Des Moines: News job cuts, and a ‘have-fun’ e-mail

Regarding a new round of budget cuts, a reader just sent me the following in an e-mail about The Des Moines Register: “We are facing layoffs in the coming weeks: Editor Carolyn Washburn (left) confirmed it at a staff meeting the other day. And while the number (or names) haven’t come out yet, rumors are that they are going to be about 12-13 newsroom employees affected. The interesting part, however, is that just several days after the staff meeting, Washburn sent this e-mail to the whole newsroom.” 

I’m looking for some of you willing to be members of a new fun committee. OK, you can call yourselves whatever you want. But think popcorns Fridays, and the day the hotdog gun came, and the Perry Beeman/Rodney White band performance. We need more stuff like that. A group who can create a nice celebration for us when we do something huge like launch Metromix. Or win 3 ONA awards. Or to consistently have, and have fun with, BOR. I’d like a group who can spot those opportunities and just throw some fun together, and a group that I can call on when something cool happens who will create some good celebrations and recognitions. If you are willing to help, please let me know.

Says my reader: “People here are not very happy with this!”

Earlier: Batter up! Des Moines Register sex issue’s got juice

40 Responses to “Des Moines: News job cuts, and a ‘have-fun’ e-mail”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Now that’s funny. I think she can be the ringleader of this committee.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    USA Today has popcorn day, too. Must be a fun Gannett thing. Something in the management 101 manual. In lieu of corporate honesty, inspirational editors and meaningful work, feed them popcorn. This is the most transparent company I’ve ever worked for! And the flagship paper is no escape from this parochial b.s.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    there’s nothing wrong with a little fun in the office – esp in difficult times

    lets give them a break

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Layoff Day will be special fun. Party hats, balloons, punch and pie. Who doesn’t like punch and pie?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    “Newsrooms (or newspapers as a whole) don’t have to be dreary places to work 24/7″… unless you work for Mark Silverman.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    New publisher named in Louisville: Arnold Garson of Sioux Falls

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I didn’t think this was a big deal. So she’s trying to add some happy vibes. If anything, that’s going against GCI orthodoxy.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Most Gannett newsroom managers are mediocrities, the kinds of ladder climbers, apple polishers and brown-nosers who succeed in any corporate environment. Setting up a Fun Committee is typical of what passes for serious thought among these overpaid drones.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Popcorn day has worked wonders for morale here at the Courier-Post – except for that time when there was no popcorn on popcorn day. Whoo-hee, I’ve never seen such unrest and emotional breakdown as I witnessed that horrible day.

    We also have a monthly Gift-Card-Giveaway-For-A-Job-Well-Done Day.

    It’s sweet.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    This link has been posted a couple of times but has not generated any comments. I could be a smoking gun.

  11. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Instead of treating employees like summer campers (what, nobody has to sing Skinna-ma-Rink if they wear a hat to the lunch room?)why doesn’t the so-called management attempt to treat employees as professional adults? “Popcorn Friday”? WTF? Why not “Great lede Monday” where the real writing work is celebrated? Why not have a professional (catered) lunch once a month where the craft of writing or the job of reporting is discussed? I have my own life, thank you, and if I want a hot dog cookout or bobbing for apples I’d rather do it with people I don’t work with. But if you want to engage in some non-sophomoric celebration of professional duties, hey, I’m there.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    sensing a lot of anger over what seems to be a well intentioned effort to ease tension –

    which, btw, is fundamentally different than professional development (catered lunchs on the craft of writing) or celebrating excellence (Great ‘lede’ monday) – both of which are important, but seperate efforts

  13. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    It’s not an effin’ birthday party, it’s work. You want to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Twister, do it on your own time. Come to work, be upbeat, be a pro and go home. There you can have all the little reindeer games you want. You shouldn’t need a silly hat or a “zany” Friday snack to feel appreciated and do your job well.

    Grow up.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I’m guessing the fun committee doesn’t have a budget. If Washburn’s the editor, then she can buy a couple of bags of cheese popcorn anytime she wants and put them out in the newsroom. Something spontaneous, a surprise, can do wonders for morale. Putting a committee together smacks of the phony inclusion efforts I saw when I was with Gannett (i.e., get the staff to make suggestions and then ignore them). I now work for a company that still holds a company picnic and pays actual bonuses. You should see what that does for morale.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Good lord a lot of you people are BITTER.

    Yes, we’re all aware that times are tough but the solution to that is not to constantly WHINE and BITCH and WALLOW in misery. You could dump every Gannett editor at every newspaper and, guess what, layoffs would still be needed in order to keep the company viable.

