Sunday, January 09, 2011

Kicking ethics aside, Gannett launches jobs series

[Circled part of screenshot highlights Indianapolis' jobs series]

So much for deferring to local editorial control, eh?

Marching in lockstep, Gannett newspapers today launched a Corporate-driven editorial series about jobs, one that reads too much like advertorial to boost employment advertising -- even as it's being presented as public-service journalism.

For example, the Indianapolis Star's homepage features four links under a "Top 10 jobs in Indiana'' headline. (See screenshot, above.) One of the links takes readers to CareerBuilder, the employment site majority-owned by Gannett. Bending journalism ethics, the Star-branded CareerBuilder page doesn't disclose that the two companies are owned by Gannett.

A second link takes readers to another Star-branded page that appears to be a ContentOne production. It includes some editorial matter produced by USA Today and the Star -- and yet more content produced by CareerBuilder. Once more, the CareerBuilder business tie isn't disclosed.

Elsewhere across GCI, here's how Publisher Amy Pack tip-toed around the project in a letter to readers of her two California dailies: "We’d like to help our readers by creating an environment for the employment ads right here in the main news section of the Times-Delta and Advance-Register."

[Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET: It appears Corporate supplied some of the language for Pack's note. When I Googled her phrasing, I turned up similar letters signed by other Gannett publishers in communities that include Burlington, Vt.; Mountain Home, Ark., and St. George, Utah.]

Now, it's your turn. How did your newspaper launch the series? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Lower revenues equal furloughs and layoffs. I love this series! I hope it makes lots of money. Enough with the attacks, this is the future, deal with it or go work in a different industry. The wall in all news industries disappeared awhile ago. The Emperor has no clothes. There it's been said, let's move in.

  2. The Journal News: "JOBLESS RECOVERY Giving you all the resources and tools you need to get back to work" includes "Links to other job search sites." In this order:

    • CareerBuilder
    • New York State Department of Labor
    • Rockland County resources
    • Westchester and Putnam resources
    • Yahoo! HotJobs
    • Beyond, a job site for niche careers
    • CollegeRecruiter, for college students and recent graduates
    • Execu|Search, executive recruitment
    • Hound, only showing jobs from employer websites
    • Indeed, a jobs aggregator
    • JobCentral, formed by nonprofit consortium of U.S. corporations
    • LinkedIn, a social network for professionals
    • SimplyHired, jobs aggregator plus resume posting
    • TheLadders, fee site for jobs of $100,000 and up

    CareerBuilder is first, of course, and in a sidebar to the "special report" article itself, CareerBuilder is again listed, second this time because the list is alphabetical, as

    "CareerBuilder, the biggest source of jobs on the Internet:"

    I have not read the article, so don't know if CareerBuilder is mentioned as being Gannett-owned. I apologize for my lack of in depth reporting, but as I am not Gannett employee, and am not seeking a job I have neither time nor interest in digesting the entire lengthy article. And, as full disclosure: I don't even live in NY. I am, however, the daughter and sister of former Journal-News employees. Father and brother worked there at different times (former in 30s, 40s, early 50s; latter in mid-60s) but both were part of it when it was still a LOCAL Rockland County paper. I grew up with the real, hyphenated Journal-News and I follow this blog because it saddens me to see its decline since Gannet took over.

  3. The mix of news and advertising in Indy is an example of Gannett's willingness to trade its credility as an information source for shortterm revenue gains. How sad for the people on central Indiana.
    Imagine reading stories about jobs only to find they were inspired by profiteering ad salespeople rather than "truth-finding" reporters. Discerning readers know the difference.
    Senior news folks at Indy know that selling news space is not a good longterm strategy for their business. Obviously, their opinions don't really matter. Or, they were too weak-kneed to speak up.
    Either way, the readers lose.

  4. 11:02 pleeeease! Readers don't care at all. In this new age of Snooky and House Wuves of Atlanta readers don't care. Your statement is grounded in attitudes from the last century. Only the insiders care. Your views are admirable but the genie is long hone from this argument. This is the way it is. If you can't embrace it, its time to move on. Economics now dictate news products. Sorry

  5. our local paper had the same quote from the top manager. canned story for all publishers/managers to use. how creative.

  6. All of the local stories included in jobs packages certainly don't read as "advertorials" and weren't treated as such (at least where I sit). I think the websites could definitely be more appealing and make more productive use of local content -- but I tend to agree with the 10:35 commenter. If ad/editorial partnerships make money and fund serious acts of journalism, I'm all for it. We're all adults, right? Honorable "truth-finding" reporters and editors can stand up for serious journalism, even when engaged in a collaborative project with those evil "profiteering" ad sales types.

