Breaking: Statewide buyouts said announced in N.J.; copy editors, others reportedly exempt

Update at 1:23 p.m. PT: I now believe the Associated Press has confirmed these buyouts, and should move a story soon.

10:26 a.m. PT: I’ve asked chief flack Tara Connell for comment.

10:09 a.m. PT: Another reader says each of the six newspapers in the increasingly troubled New Jersey group has its own number of buyouts to meet, based on the announcements rolling out today.

“Don’t know what those numbers are,” that reader says. “It’s a selective buyout not being offered to all employees who qualify (15 years of service and 55 or older). The publisher is generating the list of who is eligible. According to our executive editor, copy editors, designers and photographers are not eligible. Don’t know why, other than that those departments are already stretched too thin. Not illegal, but still seems unfair.”

Within Gannett, some of these six papers reported the company’s worst circulation losses when the March 31 Audit Bureau of Circulations figures were released, last week.

Earlier: I’m still gathering details, but here’s one of the many notes I received this morning from New Jersey readers: “They’ve just announced buyouts for all N.J. papers. In order to take the buyout, you have to be 55 years old with at least 15 years at the paper. They’re offering two weeks’ pay for each year of service up to a year’s pay. And folks will get benefits for a year as well. But not everyone who fits those parameters is eligible. No copy editors or photographers can take the deal. More details as they unfold.”

N.J. employees: How many staffers are eligible at your paper? And how many jobs is your paper trying to eliminate? Use this link to e-mail your reply; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s Asbury Park Press, Newseum. The paper is the largest, by circulation, of Gannett’s six N.J. papers]

25 Responses to “Breaking: Statewide buyouts said announced in N.J.; copy editors, others reportedly exempt”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Ineligibility of copy editors and photographers is an interesting catch to this…

  2. Anonymous Says:

    It’s interesting and not accurate.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Brevard offered the same thing in the advertising early last December. I found it extremely amusing how happy the people were when the accepted. We lost 6 people total – 3 designers and 3 extremely successful sales people. Seeing how badly our creative department is suffering now, I see why they are excluding designers from the mix.

    A note to anyone who may be considering this buyout…

    TAKE IT!!!
    You have at least 30 weeks to find a few job or get off that blood pressure medication your on. (Which the only reason you’re on it btw is because you work for Gannett). Run! Give them exactly what they want and let them make the same mistake Brevard did by offering it to everyone.

    Yeah, you might have a hard time finding a job that pays the same or close, but when you think about is a few dollars more an hour really worth giving up years of your life?

    It’s time you really have your dream life— if you have put in over 15 of slavery, you really deserve it.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    how so? i can definitely speak for cherry hill that that was said.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Not accurate? How so? Please enlighten us.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    It will be hard but make the change. Get new skills, go back to college, downsize your expenses, and get out of newspapering.

    I did it for 25 years. I loved it…but I now have a life.

    Go for it.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Give the finger to the Mecca of McLean…tell them to shove it.

    You are better. You are valued.

    Good bye Gannett and good bye to stress. Kiss my royal ass.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    You see here a real difference in the old Collins style and the new “professional” style. Collins would have just had those people scrub the bathroom tile grout with a toothbrush until they left on their own. At least this way, people stand a chance of landing on their feet with their dignity.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    So Gannett shakes loose a few salaries from the Courier-Post. Big deal.

    Camden still has inept management. The company would be much better off booting the exec and managing eds. That would save money AND the paper.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Where did all of these inept people come from? Were they poorly trained or just unreasonable in the Gannett climate? Or was it the Collins jinx? Osenenko was there before…was he as bad?

    Not sure what to think. Is it burnout or truly just poor vision and execution?

    It never was an easy business. There was a reason that the newsroom all smoked and had flasks in their desk.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    What is life like outside the newspaper business? I can’t imagine doing anything else. Besides pr (ACK!) what does an ex-reporter do?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Inaccurate because a photographer in East Brunswick was offered.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    And Bridgewater/East Brunswick shook loose a few salaries from those papers. Big deal there as well.

    They still have inept management. The company would be much better off giving their ad director and some of the ad managers as well as the production manager the boot. That would save money AND the paper.

    With the dropped numbers, I would think corporate would at least want to give that strategy a try!

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I wonder what the old owners Plangeer’s and there bunch are thinking now????

  15. Anonymous Says:

    What about the employees that have been there longer then 26 yrs? Based on the buyout offer of 2 weeks pay for every year worked up to a max of 52 weeks pay. Mean’s anybody who has been there longer then 26yrs looses out on any compensation for those years.
    How is it FAIR that someone with 26yrs gets the same compensation as say someone with 30-40-or even 50 yrs of dedicated service

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Before we completely re-write history, let’s remember there was also a buy-out under the Plangere/Lass leadership.

    Look at the history and you see that The Press (which, from the posts here, you would think was a successful paradise before Gannett) was losing readership and reputation before it was bought.

    I remember the dismal six months when one of the board members decided not to offer any special subscriptions offers because “we don’t need them, where else would people go?” (And did this without the VP of Marketing blasting him for the thought.)

    The rate of subscriptions plummeted.

    And before I am diagnosed again with “‘hostage survivor’ syndrome,” I want to point out that there was just as much petty management back then as now. I came to loggerheads a number of times with other managers and editors who had to have things their way — because that was the only way they knew and they were so afraid to be shown up or have to learn new things.

    Jules Jr., it must be said, had class and was a gentleman, but he came to run the Press by cozying up to the previous owner, not due to any incredible publishing savvy.

    So long as the housing and population boom flourished during the ’80s, the Press grew. The mistake they made was to believe it was all due to the content, not a natural by-product of an exploding market.

