Does USAT’s Web/print tension exist at your shop?

I get dozens of reader comments daily, and I read every one. But I rarely see in other Gannett workplaces the level of animosity that appears to exist between the online and print staffs at USA Today. (Puzzling, I might add, because I liked working with USAT‘s Web folks in the business-news section.)

Here’s an example, from a comment on USA Today‘s mismanagement of newsroom buyouts: “If rookies showed the level of arrogance 25 years ago that I see in some of these current online people, they would have been appropriately ‘taken care of.’ And I don’t mean by some human resources flack. Of course, 25 years ago, cub reporters showed a bit more respect for the business and for their mentors. The divide in the newsroom is being fueled by the horrid decisions made at the top. I agree with an earlier comment that the kids aren’t really to blame for this newsroom civil war. And yes, most of the time, it is civil. But there is anger building. Buyouts can’t come fast enough for some.”

Are things that much worse at USA Today — or do the Web and print staffs fight in your workplace, too? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


37 Responses to “Does USAT’s Web/print tension exist at your shop?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Back in the 90s, when only 20somethings such as myself could be drawn in by the online projects, we were despised by the newsroom. We were:

    – “Newsroom rejects”
    – “The kids who couldn’t cut it”
    – “The fad chasers”
    – Responsible for giving away the content product and killing newspapers

    They turned us into pirates raiding the company coffers, throwing money away on things like servers and additional computer equipment. So, yes, we learned to relish our roles as pirates lest we resorted to lashing ourselves on the back for wanting to join the 21st Century.

    If there is any animosity between online and newsrooms, I imagine it started there. If IC transition was met with resistance, it was because many online departments developed excellent products in spite of deep philosophical resentment from the newsroom, and then all of a sudden online departments were required to suddenly give up all their power and resources while old-school newsroom employees were forced into new skills they had resented from the start.

    Animosity? Sure. But I doubt it’s something that can be wholly placed on the shoulders of arrogant youth in the online department.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Animosity, boy that’s and understatement, and when my department numbers were generating more revenue then print, all Hell broke loose. Backstabbing, fighting for control, everyone wanted to be in charge of online.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “when my department numbers were generating more revenue then print”

    I’d like to see those numbers.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    It exists for many reasons. When complex transitions in any aspect of life or business are handled sloppily, people are going to get upset. How many times did we hear from people at the top that they had no answers at USA TODAY? Yet, they continued to plow away with the merger. It was obvious they didn’t really think things through on a human level. I believe they had themselves convinced that they were on top of things. They weren’t. The anger is real. It’s not about youth vs. experience, though that does seem to be a cultural issue in general in this country. It’s not about pirates (huh?) or fear of change or new technology. It’s about the method of getting from point A to point B. That’s where the failings were/are. The deceptions, growing workloads and general mistrust (which is justified) are feeding the bad feelings even now. We can pretend we all like and trust each other and are going to be employed forever, but there is an underlying tension that doesn’t seem to be getting any better in my view. The reason is that there is a lack of sincerity emitting from the places where there is a need for honesty and true leadership more than ever. The old tricks aren’t working. Print staff is obviously upset because they are losing their jobs. Web staffers are beginning to feel some anxiety because their “pirates” are being absorbed into the corporate culture that they once were apart from. In a huge place like USA TODAY, these issues are compounded by many other things. The future is very uncertain, even for the web site people.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    “when my department numbers were generating more revenue then print”