  7. Thanks, Jim, for again highlighting this issue. It's spurring debate, which is positive.
    The execution among the papers in my state has been uneven in terms of quality, Web site presentation and links. The stories and headlines are generally positive in tone, although there seems to have been some attempt to find dissenting voices for an appearance of balance.
    My biggest concern, aside from the advertorial nature of the stories, is the placement given to the copy. At my site, the series will take the page 1 primary centerpiece or inside-A secondary centerpiece slots every Sunday for the next three months. I believe it's a poor use of increasingly limited newshole.

  8. Jim, thanks for letting us see the bigger picture - that this a corporate-wide initiative.
    On the surface I see nothing wrong with this series, so long as it's spelled out from the start (and regularly repeated) that it is a collaboration between advertising and news. Readers expect honesty. So, if it benefits the readers that's a good thing, isn't it?
    However, as a news presenter the Gannett chain has been woefully weak in documenting the economic depths of the recent years. I don't see how that will change given the already short staffed newsrooms that just had a furlough week added to their load. So color me skeptical that despite good words and good intentions this will prove to be good journalism.

  9. Jim, you are such a ranting idiot. Do a simple look at the metros, for instance. Lockstep? Seriously? You are just as bad as the talking heads, the one-issue idiots who dominate our airwaves. You do the tiniest bit of reporting (usually you count linking to someone else as "reporting") then you wax on about injustices, ethics, how rich people are bad and the like. A minority around here would like it if you would actually be a reporter and editor, like your bosses forced you to be in the old days. You've quickly embraced the new media landscape, where facts and real reporting be damned and mindless opinion rules. Ok, now be indignant in your reply, telling us how great you are.

  10. Aside from the gratuitous initial and final insults, I agree with 1:30.

    How is this anything different than what the new media person does, crafting headlines, key words and unnecessary links so that their search engine optimization bears results?

    For everyone NOT locked in some virginal ivory tower, we know audience comes to us for different reasons. We even have readers who ONLY LOOK AT THE COMICS, gadzooks.

    Promoting employment coverage and job listings definitely falls within the community service area our readers think we should exist. If we make money at the same time, it allows us to continue that mission.

  11. 1:30pm How's corporate office? Going to the country club today with other executives?

    If you don't like whats on the blog, quit reading it. Your dribble won't be missed.

  12. As long as Gannett forces small companies who want to place a help wanted ad in their local paper, to also run in Careerbuilder, you will keep losing classified revenue to radio, other papers and Craigslist. You insistance on forcing Careerbuilder for low paying jobs is just dumb. Just another reason ciculation numbers continue to drop.

  13. Dribble.... Someone bouncing a ball around here? Another idiot.

  14. Is this not a USCP-wide initiative?

  15. Hey, the lemming trolls have arrived!

    1:30 is exactly right with every word. No number of morons coming in and accusing that poster of being "corporate" will change that.

    The "dribble" usage is another indication of someone who's a full-scale idiot.

  16. The corporate shills continue to assure the world that removing the wall between news and advertising is necessary to the survival of our news organizations. Disagree and they try to marginalize you with various "old-think" tags.
    They fail to recognize that credible factual information is a commodity growing more valuable every day.
    That credibility is being enhanced by the constant onslaught of babble from radio personalities, anonymous bloggers and other social media outlets. It is difficult sometimes to get straight reports on public issues without having to endure some half-wit's opinions.
    Not long ago, some wise journalists reasoned that credible news organizations would strengthen themselves by distancing themselves from shysters eager to trade news credibility for ad dollars.
    That wisdom should not be set aside in a half-baked effort to boost next quarter profits. The credibility that remains should be leveraged as part of a longterm strategy to provide balanced information to readers and viewers.
    If I were a cartoonist, I'd draw a picture of a boat named Gannett with hundreds of fishing lines thrown far out to sea. Directly under the boat would be a large school of fish, smiling at the absurdity of it all.

  17. 3;17 please name the ten news organizations that you respect that reflect your view of old school news gathering and please no NPR. The organization has to be for profit. What's that noise? Crickets chirping?

  18. 3:17 is another lemming troll who probably posted something idiotic earlier and now is trying to redeem himself.

    He probably has spent the last few minutes patting himself on the back for his fishing cartoon analogy.

  19. Jim: your 2:13 language appears to be entirely correct. But the headline and the first line of this post are full of disdain. You find the Indy example, which I agree looks bad, and supports your case. And you say, under that circled example: "So much for deferring to local editorial control, eh? Marching in lockstep..."

