Reader: Hopkins ‘wimped out’ at annual meeting

Regarding my attendance at today’s annual shareholders meeting, a reader comments: “No challenges at the session, the speech stayed in your pocket and you never asked the object of your scorn a question. You can rationalize it all you want but instead of exercising your alleged journalistic courage you wimped out. It is easy to create some dumb-ass T-shirt but when the guy is standing there eye to eye you pissed your pants. At least the guy in the leisure suit had the balls to get up and ask his question. Back where I come from they refer to dudes like you as ‘All Hat No Cattle.'”

Read my response, and join the debate — in the original post.

15 Responses to “Reader: Hopkins ‘wimped out’ at annual meeting”

  1. John Says:

    Jim,

    I admire your work and the blog greatly.

    I think you should have asked a question.

    Nonetheless, keep up the great work.

    73s,
    John M. Simpson

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,
    I think your two minutes of fame pasted you by. You are a tough guy hiding behind your blog. You have the entire Board, executive team, large shareholders, auditors, legal counsel and a formal shareholder process and you define success as giving your card to Donna Shalala?

    This team is laughing at you. They won and you lost!

    Now I know why Gannett threw you out. This type of journalism is pathetic.

    All talk, no action.

    I can imagine that your other readers will be quite disappointed. Now you will really need to find a job.

  3. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Nothing better than being taken to task about not having balls by somebody who posts anonymously.

    That being said, Jim, you did wuss out. You should have said something. But since you allegedly did write your thoughts down, why don’t you share ’em here?

  4. Jim Hopkins Says:

    To Anon@8:28 p.m.: Excellent idea. The text follows; please keep in mind that I wrote this so as to comply with the required “rules of procedure.” Here’s what I wrote, intended for the company’s eight independent directors:

    I am Jim Hopkins, and I am a stockholder, living in San Francisco.

    For 20 years, I was also a Gannett employee, most recently at USA Today, where I was a business news editor and a reporter.

    I joined Gannett in Little Rock, and worked later in Boise, Louisville, and in San Francisco.

    My career ended in January, when I agreed to leave USA Today as one of 43 employees who received buyouts.

    I have come here today to express my appreciation for the opportunities I had over the two decades I worked for Gannett.

    I did not always love my job. But even on the worst days, I tried to remember that it was a privilege to be paid to write for a living. And it was an even greater privilege to be paid to defend the First Amendment.

    I joined the company in 1987, at a newspaper that no longer exists: The Arkansas Gazette. The first publisher under Gannett’s ownership was Bill Malone. He gave me a wonderful introduction to Gannett — and to corporate journalism.

    Bill told me that the newsroom was the company’s “chapel.” That was the word he used — the chapel. Bill said the newsroom was where the company’s most important work got done — the work that distinguished Gannett from being just another widget maker.

    This brings me to the present — and to my concerns as a stockholder.

    When I relinquished my job earlier this year, the productivity pressures imposed by management on newsrooms had grown far beyond anything I’d previously experienced. Our ability to do basic watchdog journalism had been seriously eroded. Newsroom jobs were being eliminated at the same time workloads were being substantially increased.

    This has been the Gannett model as long as I can remember: Do more — with less. It is the foundation of management’s current strategic plan.

    For shareholders who cared only about the company’s stock price, the do-more-with-less model worked fine for many years. But it is not working now.

    We held our annual shareholders meeting last year, on April 24. Gannett’s stock was worth about $57 a share at that time. It is now trading for barely half that amount.

    The strategic plan is not working. In the past 12 month alone, it cost shareholders $7 billion in lost equity. But even worse: Management’s plan is destroying our newsrooms’ ability to do their most basic work.

    Bill Malone was right: Newsrooms are a sacred place. I urge you to reconsider the plan now being pursued by management.

    Thank you.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Jim, Jim…
    I’m a real supporter, but I really wish you had read your comments at the meeting.

    Those words need to be heard…send them to Romenesko…get more people talking about newsrooms turned widget-factories. That’s certainly what ours has become…and that’s not journalism.

    Even still, I thank you for creating a place for Gannett voices to be heard (beyond the never-ending echo of “yes, yes” heard all the way up the ladder).