    The word is than.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Department numbers are a matter of record, read at OC meetings and verified.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve got no bones to pick with online. It’s the future, like it or not. But the only way online could post better numbers than print is when all of the cost of news gathering and writing, facilities, infrastructure, etc. is assigned to print, and online simply posts its profits as if content were free.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    At my old paper, the print people were the online people and vice versa. I mean, we had some gear-heads who could put stuff online faster and/or better than others, but everyone worked for print and online. Perhaps we got one thing right for once.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    It’s nothing personal against the young journalists. The anger comes from the decisions from on high to steal manpower, office space, etc., from the print side to support the online side. As a previous poster stated, that makes it appear as if the online side is pure revenue.
    Another problem is that every time a journeyman-level print person takes a buyout or is let go, they fill that slot (if at all) with a 20something HTML jock for whom journalism is a secondary concern. That weakens the franchise.
    Papers’ making the transition from print to online is a fact of life. Badly managing that transition needn’t be.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    At most Gannett outposts, online is cotton candy filled with spoon-fed news releases, no originality and people who get excited when 500 people look at a video.

    If we put out a special print section and only 500 people picked it up, the editor and/or his or her staff would be out on the street.

    Average is OK for online. Headline busts, no story follows. No substance. Just a giant drain on the budget with little to show for it except the layoffs and cutbacks it’s caused for the print side.

    But in most places, online and print staffs are one in the same, overworked and morally drained. The word online is treated like a ghostly spirit that hovers in the newsroom like one of those that floated out of the Ark of the Covenant in Indian Jones! Don’t look directly at it! Your head will explode!!!!!

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Few would dispute the need to go digital. But USA TODAY’s newsroom managers have handled this with no clear vision, created turmoil which could have been avoided and basically just threw everyone together and said “make it work.” Well, with emotions already running high, buyouts and layoffs swirling around and careers on the line, that wasn’t the best strategy. The troops (neither online or print) aren’t to blame. The top and some mid-level managers blew it! They were grossly overmatched. Didn’t have the people skills to pull this off. Of course, maybe their strategy was genius. Turn the online and print troops against each other. Get people to quit so that more buyouts aren’t needed.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    There’s been a lot of talk about the difficulties of merging two entirely different cultures. From what I have seen, there was little structure among the onliners. Workflows were loose. Everything from design styles to editing procedures seemed to be rather casual. On the other hand, print became prisoners of style, workflow, editing and deadlines. Way too many cooks in the kitchen. Too rigid. However, to run a big newsroom, there does need to be a degree of process. It keeps the trains running on time. It appears the onliners don’t like this. And it appears the print people are losing control of what kept things somewhat flowing. The nuts of bolts of how this was all going to work is where upper management failed. Failed badly. They ignored pleas from mid managers to address workflow, seating, editing, assignments, schedules, training, etc., first, before merging. Mid managers were seen as obstructionist for raising these concerns. The mandate from the top was to “just do it” and pretend it’s working. Perception was far more important than reality. Well, now we’ve seen how well that philosophy and directive has played out. Mix in all the speculation about more layoffs and further dismantling of the print side, and it’s getting pretty messy at the flagship paper.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    You nailed it pretty good. Of course some departments are far worse off than others. Tensions are running very high in one department in particular. There’s a lot of pretending to play nice, so it might not be noticeable to some. Folks are scared and trying to blend in best they can. They are under orders to get along. Yes, orders. However, you can’t throw people into a pit, with limited resources, and say play nice. Eventually, survival mechanisms click in, and you start tearing at each other directly or indirectly. Yes, top editors failed in many ways to prepare their staffs for the situation we’re in. For many, it’s reached the point where they just can’t do their jobs anymore.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I took a buyout in January from my newsroom position.
    An online person is sitting in my chair and at my desk today.
    A great frustration in the newsroom is the clunky software and systems that slow the work flow and add hours to simple tasks.
    Perhaps if a newsie could count on being able to post his news update quickly and it would show up on the website immediatgely and they could move on to the next that the tension level would be reduced?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    I know exactly what the first poster was talking about. I’ve been in the online side of things since I left college and I’ve gotten little but animosity from my print-focused coworkers. I’m always being asked to help them get into their email as if I work for IT, but behind my back, they say I’m doing this because I couldn’t cut it as a reporter.