    So, I look around to see what "lockstep" looks like. Something you either didn't bother to do or ignored if you did. And sorry, I just don't see the horrifyng results predicted by the top of your post. On some sites, I don't see it on the homepage at all. On some, I see the the papers have (SHOCK) done a decent looking local story, along with the links and such. Like some papers may do at times with those other ethics deficient, delivered-from-the-devil entities: wire services. Speaking of hell: This is another example of you seeming hell-bent on making Gannett look REALLY bad, even when the situation doesn't seem, to me, that awful. You could have just introduced ths topic with an "is this good or bad?" But that's certainly not nearly as sexy as screaming to your followers "Gannett SUCKS. Again. Can I have an Amen?" There are those of us here, however, who still wish for you to be more.

  20. I expect him to be less. He has proved he is time and again.

  21. Good grief, spare me the poor Gannett crap.
    If GCI had a few wins to celebrate, it wouldn't be such an easy target for detractors.
    Its problem is its out-of-sync management, which continues to take high salaries and large bonuses despite its abysmal performance. And no, they shouldn't count cutting thousands of jobs as an accomplishment. Well-trained monkeys can do that.
    As for organizations still protecting their credility, check out the NY Times, Wall Street Journal or St. Petersburg Times. Those and many others would be embarrassed by the lame-assed thing Indy did.

  22. My post may have been overly inflammatory in the "lockstep" language.

  23. 3:50 you've named the usual suspects, St Pete doesn't count. You've got eight more to name. Public for profits only.

    By the way the Times has many detractors . WSJ well there is one for sure.

  24. A Journal News reader posted a link to this site in the Comments section of its Job Series article. JN removed it. As of 6:49, the persistent reader re-posted the link.

  25. Let's thank Jim for providing this forum so we can engage in this civilized discourse (mostly). Agree Jim took an approach that was less than objective, sometimes he does that but most times not. And I don't see anything wrong with trying to attract eyeballs and ads with this jobs project. That shouldn't stop reporters and editors from being reporters and editors. Things only become problematic when some publisher or ad director starts to dictate coverage, steering it to or away from entities and issues. Take the new ad dollars and report the damn news please, all of it.

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  27. Targeting the unemployed with advertising is yet another brain-dead move by Gannett. Do they have money to spend? No!

  28. So Gannett newspapers are guilty of a) jointly covering a topic of universal and topical interest with b) shared resources and c) in the process link to a Gannett subsidiary that could help readers at no cost to themselves? If these misguided newsrooms did everything else the same but somewhere disclosed that CareerBuilder is a GCI unit, would that be kosher? An editor would have kicked your draft back and said, "No story. Look harder." Call Kelly McBride at Poynter and see what she thinks.

  29. I agree with those who think this is an outrageous move that erodes the traditional wall between editorial and commercial departments. But I also would like to comment that the story I read was also incredibly thin and weak. I guess that is because the source is one central authority, but the coverage could have been improved immeasurably by putting in some local color.
    For those who don't mind this change, might I point out that it is just a hop, skip and jump from doing this on a number of issues.

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  32. It's sad to see newspaper employees actually defending this project. To the person who said complaints about things like this are grounded in thinking from the "last century": You are right only if you mean the 20th century. In other words, the century that we are only a decade removed from.

    Objectivity and accountability in newspapers is a relatively recent trend. Early papers pushed agendas, and yellow journalism was rampant early in the 20th century. In other words, we've gone down this road before, and papers got better.

    I could care less if this makes money for the company because it's a bad thing for THE COUNTRY. Things exactly like this are the reason America is in the spot it is now.

    During the first half of the 20th century, American businesses had a certain degree of nationalism. They all wanted to make profits but, given a choice, many would do the right thing and take slightly smaller profits rather than sell the nation out. Today, it's the opposite.

    Close U.S. plants and ship jobs overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor? Absolutely.

    Run businesses with too few people even if it means unsafe working conditions for employees and poor service for customers? Of course.

    Do long-term damage to the environment in order to maximize short-term profits? No brainer.

    Turn your news organization into a blatant advertising platform that offers a voice primarily to the highest bidders? Yes, yes, yes.

    Even if this saves Gannett jobs (and it won't because the company is making deep cuts in order to maximize profits, not save the company) it is a horrible thing for our nation. It would be nice if all of the people working for one of the biggest media companies in the country were smart enough to see that, but I've been reading this blog long enough to know that's too much to expect.

    Readers do care about objectivity in news organizations, but there is some truth to the fact that they don't much care about things like this. The reason is, they lost faith long ago. Ask most people on the street whether newspapers are objective and they'll tell you, "No." Ask them if they wished they were, and they'll say, "Yes."

