Reader: Des Moines’ Washburn is on the right track

Regarding Des Moines Register Editor Carolyn Washburn‘s plans to create a “fun committee,” even as the paper considers layoffs, a reader 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 new hires 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 employment 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.”

Join the debate, in the original post.

12 Responses to “Reader: Des Moines’ Washburn is on the right track”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed! Yes, we are in tough times but it’s admirable that there are editors who realize that their employees work better when they get to laugh once in a while.

    When we lost a few positions this spring, Carolyn bent over backwards to keep as many people employed as possible and move them to different roles. It was obvious that it was painful for her that two or three people still had to be laid off in the end.

    I’m not saying there aren’t heartless monsters out there somewhere — it is a big company after all — just that Washburn isn’t one of them.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    That’s the total opposite of what’s happening in places like Springfield where even before bad times hit, the bottled water and coffee were taken out. Candy bars that used to mark someone’s birthday were banished.

    Cakes are gone unless employees buy them. Yet, the editor is such a stickler about getting feebies that when some donuts from some outside group he makes us BUY the donut at a buck apiece and gives money to some group.

    No more expensing lunches with sources. No more out of office training or seminars. No dues paid for memberships to things like IRE.

    Monthly contests that awarded a few bucks are gone even though they meant something to some of us who get a 2 percent raise and a 10 percent increase in health care costs.

    Springfield used to be a cash cow for Gannett and now its just a cow. But some of us don’t have a choice but to hang on until something happens.

    Any buyers out there?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    they don’t have free coffee in the newsroom at the springfield news-leader ?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Free coffee is a thing of the past in many newsrooms.

    The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson got rid of it about a year ago. Instead, reporters and editors were asked to pay each month in to a “coffee club.”

    It probably saved a whole $500 a year. Anything for the bottom line, eh?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    free coffee was abolished in indy about 2 years ago and we got the impression it was corporate-wide.

    i think it was a dumb move because it pissed off all the staff, somebody set up an honor system and a pot (with better coffee) and also people started going out to starbucks and other coffee places, taking them away from their desks much longer than it would have taken to go to the office freebie pot.

    wonder which genius made that decision, babs henry, ali zobi or james keogh. we’re rid of 2 out of 3 so far.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    They yanked our free coffee a while back.

    Now, my paper loses every day, from me alone, productivity that would more than make up for the annual expense.

    If they don’t want me working quickly and sharply, oh well.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Free coffee has been abolished just about everywhere, even beyond Gannett. But there are easy ways around that. At the Freehold bureau of the Asbury Park Press, we all chipped in for a coffee maker and brewed it ourselves. When I was there, I was also lucky to have an editor who would stop at Wegman’s or Delicious Orchards and pick up cookies and doughnuts for everyone. It’s a simple thing that Gannett managers never seemed to grasp – little things can go a long way when it comes to office morale. Homer Simpson was on to something with his crusade to have more tartar sauce…sometimes you need that cookie when you’re on deadline and pulling your hair out.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    2:46 is right on target. It wasn’t something planned to have the doughnuts or cookies, it was spontaneous and appreciated by most. When you set a specific day aside to do these things, such as Popcorn Fridays, the fun is way too forced.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Hate to add another little something to the glowing endorsement of Carolyn Washburn, after reading the posts above, but she REINSTATED free coffee in the newsroom when she arrived. There is also sugar, sweetener and coffeemate, too.
    A lot of the reporters and editors don’t take advantage of the free coffee, preferring to take a short walk to one of the three coffee shops on the Des Moines skywalk or downtown, but it’s there to prop people up if they’re too busy to make the trip.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I’m sure Carolyn is a wonderful person. You’re lucky to have such a caring Editor. It probably pains her that so many people have been laid off and she just wants to make things better. I commend her for that.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    The Best of the Register awards, which were a monthly thing, have not happened once in 2008.

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