    Reporters and editors want everything online now – faster, better, flashier – and complain when they don’t get it or they’re asked to help. We’re working under the same staffing constraints as the newsroom, but they blame us for “not trying hard enough.”

    It makes me look forward to their extinction, to tell you the truth. And to think: I used to want to be like them.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    one thing some of us dislike about online is management’s philosophy of just throwing stuff onto the site — no concern for accurate spelling and clear writing, just be first. just beat tv. which, of course, has its own web sites now.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Regarding the last comment, I’m sitting here right now ignoring a demand to get a breaking news story up about a shooting because we are sourcing scanner traffic with sketchy information from dispatch. As a proud online employee, I’ll take my lumps when I deserve them, but my department is not the one who throws out basic journalism tenets when it comes to online.

    Also, this is not a Gannett problem. It’s an industry problem.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Reading this I guess I should feel lucky that our online staff is comprised of old print guys who have decades of newspaper experience, and work to uphold those same standards on our Web site. It’s not always the flashiest or most trendy looking thing, but at least it follows the same standards expected of the printed product.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    “The mandate from the top was to “just do it” and pretend it’s working.”

    Boy howdy, that’s a fact. We’ve done so much of that I don’t know what our priorities are anymore. Everybody thrashes around and the achievements and failures are all jumbled together in a murky mess, from the readers’ point of view.

    I have no beef with the online folks. They work hard, heaven knows, and are getting hammered by complaints about the new site designs/software dictated by GCI.

    The fundamental problem is that upper management (and this may have been another GCI dictate) decided to take a ham-fisted either-or approach to staffing online. Either you’re a journalist or you have digital skills, and the two groups live in different worlds.

    There was no effort made to find digiterati who are ALSO journalists. And once they were in place, there was absolutely no effort to integrate what they do with what the journos do. They don’t understand our jobs, we don’t understand theirs, and communication is limited to “Did this item get posted?”

    Speaking as a vet and a longtime tech geek, this breaks my heart. I can see all kinds of ways we could collaborate to make the site stronger, to use print and online to support and expand what each does, to give the readers much much more value for the money. In the process, we would each learn fantastic amounts of new things from one another.

    But our system is set up to essentially prevent that from ever happening.

    What a waste.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    The tension is real. And it is created by the over 55 editors that do not know a thing about online but decided to take it over for job security. But they find it easy to fool the over 55 managing editor that knows even less about online. This is why Gannett will fail.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    “Speaking as a vet and a longtime tech geek, this breaks my heart. I can see all kinds of ways we could collaborate to make the site stronger, to use print and online to support and expand what each does, to give the readers much much more value for the money. In the process, we would each learn fantastic amounts of new things from one another.”

    In the same boat as you and I agree 100 percent with your statement. It also requires people like you to have the guts to explain to managers why multimedia is often a waste of time, and those resources are best spent doing the “big stuff” so to speak where it is totally relevant to the story.

    Another example is understanding what a blog is, why anyone would want to blog, and how interacting with blogs outside your domain is neccessary for blogger credibility. For years in print, all I heard from reporters was how they never had any room to “tell the whole story.” Well, now you do with the bottomless newshole called a blog. Tell it. Now is not the time to gripe about additional work. Now is the time to rejoice about the freedoms the web offers you as a journalist.

    I better be careful or I’m going to get on a serious soapbox rant.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    I’m thinking many of you have WAY too many people on staff.

    Most of the Gannett papers I’ve worked for have a photographer, a photo editor, a video editor, a “mojo”, a Flash specialist and an archivist. And when the digital content manager wants to have a private staff meeting, he closes the door on the stall and talks to all of them at once.

    The key to job security is knowing all you can about all the facets of your job. And then go find out how the departments on either side of you work.

    I’m an old fart – I’ve sold ads, I’ve waxed pages, I’ve stripped negatives, I’ve run press. 3 of 4 of those no longer exist in my location but I still have a job because I’ve made an effort to actually earn my pay and be worthwhile to my employer.

