjecting us to. Trouble is most people can't simply walk away with no severance pay, no unemployment, etc. That wouldn't make sense.

    If the company was better, it would take pains to seek out the people who no longer want to be with it and take pains to maintain those who do. But Gannett doesn't operate with foresight or ingenuity. It sees everyone in the company as a number and treats them accordingly.

    10:44 -- Clearly, you feel that a corporation should be able to do whatever it pleases without restriction or oversight and that employees should be pleased with whatever crumbs it throws their way. Who wants to live in a society where character traits like loyalty, kindness and compassion have no value? Not me.

    Beyond that, Gannett is the beneficiary of certain kindnesses itself. For instance, it makes a lot of money from laws requiring people to publish legal ads. Since even Gannett says everything is about the Internet these days, why is the company entitled to this government handout? It should stop whining about lost profits and be thankful, right? Also, it's broadcast stations require licenses to operate and these are supposed to be renewed because they offer a public service. The company should be grateful that its licenses are being renewed, right?

    It has also been the beneficiary of tax breaks in some markets, etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on. In short, why don't you feel like the company should simply be thankful that it's continuing to turn a profit in this horrible economy? Firing more people damages those people, the long-term health of the company and the American economy at large. And this from a company that claims to have stakes in its local communities. Here's arguing that Gannett should be thankful that it's still operating and that its wildly overpaid executives can still pull down multi-million dollar bonuses.

    Name an independently run business that has been continuously shrinking for the last five years but has continued to pay its executives bonuses that dwarf their base pay. Be thankful, indeed.

  28. 10:44 AM
    I can think of one right off the top of my head that employees have. That right is outlined in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. People 40 and up are in a protected class of workers. You can agree with this or not, but as long as that act stands, employers, including Gannett, have a responsibility to follow what's in it. If you don't like it or agree, contact your lawmakers rather than attack Gannett workers.

  29. Interesting how a Gannett newspaper (Post-Crescent) ran an editorial today pointing out that third-party ads confuse the electorate but that very same paper accepted money from the third-party groups and ran their ads. I love hypocrisy.

  30. Yes, but 4:19 p.m., try to get anyone to enforce it. Corporate can argue there is no age discrimination since younger employees were laid off as well, and the economic troubles facing GCI forced their decisions. They can also argue the fired employee wasn't a fit in the reorganization they have made. This is not at all easy case to make, and corporate maintains a bank of lawyers to fight any of these moves. But it generally costs nothing to consult a lawyer, and if you feel you have a case, you should do that.

  31. 6:02 PM
    There's much more to it. Corporate can argue all it wants, but if the stats aren't there to back it up, the company stands to lose, even with the banks of lawyers.

    Gannett can yammer all it wants to about economic conditions, but employment law is still employment law any way you slice it.

    I guess all I'm saying is this: If there had been nobody willing to take risks during other periods of time ripe for discrimination in the workplace, we might not have made the great strides we have on the civil rights front.

    I've done my part with the EEOC. Have you? do it for the next generation. Help force Gannett to embrace a truly diverse workforce, one that is blind to age.

  32. 5:52
    I applaud that paper for respecting the divide between editorial opinion and advertising. I don't see that as hypocrisy at all.

  33. Question to 11/01/2010 8:55 AM:

    In what way is working for Gannett a gravy train?

    Did you not have a pay freeze, multiple furlough weeks and every escalating health care costs?

    Gravy train? Gimme a break.

    I stayed until I was finally able to get another gig. But there was no way I was walking out without another job or the prospect of unemployment insurance. In this economy that would be financial suicide.

  34. 4;19 here is a legit question: if the average age of the workforce is 40 and the average age of everyone laid off is 49 how is that discrimation? Noe o font know the averages and I know you don't. So if you don't have that information Joe can you make these assertions? just asking p

  35. The USAT site STILL shows a Hoosier Lottery jackpot of $35 million for Wednesday's drawing. Doesn't anyone pay attention to that feedback people send to that accuracy email address that's listed? I thought I was doing something nice when I sent in some feedback, letting them know that it was wrong. Perhaps you, Jim, could call USAT and document the call via another Gannettblog video!

  36. 9:39am, my heart goes out to you and all other former, loyal, over 50 GCIers who got an undeserved kick in the ass in 2008/2009.

  37. 11/01/2010 8:55 AM - Thanks and congrats! I was worried that another position might not work out or that I may need to fall back on unemployment. That is why I said That I wanted them to lay me off or fire me. But you are right! So after today I will no longer be working for Gannett in 2 weeks.

  38. I am on your side about age discrimination in the layoffs, but you have to realize there are huge holes in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that allows companies like Gannett to neuter it. Yes, it says employers should not discriminate against workers who are over 40, but it does not provide any blanket protection. The law specifically allows companies to fire or layoff those people if there is "good cause" for that action. Gannett can say the "good cause" is about anything, from reversing the decline in profits to eliminating those with negative comments on their annual reviews.
    Read the law, and you note it permits employers to layoff workers based on "reasonable factors other than age." Again the "reasonable factors" can be anything from restoring a company's fiscal health to getting rid of employees who don't fit into reorganization plans as long as they keep age out of the considerations they make.
    In plain English, they can pretty well what they damn well please. Don't yell back at me, yell at Congress. They wrote it this way.

  39. 10:56 PM
    But, but, but-----the same is true for others in protected classes such as race, gender, etc. We're talking civil right here when we talk about age discrimination.

    Think back of all the people who lost jobs because of things like the company didn't like their skin color or the fact that they were female. Well, way back then, companies gave those lame excuses about budgets and job performance and reorganization, etc.

    It took courageous people standing up and challenging the actions to change things for minorities and women. I'm proud to say I was one of them. Maybe some of you think that it just happened by chance. It didn't. It took people who did not buy the excuse that companies could pretty well do what they please.

    What I'm saying is that Gannett will be allowed to do what it pleases (discriminate against older workers)until more people stand up and fight for their rights.

    I'm not yelling at you or anyone else, 10:56 PM. I'm pleading with people to realize that the only way Gannett will change is if people send a clear message that they will not tolerate age discrimnation in the work place. I believe the EEOC is one heck of a place to turn to when a worker has a specific complaint about discrimination on the job. The EEOC investigated complaints for free. That I know.

    You pay for the service of the EEOC. Use it. I'm glad I did.

  40. It's probably because of the change in administrations, but I got nothing out of the EEOC when I tried.

  41. Hey Jim -- maybe you could build a survey for Gannettoids laid off just about a year ago and 2 years ago, so we can see how the classes of 2008 and 2009 are doing as a group?

  42. For Part 2 of this comment thread, please go here.


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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