Archive for November, 2007

Hot Off the Press: Detroit Free Press

November 30, 2007

This is today’s Detroit Free Press. Online, the paper’s website is a rare sight within Gannett: Nicely organized with generous white space, easy to navigate, and relatively free of the jarring advertising that too many papers heap on their sites. Right away, I noticed the searchable database of home foreclosures in the Database Central section. (Let’s hope it doesn’t include any of the 110 Detroit staffers losing their jobs!) Another smart database: more than 2,000 Michigan taxpayers owed millions in undelivered IRS refunds.

I have two very insider-ish questions I hope someone can answer: Does Free Press Publisher David Hunke still report to Craig Moon, publisher of USA Today? Also, what is Free Press General Manager Susie Ellwood‘s role — and who does she report to?

Quick update: A reader tells me that, yes, Hunke reports to Moon. Plus, Ellwood is executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Media Partnership — not the Free Press. The partnership is the JOA overseeing business operations of both the Free Press and the Detroit News. Gannett sold the News in 2005 to frequent business partner MediaNews Group. At the same time, GCI bought the Free Press from Knight Ridder.

Detroit employees: E-mail what you know, along with any link suggestions, tips, snarky letters, etc. See my Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

The Free Press at a glance:

  • President, Publisher and CEO of Detroit Newspaper Partnership: David Hunke
  • Editor: Paul Anger
  • Founded: 1831
  • Joined Gannett: 2005

[Image: Newseum]

Forecast: A new career for this weatherman

November 30, 2007

Yup: It’s that hilarious weatherman-vs.-the-cockroach video that aired on a Florida TV station. But it’s Friday. I need a laugh.

How crock pots may save daily newspapers

November 30, 2007

The little slow cooker is clicking at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. I couldn’t make up this News Watch article if I tried.

Gannett stock closes at new 10-year low

November 29, 2007

Ugh: $36.46 a share, down 41 cents. Today’s was the lowest closing price since Jan. 10, 1997, when GCI finished the day at $36.44 a share, Google Finance says. That chart (above) shows the roller-coaster path Gannett shares took from Jan. 3, 1997, to date.

Corporate’s staffing stays the same? Excellent!

November 29, 2007

As top Gannett executives at Corporate’s offices tell everyone else to do more work with fewer people, I wondered if they, too, were doing more with less. After all, public documents show, employment across Gannett fell nearly 6% — to 49,675 workers — in the past year.

But those documents only disclosed Corporate’s headcount as of 2005 — 600 employees. Mysteriously, the company didn’t give figures for 2006 or for this year. Surely, I thought, Corporate’s staffing has fallen dramatically in the past two years, reflecting all the economizing CEO Craig Dubow has ordered.

And, of course, I was wrong. A tipster wrote yesterday: “There are currently 594 names in the corporate headquarters employee directory.” Ouch! That’s some serious belt-tightening!

So, wage slaves, back to work. The nuclear power plant — err, Information Center — hasn’t had anything fresh on its website in four whole minutes!

[Image of evil Simpsons boss C. Montgomery Burns, Fox Broadcasting]

Does Gannett’s News Division walk the walk?

November 29, 2007

The division’s weekly newsletter, News Watch, can be a real snooze. (Look for the next issue today on this site.) Editors invited to showcase their newspaper’s work too often seem determined to use every buzzword they’ve picked up during their last visit to Corporate.

Maybe the division’s Virtual Campus website offers more lively stuff. I don’t know, because it’s behind the company’s firewall, so I can’t reach it. If I could, here’s what I’d hope to find:

  • Daily blogs by News Division chief Phil Currie, his lieutenant Jennifer Carroll, and other division honchos who tell Gannett editors how to do their jobs. (And sometimes tell them to quit whining about growing workloads.) Unlike News Watch, which is a one-way “conversation” (I can use buzzwords, too!), blogs allow editors to offer immediate feedback on the division’s latest missives.
  • Videos. Dozens of them — personally shot, edited and uploaded by Currie and Carroll. Multimedia is critical to Gannett papers in the Seven Desk strategy. I’d like to think it’s a big part of the new work assumed by the News Division, too.

E-mail link suggestions, tips, snarky letters, etc.; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

Commentz Korner: USA Today first with ‘hos’

November 28, 2007

It’s entirely predictable that a story about O.J. Simpson’s court hearing today would draw especially foul reader comments on a newspaper’s website. And that’s why you’d expect USA Today would be especially vigilant to patrol the story for objectionable comments, since the paper doesn’t require editors to approve comments before they appear.

And yet. As I write this, the following comment from this frequent commenter has been sitting on the website of the nation’s biggest-circulation newspaper for six hours and 40 minutes:

“That juice, he from a bad hood. sheeet. juice cut you up playa. whitey he just tryn get ta black man down. you no he be inocent. put a cople of black hos on da jury, sheet. he walk.”

Nice. I can imagine USA Today‘s major advertisers wondering just how down-market the paper’s demographics are heading. And I’m not sure how divisive shoutfests square with founder Al Neuharth‘s lofty wish: “USA TODAY hopes to serve as a forum for better understanding and unity to help make the USA truly one nation.”

Update on Dec. 1: I now see the following note on the commenter’s profile page, which has been wiped clean, including all comments: “This community member’s page is currently being reviewed by the editors.”

Got a profane, racist or other crazy comment that made it past your Gannett site’s filters? I’m collecting examples for Commentz Korner in hopes of shaming editors into action. Send-links to Gannett Blog — or leave a note in the comments section, below. (But be forewarned: I personally read and approve all comments on this blog before they get published!)

Gannett stock at new low on reduced forecast

November 28, 2007

Shares traded as low as $36.18 today — a new 10-year low — after Banc of America cut its forecast for where the stock is headed. The investment bank issued a similarly negative outlook for shares of McClatchy, GateHouse Media and Lee Enterprises. And in its harshest assessment, it urged investors to dump New York Times Co.’s stock.

Cutlines Only: The Journal News

November 28, 2007

Ashley Robinson, an assistant professor at New York Medical College, holds a petrie dish containing the MRSA bacteria. Lower Hudson Valley school districts have stepped up disinfecting procedures and hygiene awareness after parental concerns about nearly 20 reported cases of MRSA, The Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., says today. Photo by Joe Larese, Journal News.

Got a Gannett website photo or graphic to showcase in my new Cutlines Only feature? E-mail suggested links here; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

Buyouts a week away, USA Today staff abuzz

November 28, 2007

Estimates are starting to trickle in on the number of USA Today news staffers who have now committed to taking one of 45 buyouts. I’d like to get one more note from someone at the paper before I start passing on some of these numbers.

Quick update: I’ve just heard from someone else. It sounds like between 16 and 20 people have committed to buyouts so far. That means as many as 29 more volunteers are needed by next Wednesday’s deadline.

Management warned layoffs would be possible if it doesn’t get 45 volunteers for one of the biggest newsroom staff reductions underway in Gannett. The trims are equal to about 9% of the 500-employee news department at the nation’s biggest-circulation daily.

“Guessing who’s in or out has become one of the chief pastimes of the news staff,” a tipster wrote yesterday. “Many people are still on the fence regarding their decisions, and we expect there to be a lot who won’t decide till the last minute. Some are waiting on responses to feelers they put out about new jobs. For some people, especially those with 30 or more years in the company, it’s been an easy decision.”

USA Today employees: E-mail estimates that you’re hearing — and tell me where the numbers are coming from. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

[Image: The front page of this morning’s USA Today, Newseum; click on the image for a bigger view]