Memo: USAT staff must provide own cellphones

Reflecting the growing number of budget cuts across Gannett, the nation’s No. 1 printed newspaper has told some newsroom employees that they must now provide their own cellphones. “The employee will be responsible for the purchase, cost and maintenance of the cellphone. Approved employees will only be reimbursed for their monthly cellphone service,” according to a USA Today memo forwarded to me.

Earlier: How to save Gannett, for under $10 million

What’s the employee cellphone policy at your GCI business? Post your reply in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


23 Responses to “Memo: USAT staff must provide own cellphones”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe they can use the money they save to buy The Weather Channel!

    Oh, wait a minute. NBC just bought it.

    ANOTHER example of a company afraid to act like grown-ups and do something bold (buying The Weather Channel would have signaled confidence, vision and maturity). Instead, let’s buy everybody video cameras to show how “modern” we are.

    There a few natural fits in the media. Gannett, USA TODAY and The Weather Channel would have been one of them. Buying TWC would have signaled that Gannett is still breathing, that Gannett is a player, that Gannett is not afraid to change and grow.

    What’s going to happen at the next wall Street conference call? Question: Why didn’t you make a play for the Weather Channel? Answer: Um, did you notice we’re making employees pay for their own cellphones?

    Small thinkers. Small return.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    LOL! Anon @ 10:08

    Indeed, The Weather Channel would have been a solid and bold move. And definitely would have fit nicely into Gannett’s product line. It might have even provided a bit of a “Colbert Bump” in the stock price.

    The upside of Gannett not buying The Weather Channel? I like The Weather Channel. Allowing Craig, Gracia, et al to Gannettize it … well, they would have ruined The Weather Channel. And no one wants that result.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve been forced to use my own phone for work purposes since I started working. I’m sure for someone who has had this paid for it’s a very discouraging letdown, but it’s not that different from how most of the rest of America operates.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Judging from the number out of town area codes Phoenix reporters have, I’m guessing that a lot of the Republic reporters are already using their own cells.

  5. John Reinan Says:

    Sweet Jesus!

    That is just crazy. During the Little Rock newspaper war, we used to hear that our competitor, the Arkansas Democrat, made reporters buy their own notebooks.

    On the other hand, the Democrat would up as the surviving entity.

    But a cell phone is an essential tool for modern reporters. This is a bad, bad move. Are Dubow, Martore et. al. going to be buying THEIR own phones?

    The question answers itself.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Anon@10:19, you nailed it — I thank The Holy Baby Jesus that Gannett did NOT get its paws on The Weather Channel.

    Think about it.
    Blogs about the difference between sleet and hail.
    Maps crammed with enough graphics, boxes and blinky visuals to trigger seizures in people.
    And as for diversity and mainstreaming….oh God, those poor meteorologists.
    Anchor: “I’m 5 minutes from air-time!”
    Editor: “Nope, sorry — you still need to get maps for a Latin American nation, an Asian nation, and a 5-day forecast for a primarily gay/transgendered region in Eastern Europe. Get moving. And no overtime.”

  7. Anonymous Says:

    It’s pretty well-known that one of the first things Bob Collins did when he rode into the Asbury Park Press on the back of a Shetland pony was take back all the staff cell phones and force everyone to use their own. That was back in 1997.

    Over time the APP eventually had a single cell phone per bureau, and maybe two or three for the entire mothership in Neptune. That was pretty funny. Those phones were antiquated pieces of shit, too.

    They eventually gave the breaking news reporters really shitty Treos that most of us preferred not to use. When I worked at the APP I always used my own cell, and never once did I manage to get them to comp me for my phone bills.

    That said, I think it’s become exceedingly rare to find a newspaper that provides its reporters with work cell phones.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 12:11 — Fuckin’ LMAO

    Yeah and to top it all off, the meterologist would have to be an transgendered deaf Inuit.

  9. jmoriello Says:

    I’m not making a judgment either way on the issue, but at what point does owning a personal cell phone become a condition for employment for a reporter in the same way that a sales rep is expected to have her own car or a web developer is expected to have a working Internet connection at home?

    The reporter should probably be on the hook for the monthly $39 or $49 cell phone plan payment, but the company should be reimbursing a pro-rated portion if the reporter goes over on monthly minutes due to work-related calls, just as sales reps get (under)paid for mileage.

    And, of course, there are tax write-offs available for the employee.

    I’ll say this much: I’d hate to be the bean counter who has to sort out the individual bills each month.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I left newspapers 10 years ago – while the getting was good, I’d say. In my current job, I must have a cell phone (I’m in PR and reporters need to reach me 24/7, right?). I use my own phone. The company offered to pay my bill but that would mean turning in my highlighed itemized bill each month and I am not willing to do thst. I’d rather pay my own way – and deduct it – than give my company access to the details of whom I call and when. And I think they count on that, too!