    The people in my newsroom bellyached a bit when the additional work of online was brought to them. But they realized that they had to make the change – and they realized that they still served the community.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I’m surprised no one picked up on this from one of the earlier comments about workflow and deadlines. Print has to have a deadline because there’s a zillion things that have to happen after a all the editorial is complete.

    In the online world, there are no deadlines. You post a story when it is complete (however you want to define complete). It doesn’t matter if the 5 other people working on stories are complete or not. They can’t hold you up and you can’t hold them up.

    Resentment is based on the fact that there is certainly the appearance that the online world doesn’t have as much to do as the print world.

    And in fact, that’s true. Once the servers and templates, etc… are up and running, there’s relatively little human resources required to keep it running. Compare that to the 35-40 USAT print sites – how many people does it take to physically print and distribute the paper in all those locations?

    Digital is the future, and digital requires fewer humans overall to make it work.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I think the key here might be the definition of “complete.” If repeatedly, half-baked “stories” with glaring spelling errors and missing basic facts are posted to the web, readers like me begin to lose faith in the news organization that allows that. I’m talking about credibility here.

    So while you, Anon 12:34 AM might think you alone decide when a post is “complete,” I think the reader is the real judge.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    8:46 p.m. refers to an over-55 editor who is taking over some aspect of the web site to save his job. The writer also claims the editor knows nothing about online. If I am correct in who that editor might be (at USA TODAY), I would say that he would have sold his mother when he was 35 to keep his job secure. His job is sadly his identity, I concur. It’s not an age issue, though. Some 55-year-olds are still very capable and current, insightful thinkers. They are secure in their own abilities. Some 25-year-olds are mature beyond their years. Some are naive and/or arrogant. And some 45-year-olds are still acting like they are 21. Look around. They’re easy to spot. They’re in love with themselves and usually are weak producers.

    The merger at USA TODAY brought out the best and worst in people of all ages. The speculation ran wild and fanned the flames because upper management didn’t lead, didn’t communicate honestly and left hundreds of people to wonder about their roles, jobs, futures, etc. The editor I think the writer is referring to is a notoriously horrible manager and a poor communicator who has gotten away with having zero people skills for years. In essence, he’s a liar and hides behind his field generals. However, the writer also exposes his or herself by making such a broad statement about people over 55. And it’s broad-brush statements like that which infuriate coworkers who happen to have a few gray hairs. You confirmed exactly what it is that we oldsters are saying — that your lack of seasoning, lack of life experience, isn’t a good thing in a business that is suppose to be about reporting human issues and societal conditions. Yes, you young’uns bring energy, programming knowledge and new ideas. But you also need to show respect and learn from some of the better veterans on staff. The editor you are speaking of is a control freak. He should have been booted a long time ago. It’s amazing that the execs don’t see what an awful manager he is. We aren’t all that insecure as that editor, however. And we don’t all cling to our corner offices (or even have an office). Many of us have lives outside of that Tysons building, just as you do.

    It’s time that USA TODAY staffers unite, regardless of age, and begin to expose the real problem people. There is strength in numbers. We (print and online) can turn this thing around if we get rid of the newsroom leaders who haven’t led but who have instead created a stew of confusion and frustration. It’s time for some MEs and DMEs to hit the road. There are some real dud online leaders, too. This isn’t just about getting rid of print editors. We outnumber them. We can get rid of them if we are united. If you keep pretending everything is fine, don’t speak out when you can, then you have no one to blame for the tension and dysfunction created by the managers who simply are negligent or incapable of doing their jobs…regards of age or platform. Bad is bad. It’s not exclusive to age or print or the web site.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    The low-level tensions between online and print staffers out here definitely took a nastier edge when we restructured into the IC. Years of online experience specifically tailored to producing interesting, engaging products were tossed out the window and replaced by heavy-handed committee-driven mediocrity. We’ve ridden on momentum for a year, but we’re really starting to see the impact now.