    Along comes Collins and all that pettiness and vitriol that resided in the lower managers was suddenly no longer negated, but exacerbated by the top dog. Inept managers no longer could slide by, but were called on their performance. (If this were done differently, the way a true leader could, things might have been very different, but we had Collins.)

    (For the record, I never liked Collins’ approach and I saw a lot of people wither under him. People who, during the Plangere/Lass days, had no fear of failing because there were no repercussions.)

    Enough people have detailed Collins’ shortcomings (both in management style and height), and I will not dispute them. His actions were, for the most part, horrendous and disgusting. But he came at you from the front and with full disclosure of his intentions.

    Along comes Donavan. His meetings with the employees promised big changes and an “increase in employee morale” which was supposed to start from the top down. (I suppose it is starting at the top, I didn’t hear of one VP who qualified for the buyout getting an envelope.)

    Big changes, all right.

    The Phantom Publisher talked of big changes that would strengthen our core product, bring back subscribers and heighten the Press’ reputation.

    (If you want to see one of the recent examples of reporting that eroded the Press’ reputation, see if you can find their stories about the shopping mall that is going up on the property next door. Every story we wrote had a slant against the big, bad developer, while the town sure seemed to welcome the project [the reasons usually buried on the jump page, if ever reported].)

    Nine months later we are suffering. Instead of strengthening the core we are putting out a vanity piece of a magazine so that some staff people can pretend they are Vanity Fair. (Don’t get me started.) And we have more personal columns that are only rip-offs of old Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry pieces.

    And now that the executives’ plans aren’t working, are they paying a penalty? Nope. As someone asked in another comment: “Is Donovan giving a portion of his $300,000 salary?” Are VPs being asked to take a pay cut? Are they even being asked to consult with the editors and reporters on the front lines with hands-on perspective for ideas on how to try and fix things? (Or will that have to wait until they are paying six or seven figures to a consulting group who will do just that and then take the credit?)

    What do you think?

  17. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @2:09: Who were the Plangere and Lass?

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Plangere and Lass were the previous owners of the Asbury Park Press, they sold to Gannett in 1998 and the rest is history!

  19. Anonymous Says:

    I’ll give Donovan a pass for now. 10 years of Collins damage will take some time to fix. But it won’t come from cuts and trying to do the same old Gannett formula. Forget the profit margin for now and focus on making a product that people value. Plangeres and Lass didn’t scrimp on making a good product. If Gannett made the investment, rather than pocketing all the coin, circulation would have been flat to up with the growth of population in the area.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with much of what anon 5/10 2:11 sez, but not about circulation declining with our old family ownership. Figures at that time were down slightly in daily but up in weekend and even more up on Sunday circulation, following national readership trends.

    The plummet since is because of 2 things only, IMHO: Relentless and obnoxious telemarketing that continues to violate Do Not Call laws in some cases, and corruption of the news product.

    Day One started promotions for car dealerships that we were required to write for Page One. News stories get dumped if they reflect badly on big or favored advertisers. Favored political parties or players get favored news treatment, etc.

    Readers notice this stuff. Our audience isn’t stupid. They gave up on us, and I wonder if it’s even possible to regain their trust if we could revive reliable journalism in our product tomorrow.

    People in the public often talk to me about why they no longer read the Asbury Park Press, and it’s always, 100%, these two reasons, separately but usually combined.

    Oh, and staff HAS tried to tell them that credibility matters. But we’re a corporation now, no longer family operated, and the short-term bottom line is king. Top Gannett management is willing to shoot the corporation’s future profitability in the foot if they can squeeze out another dime today. Those top managers will take their money and run when the product is bled to death. It’s the nature of the corporate beast.

    One more thing, not to defend Collins at all, but he made a promise not to lay anyone off and he did keep that promise. I’m not judging the validity or contesting he mistreated people into quitting. Just putting that out there …

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Yes Bob did not lay people off, but oh my goodness what he did to make you quit without getting any package at all. You make that seem like it was good thing, good for Gannett only.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Absolutely, the “no-layoff’s” promise was just another mean insider joke Collins & Co. played on employees. He was putting people in jobs they had no business being in and setting them up to fail. He kept tabs on them too. Kind of like his own little ant farm that allowed him to bring out a magnifying glass on sunny days and focus the rays on the helpless ants. He was a simple man of simple pleasures…..

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I worked in the marketing department at The Press under the Plangere’s gathering data. The numbers were declining in the early 90’s. They decided they had too many products and were selling against themselves. They had these regionals called the Advisor Journals and did away with them. I still live in the area and now see that they’ve turned Community into a similar product. I hope they are smarter about it now.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    The Press high water mark for circ was in 1991. Circ began to fall when pre-gannett owners froze wages for the first time. They had a vision – a vision of selling the paper down the river.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Well, tomorrow is D-Day (as in deadline). The rumors and second-guessing are running rampant about who has accepted the package and, more interesting, will enough people throw themselves on the grenade of the voluntary buyout to stave off the “involuntary reduction” mentioned in the memo.

    People watching for signs of self-sacrifice on the faces of others is making for a tense workplace.

    Plus the other rumors and questions:

    • Does the company think these people are so expendable they can just be shown the door in a week and still pass on all they know?

    • That the rush to get people out is meant to keep people from checking out all their options

    • That the rush is so people don’t have a lot of time to talk about what is going on which could build fear and resentment among those remaining (viva la revolucion?)

    • That HR is not being totally upfront about people’s options (but wouldn’t this possibly cause more legal problems for Gannett?)

    • That the people who have already announced they are taking the buyout are the best and the brightest and that letting these people go is proof of Gannett’s total indifference to employee morale and quality.

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