    If you can’t do your job without making everyone else around you miserable, do us all a favor and march into the editor’s office and volunteer for severance. You’ll be happier, trust me.

    And, before you ask, I am a mere low-level grunt in one of Gannett’s newsrooms.

    Flame away …

  16. Anonymous Says:

    When Washburn was at our paper she would give out monthly newsroom awards. The award for visuals (design and photography) was a small plastic green cricket. Bad thing was that you had to actually give the plastic toy back each month for the next winner to have.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I can’t help but think about “The Office” and Angela’s party planning committee. Or the rival party planning committee that had Margueritas. Maybe that’s the answer for newsrooms. Alcohol Fridays.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Once upon a time, there was an editor at a GCI paper who would buy the liquor (and other bevs) for any party anybody threw, as long as everyone in news was invited.

    As a editor, not so much. But people loved the guy.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    I would like to play “spin-the-bottle” with MILF Hollingsworth during partytime!

  20. Shirley Says:

    Carolyn gives out money ($50 cash) for monthly Best of the Register awards for good writing, headlines, photos, online contributions and other good work, so lay off.
    There are food rewards for newhires and retirements. But I like the idea that she wants more.
    I don’t think newsrooms today have enough FUN … I remember having fun in the newsroom. Wonderful, fizzy, crazy laughfests. Some of it went away when the “characters” retired. Some more of it left when the bar across the ally from one of my places of employement closed. Some of it was knocked out of people who were scared for their jobs or unable to fulfill editors’ expectations.
    But there is fun to be had in newsrooms, still.
    And asking the people who would like to instigate some fun to pitch in isn’t a bad idea. I bet, money marbles and chalk, she’ll come up with some budget for it too.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    The Arizona Republic newsroom is where fun goes to die!

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Yuk! Yuk! Yuk! Crazy, fizzy laughfest! You’re fired!!! Ha, ha! Pass some popcorn!


    Ha, ha, ha!!!!

    Who farted?! Ha ha!!!! Fire him!!!

    Man, let the good times roll!

  23. Anonymous Says:

    It’s a little bushleague and juvenile, but so is Gannett. I think this is a corporate thing because they’ve had popcorn day (ex. editor bought in a popper and handed it out) and Hawaiian shirt day in Cincinnati. A boost for morale? Did it help the product? I’d say not. Serious companies don’t do this, yes? But Gannett has always marketed itself as the Disney of newspapers. And it matches its “happy news.” So why is anyone surprised?

  24. rknil Says:

    Fun story from early in the career: Someone decided to bring in a couple of big bags of popcorn for the newsroom. But no matter how carefully you eat popcorn, crumbs fall onto the floor.

    The janitor complained, and from that point food was banned from the newsroom. What fun!

    And speaking of fun: I remember having some and still being able to accomplish a few things. Then “time-saving” pagination arrived. That was followed by bad hiring, which also ushered in people who didn’t think they were being paid enough to do their jobs the right way.

    Trying to do the work of three people while the slackers and complainers did nothing brought the fun to an end.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Whatever her intentions were, it’s clear her job isn’t on the line or else I can assure you “popcorn day” would be the last thing on her mind.

    What she would be wearing to do the “perp walk” out the door would be though.

    “Popcorn day” in the midst of all this….. kind of like offering a Milk Dud to a Hiroshima victim.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    “Grow up.”

    Thanks for the insight. If only your leads were that tight.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Our small daily had a “happy day” complete with smiley face balloons only a few months after our graphics and press were both outsourced. You can probably guess what kind of defacing those poor balloons received.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    My gosh, Popcorn Day does appear to be a corporate-sponsored thing! From what I’ve read here, popcorn madness seems to be widespread. So, Gannett leaders actually get paid six-figure salaries to come up with ideas like Popcorn Day? For those who support popcorn and Mexican Festival days, understand one thing…no one is against fun. What people are saying is that popcorn should not take the place of true insight and inspiration from the top. And it certainly shouldn’t be a corporate-endorsed healing method to take the sting off of layoffs and other seriously dismal news about our business. We are watching our careers (in print) crumble. We are being disrespected each day in numerous ways. Frankly, there isn’t a word that comes from my editor’s mouth that I believe is sincere. Please don’t think popcorn or jeans on Fridays will lessen that concern. To now find out that Popcorn Friday is rampant at Gannett papers proves that this is the kind of institutional sh-t they do to manipulate us. This isn’t some warm and fuzzy thing that the local managing editor cooked up. This is corporate crap. The MEs march to the corporate popcorn orders. We’re fed up with being treated like morons or children in the face of all the serious stuff that is swirling around us. Do we want to have some fun and bond with our coworkers? Sure. But that can’t be forced and it can’t be a substitute for true leadership and honesty.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Amen! Hey, a question: Does anyone know whether the empty suits and popcorn editors read this blog?