    The thing is, we weren’t an online staff composed of all 20-somethings. There were plenty to be sure, but we had experienced managers with many many years under their built working in the print side at Gannett. I think the difference is that those folks voluntarily entered the online realm years ago with open minds and curiosity. They knew that this “online thing” wasn’t something we entirely understood, and that it wasn’t necessarily just a carbon copy of the print edition.

    That was successful. Those managers grew and learned and ended up creating a strong online presence for us. Since the IC, every one of those leaders has been marginalized and demoralized. A twisty maze of dotted line management has put practically anyone in the building in the position to interfere with online initiatives. I dare say if the online team started crashing print meetings and trying to take over print-related special projects, we’d get a less than welcoming response.

    I can certainly understand the panicked response from everyone print who has been forced to embrace online. The smell of death is in the air, and I’m sure that if I spent decades pursuing a career I was truly passionate about only to be slammed into something related but very different once I was in my 40s or 50s, I’d probably be cranky, too.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    From reading these comments, I can see that few people understand how copy gets put on the website. People clearly don’t understand how it is edited (and it is edited in advance except in very rare breaking news occasions — and even then, it gets edited after the fact), or even what the people do on the online side.

    When I read the “these people don’t do anything” comments, I just shake my head. These people are slammed; they just don’t make a lot of noise about it and their jobs are much more heads-down than the typical newspaper job.

    The “online is taking all the newspaper’s resources” comments also are incorrect. The online staff is SMALLER now than it was when it was an independent operation. And just like the newspaper staff, the online staff is also significantly smaller than the staffs of its main competitors.

    Online producers generally don’t get lunch breaks because they’re too busy; they face a steady stream of work all day long, unlike the up-and-down rhythms that typically face print journalists; they also work hours that make traditional print people crazy (there are dot-com shifts that start at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.; there’s also an overnight shift seven days a week).

    Also false: The ‘twenty-something kids right out of college’ comments. New hires fresh from college are almost nonexistent online here; in fact, new hires who don’t have graduate degrees and several years of experience are very rare. And these people are being chosen for their web production skills, which involve very little editing and writing. People who have these skills tend to be very young by default.

    Do you folks even know the people who run the individual sections of the web site? These people almost always have spent DECADES in the newspaper business. Some of them even worked on the print side of USAT for many, many years before crossing over. Still, they’re all accustomed to being treated on occasion like they were tech support personnel instead of veteran journalists who were smart enough to broaden their skills.

    And as far as respect: That is earned. Anyone who believes young journalists blindly showed older ones automatic respect Back in the Day is just living in a nostalgic fantasy world (and I know, because I was there Back in the Day, too).

  28. Anonymous Says:

    I have to dispute this notion that onliners don’t take lunch breaks. Not only do they take lunch breaks, they also take coffee breaks, tennis breaks, gym breaks, work from home more than print people, and most don’t work Sundays or holidays. I am not saying they shouldn’t be allowed these things, but please, let’s not pretend… I also highly dispute the staff numbers referred to by the last commentator. In my department, there are now more online staffers than print people. Yet, the onliners seem to think the opposite judging from there rarely having anyone available to handle routine grunt work. Just count heads, man. You will see that through buyouts, new hires and absorbtion of some print people into almost exclusive online jobs, the print side is the minority in at least one fairly large department. Count the managers if you don’t want to count all the troops. It’s about a 4 to 1 ratio in favor of online people. And let’s not even pretend we’re merged and that there is no online or print staffs, just one integrated group. We coexist and once in awhile cross over, mostly for appearance sake. The managers talk about being one staff when it’s convenient for them, but cling to their differences (like having holidays off or not working Sundays) when it suits their desires. You want to be one staff? Then even the playing field. Stop playing favorites.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Hmm. Sounds like each editorial department at USAT does things differently when it comes to online/print stuff. I know the above commenter’s statements aren’t true in my department, but they could be in others that I don’t see…

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, departments vary, sometimes wildly, in the way they do biz at USA TODAY. More importantly, it seems work ethics and expectation levels vary even more that style, editing and workflow procedures.