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I have to laugh, “Mr Yesterday” thinks he has balls because he uses this nom d plume and anonymous doesn’t? Me thinks “Mr Yesterday” is well named! LOl

  7. Jim Hopkins Says:

    To Anon@8:58 p.m. Thank you. But is there anything in that statement you haven’t read before on this blog? That was one of my concerns about reading it today.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,

    I worked in a newsroom at a newspaper where Bill Malone was the publisher. He treated the newsroom as anything but “sacred.” He was always trying to get advertisers’ fluff into the newspaper and keep out coverage that would upset his friends. He wasn’t a bad guy; he was just another Gannett publisher. Perhaps his reference to the newsroom as a “chapel” was an inside-joke slam; “chapel meeting” is old-school code for a union gathering, and Bill Malone, along with all other Gannett publishers, hated unions.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I have to say that this was quite a disappointing report. To have a statement but leave it in your pocket is something some nervous rookie would do at the start of his or her career.

    But to squander the opportunity to do any reporting — there’s the entire board, and there was no opportunity to corner one for a question, ask about stock predictions, the digital intiative…nothing? Would you accept what you posted from a reporter you sent to the scene to cover something?

    Reporting is more than making suppositions based on data dug out from annual reports (although that is a deep skill). Many looked forward all month to your report on the stockholders meeting, and instead you treated it with some weak commentary and no reporting at all as far as we can see.

    Not a good clip for the file.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Jim:
    At root, this discussion is about whether bloggers are journalists. How many reputable journalists do you know who would feel comfortable about breaking into a meeting with a speech/question and then writing about the resulting circus? Imagine some reporter doing that at a city council meeting.
    Print journalists usually write about what they see, not what they do and your training is in print.
    People who want you to confront the board really are rooting for an entertaining conflict not an educated answer.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,
    You have the entire board, executives, shareholders and employees waiting to see how you would stand and deliver. You didn’t. Instead you wait for back alley type of “tips” from disgruntled losers from Cherry Hill, Indianapolis and the rest.

    You are a disappointment to all the journalists at Gannett and USAToday.

    Your audience on this blog are a bunch of gossipy lazy asses.

    Too bad Jim, you squandered a great opportunity.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,

    What happened? After all of your previous self-serving defender of truth, justice and the american way hype – You couldn’t even ask a question. Were you at the meeting or just waiting in the elevator to try and corner someone like you previously praised yourself for.

    As to your traffic guiding you, I would imagine you need to find a new yardstick. Now that people can see the real Jim, I doubt the traffic will be there any more.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    This company will continue to outsource, cut, and treat employees like dirt, so I’m sure the traffic will still be on this blog.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    In response, Jim, to your post: >>To Anon@8:58 p.m. Thank you. But is there anything in that statement you haven’t read before on this blog? That was one of my concerns about reading it today.<< I don’t think there’s anything there that hasn’t been read on this blog, but the meeting wasn’t this blog. There’s something about not being able to sweep issues under the carpet when they’re addressed in front of certain people (as well as a certain number of people). I guess that’s what I had been hoping for. Who knows how many Gannett execs ready your blog? But, do they talk about it openly? Knowing Gannett as well as I know it, I’d guess there are few who find it safe even to admit in front of certain people that they read your blog, much less agree with much of the concern over the way the company is run. So, live and learn. Who knows if your comments there would have made a difference? I just keep hoping (and even praying) that somebody somewhere listens. Otherwise, I fear the entire company – perhaps the bulk of the industry even, will be run as slapshot and non-journalism-minded as the newsroom where I currently work. And that’s not a good thing for democracy. Thanks again for what you do.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Many in Gannett are working, with gradual but real success, to enable our company to reinvent itself…

    … to replace arrogance with balance,

    … to replace talking with listening,

    … to replace an inward focus with an outward world view,

    … to replace “top-down” management with “bottom-up” innovating,

    … to replace a product-centered world view with an audience-centered world view,

    … to replace short-term thinking with long-term thinking,

    .. to replace risk-avoidance with bravery,

    … and to replace management-by-fear with true leadership.

    The more voices in the discussion — the better.

    Thank you for sharing your perspectives and for caring about the future of OUR company — we’re shareholders and stakeholders, too.

    I do wish you would have read your comments.

    The issues you raise relate directly to the kind of company shareholders want Gannett to be, on many levels.

    Good questions provoke thought and and thought should produce discussion, and discussion should produce understanding, collaboration, new directions and maybe even a little trust and consensus.

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