  30. Anonymous Says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to agree with what the employees are saying here. People want to go to work and be treated and respected like adults. I’ve never been a fan of Secretary’s Day because I think it’s demeaning. Secretary’s do their jobs like everyon else, why do they have to have a day where they’re taken out to lunch or given a gift? Bringing in popcorn on Fridays to boost morale? I think it’s going to take a lot more than popcorn at this point. I’m sure Carolyn’s intentions are good, but sometimes it’s just better to do something spontaneously to boost morale without pointing out that you’re doing it. If Gannett just started doing fun things spontaneously without mandating that everyone will have fun, it might go a long way.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Please, PLEASE! Have fun. Do it now! Or else!

  32. Anonymous Says:

    If everyone was doing thier job and leaders were actually leading the company, there would be no need for popcorn day or gift cards etc. Come on people it’s common sense. Treat people with respect and dignity and there is no need for such tom foolery.
    I’ve been out of the devil’s den (Gannett) for 1 year and it’s amazing how well run other companies are. Gannett likes to think of themselves as having the secret formula. They MIGHT have but no longer. Especially with the cast of characters they currently have running the place. Dicky? Krans? WTF? They were horrible ad directors, publishers and now they are doing what?

  33. Anonymous Says:

    You know what’s really funny? All the whining jerkwads here would knock over their own mothers to get to free popcorn, should some appear in the newsroom. Stand there and jam their food hole until it’s gone. Congratulate themselves on their good fortune. Then run back to their computers and call up Jimmy-boy so they can complain that the popcorn didn’t have butter which must be a conspiracy and has to the be the fault of Dubow himself and is another sign of all things wrong with Gannett because we all know the board of directors GETS butter on theirs and then Jim can put in some pithy comment about the Arkansas Gazette, which of course we can’t talk here because someone was screwing someone else. They were probably doing it on a desk….during popcorn Friday. Got pictures Jimmy-boy?

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Anony 1:42, keep working at it long enough and you may actually write something witty. You know what they say about a monkey at a typewriter.
    But, hey, sorry — today’s not your day.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    omg! Anon 12:47 is dead right.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Anon at 1:42. You win the prize for writing the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read. And I read a lot of idiotic crap, which mostly comes from my own brain. You’re a complete loser.

  37. Been there, done that Says:

    1:42 clearly can’t read English because the salient point of this discussion is that employees want to be treated like adults and professionals. Popcorn Day, while well-meaning, doesn’t replace heartfelt praise once in a blue moon, and you know what? Praise is FREE! The only reason I stayed as long as I did was because I got away with writing pretty much whatever I wanted — because they essentially convinced themselves that because I was off in a corner of the newsroom, I didn’t exist. But I knew it was time to go when my section won awards and they didn’t tell me — I found out by accident. I found a job and a boss where I actually get told, “Hey, that was good journalism,” at least once a week. I have fun by laughing out loud at something that strikes my funny bone — and not getting dirty looks from those around me or messages that I’m not allowed to laugh out loud anymore because some manager can’t stand the idea that someone might be having fun at work. I worked my ass off day in and day out and by myself did the work that had taken my predecessor four people to get done, and got treated like crap because of it. I watched a features editor who didn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground get praised for a high-end magazine … that was put out three times a year by a group of 10 people, while putting out a 12-page section every week for 35 weeks with a paginator, an artist (who did the cover layout) and with copy supplied by myself and two freelancers. I quit going to those monthly “Let’s stroke our egos and shit on the real workers” meetings because my hipwaders started to leak after so much use.

    1:42, if you think popcorn parties are the solution to all the ills of Gannett, you need a reality check.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    Yo…Mr Yesterday. Dude you need some bran/fiber in your breakfast. What a downer you are. Yeah you’re Mr. Fun. I bet lots of folks are texting you to join them for drinks in your private moments!

    “Who ate the strawberries?”

  39. Anonymous Says:

    “You know what’s fun? Breaking news.”

    I wish I’d written that…

  40. Anonymous Says:

    The Register also used to have a quarterly “Best of the Register” event that included certificates in various categories and a $50 cash prize for each winner. That replaced the need for any managers to issue any excruciating pats on the back to the rank and file. Since the certificates were eliminated a couple of years ago, there are no pats on the back anymore. Just popcorn. And an extra beat or two to cover.

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