  11. john reinan Says:

    I’m in PR now, and my agency provides me a cell phone. I don’t have a separate one for personal use. They told me if I used crazy minutes, they’d ask me to get a personal cell, but so far it hasn’t been an issue. I probably use it for 20 minutes of personal calls a week.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I’ll echo the above poster on the bean counters that are going to have to sort the wheat from the chaff on the cellphone bills that will come in from USAT reporters – and most use cellphones. Ironically, from what I understand, the decision to make reporters pay for their own cellphones wasn’t made by bean counters, but by a senior managing editor who should be more focused on editorial content.
    In the end, I’m not sure how cost-effective this is going to be. How much hassle is it going to be for reporters to file phone expenses, have someone verify, then have someone else reimburse? on the corporate side. And how about a bean counter handling any debate about justifying a bill? Is someone from accounting going to question one of my reporters why it took 10 calls to reach a source? Why they exceeded their minutes plan to get the information they needed on a story?

    How about just using some common sense? Nah. Forget about it. This is Gannett, after all.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    As far as the bean counters sorting out personal vs. business use of cell phones. They won’t go to that extreme. For those who are reimbursed, they’ll be given a flat monthly stipend. Quick, easy and fair.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Quick, easy and fair aside, what happens if someone runs up excessive bills above the flat fee? Especially those dealing with West coast calls made from the East coast? How much of a hassle will it be to file for reimbursement above the flat fee, and who authorizes?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Anon @ 2:46 … I think you need to get a more competitive cell plan. In today’s world of battling wireless carriers, unlimited minutes for a nominal fee isn’t hard to find / negotiate.

    Good luck.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    At the paper in Asheville you are better off buying your own stuff if you want it to be reliable. Computer, Cell Phone, even your desk. Which if it breaks I am sure they will drag one out of the old basement and let you clean it up and get back to work. Saving a penny means more productivity right.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Wait a minute. Didn’t the Schwinn Bicycle company, once the largest in the world sit back and let the mountain bicycle market take off before doing anything themselves in 1985. Yes they did and they are no longer. The sit and wait attitude never pays off.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Ha, at my Gannett papers the reporters lost their cell phones six months ago, while ad reps got upgraded to air cards for their laptops. And of course they got to keep their cell phones. (Reporters don’t have access to laptops unless you beg several weeks in advance.)

  19. Anonymous Says:

    As long as my expenses for the company are covered I don’t care. We cover a standard amount per employee and everything works out fine for everyone. If you are reimbursed you get to own the phone you want to own. If you take care of it you can get a replacement every two years. That’s always worked out fine for me.

    I have no idea what goes on in editorial but I suspect it had to do with one manager. In fact, Gannett is supposedly coming out with new guidelines where we’ll all have to use certain phones and plans. I for one don’t like the inflexibility this could bring.

    So stop whining about silly issues. If you’re going to whine do so about the stock price and not about stupid cell phones for crying out loud!

  20. Karen Says:

    I survived the APP — escaped is the best word for it. But before I left they were issuing Treos and laptops to mojos … but expecting everyone to go mojo on their own time. I wasn’t among them, but didn’t need to be. Rather than wait for Gannett and the APP to get with the 21st century, I bought my own cell phone and laptop and wrote the expenses off on my taxes every year. The upside? They couldn’t dictate to me how I used the equipment, when or where.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    John Reinan —

    >>That is just crazy. During the Little Rock newspaper war, we used to hear that our competitor, the Arkansas Democrat, made reporters buy their own notebooks< < Not true as far as I know, though I was away from the Democrat from 8/88-2/90 … so maybe so. I’m told some reporters *would* occasionally get scowled at for using what the keeper-of-supplies considered excessive use of notebooks or pens, though.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    How could eliminating company issued cell phones and then paying for personal cell plans possibly save a company money? Do you think Gannett might be focued on liability here—like what happens when an employee gets in an accident while talking on a company issued cell. Or, what happens when someone files an OT complaint and investigators ask for company issued cell records? Just some thoughts. I don’t buy the cost savings thing.Personally, I felt like I was on call, pro bono 24/7 with that Gannett cell. I’m so glad to be out of there.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    In Lansing, the newsroom had a couple of antiquated cell phones until recently. Most folks didn’t use them, since everyone has their own personal cell anyway. I don’t know what voodoo the bean counters used, but they canned the company cells in favor of monthly stipends for reporters that they deemed needed a cell. Saved money by getting rid of the company plans, and gave a benefit to more employees. (I’m sure an accountant can explain how that works.)

    So between the corporate discount and a stipend, folks can save a good amount of the cell phone plan they were probably already paying for.

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