    We should be working to prove that we are objective and credible. Not reinforcing the negative perceptions that the public already has for a few measly dollars.

  33. Weird. I was just reading the Rocky Mountain News, the Honolulu Advertiser, and the Tuscon Citizen. They had some fabulous coverage on why a newspaper should ignore measly dollars and instead focus on no-holds-barred, ivory-tower journalism, no matter what the cost.

  34. So? Well, it strikes me we are inexorably moving towards centralization of our news operations and a complete ending of local control. You may not think this really matters, but I would like to note this is a company that was built and flourished on local newspapers. You can also see the cost-savings corporate has in mind with centralized editing of a universal story. But what this concept neglects is that the United States is really an assembly of regions rather than a unifed whole. One size does not fit all.

  35. 6:51 -- If those paper were going to take this route to its logical extreme, I would argue that their closure did very little harm. Businesses close all the time, and people get different jobs. A newspaper that's not adhering to reasonable journalistic standards, is simply money making machine and we have plenty of those already. If your argument is that a paper should be able to do whatever it wants to make cash, I think you're missing out on the thing that makes papers great. Essentially, a paper that subscribes to that belief becomes a billboard company, and my town already has plenty of billboards that I can view free of charge. Sometimes they say something interesting, sometimes they don't, but it's always clear that they're a sales pitch.

    I for one don't want to have to start subscribing just to see those pitches, and I think there are an awful lot of folks like me.

    The saddest thing about the newspaper closures you mentioned, is that those papers are no longer around to try and keep the other dailies in their vicinity honest. You can get really sloppy and lazy ... and you can relax all kinds of standards ... when you're the only paper in a town.

    If they had continued to exist, but only as advertising fliers, they would have been worthless.

  36. So let me get this straight, any time Gannett writes a movie review and then links to the movie times on Metromix it should also say Metromix is owned by Gannett?

    Maybe every link to Metromix and Careerbuilder should include a mouseover link that says "Also wned by the Evil Empire".

  37. Still waiting for the disclosure by Jim of who "owns" this what company is writing the check to the partner who make this all possible. Full disclosure and all that, right?

  38. My partner is a retired engineer from an electric and gas utility. He receives plain-vanilla pension checks.

  39. 11:34 Repeating what I wrote above: Gannett doesn't identify itself as the majority owner of CareerBuilder on these CB pages. Why not?

  40. Hey Jim - beyond your google research on the similar language in the publisher letters, I suspect the generic email address in the Visalia letter ( was in fact a placeholder in the company form-letter, meant to be replaced.

  41. The people complaining about this are the same people who think they are always on the verge of taking down someone official. In reality, they cannot write a 4-inch brief without major editing.

    That goes for you, too, Jim.

  42. 11:34 -- Many media companies disclose their ownership ties. For instance, when CNET (owned by CBS) reviews or reports on items that are also CBS owned, it generally makes note of that.

    Gannett is not REQUIRED to do this. But if you are asking whether such disclosure would be prudent, the answer is, "Yes." That said, my Gannett property has never made its relationship with Metromix secret.

    You also have to understand that things are dicier with Career Builder because it is not another media site. Metromix is also a journalism site, and referring people to it isn't unlike referring them to the sports section. In that case, you have the same company and same mission with different branding. Referring readers to a strictly for-profit company that you own is an entirely different animal. Career Builder is not a news site ... even though some of the information it contains can be useful.

    I don't think anyone is saying that Gannett should not be able to refer readers to Career Builder. They are saying that a company that brands itself as an objective journalistic voice (and Gannett does this at almost all of its papers) needs to disclose its ties to any for-profit company that it touts in print. Readers can then weigh the information they've been given in the story against that knowledge. Hiding the ties gives the impression that you have something to hide.

  43. The 1:57 PM comment is downright childish...typical of the shills who cannot support their points in an intelligent manner because their logic lacks intelligence...
    Jim's question is simple and would help us understand what was done...why weren't readers told that their Gannett newspaper was referring them to other Gannett companies in hopes of making a profit?
    Do Gannett newspapers need to cite other non-Gannett companies if they want to be considered a source of balanced, sales-free information?
    This is an excellent forum for these discussions...we all have lots to learn as we stumble forward down an untraveled road...the sniping is irritating and suggests a lack of understanding of what's at stake here from the perspective of readers.
    Can/will someone answer Jim's good question?

  44. He's asking a "Why not?" question. You or anyone else could contact Gannett and try to find out. Why are you posting here when you could be answering the question?

    You and the other lemming trolls should step up to the plate once in a while.


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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