    On this topic of merger hostility — I believe for the large papers, like USA TODAY, unconditional merger was a bad idea. These are two different businesses, print and the web site. In a smaller job, it might make sense to merge. The web site, however, is redefining what journalism is. Seems to be more of a blending of marketing and info/entertainment. Some editorial people who work on the web site also doing marketing. Yes, horrifying, but it’s the way of the future.

    Another observation, based on what I have read here — whatever USAT managers are doing to ease the tensions is obviously not working. Time for to go to plan B. Oh, wait, this is Gannett. There is no plan B.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Was there ever a plan A? All I heard was that the suits had no answers. Meeting after meeting of no answers, but plenty of dog and pony shows about the virtues of merging. Then they proceeded to tear things up. Hey, sitting people together does not constitute a merger. Merging required more thought, greater insights and advance recognition of potential problem areas. Some jobs, heck, even some departments, probably shouldn’t have been forced to merge. It’s an apples and oranges situation. Some print jobs don’t relate or overlap with online in the least. Yet, the USAT leaders chose to ignore the obvious. They wanted to appear they were leading the charge. All they really did was set the stage for further tension. It’s time to admit to failures and correct some mistakes. Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with folks who easily admit to being wrong, so the drama will probably continue. The lack of training will continue also. With each person forced out, more animosity will occur. I believe that merging was handled badly and that USA Today, print and online, will pay the price for years to come. My heart goes out to those who are suffering the most. Good people, with good intentions on both platforms, being swallowed up by the confusion that continues to expand in the face of the transparent cheerleading being done at the top.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    Saying that newspaper and online work is similar, so merging shouldn’t be that big of a problem, is like saying Google and Starbucks are essentially the same business because they both have web sites. Is there tension in the newsroom? You bet. And it started with a faulty premise. Some functions, maybe even some departments could have overlapped with better planning. But to assume the entire operation could work as one was not correct. To not really have a plan was an absolute recipe for stress and failure. Values, ethics, technologies, schedules, deadlines, skills…just too much of a profound difference between platforms. Sure, some of the web folks came from a print background, but like an athlete who has made it big, the old “hood” isn’t a place they remember or want to return to. They left for a reason.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    As for the arrogance of online staffers, I would have to say yes. It is the arrogance that causes everyone, including USAT managers to blithely espouse the mantra “Digital is the future.” while forgetting that they had a successful and profitable entity right under their noses. If digital is the future revenue-wise, please tell me when? Print revenue run at least 14 times online revenues (even during these hard times) although the digital revenue numbers are always difficult to find (they always talk in trends like “up 10%” but 10% of what?). Even with the current trends, it’s going to take 15-20 years for online to match print revenues so why has print been completely abandoned, especially with USA TODAY? The online staffers (not just younger ones and in fact moreso the former print people) live by this “Print is Dead” attitude and that’s what causes tension. Whether it’s workflow or not, there does not appear to be the work ethic or sense of immediacy coming from the online staff and this is compounded by the video and rich media portion of the operation. Meanwhile, if a print person dares to question, they are labeled an obstructionist or dinosaur. The top managers have not spelled out a mission and many staffers just sit and wait for their jobs to be eliminated while still trying to do some good work. It is a BAD situation.

  34. trick Says:

    Wow — my head is spinning after reading this gut-wrenching back-and-forth. I’m with both 10:34 and 11:49, though you’re generally on opposite sides of the debate.

    I dunno. I’m one of those graying 55-and-olders who took the USAT buyout in December, and is grateful to have had the opportunity. I’m relieved to have missed the full-Monty square-peg-into-round-hole merger of print and dot-com, too, but I was already working outside of Tyson’s and so maybe would’ve been spared the worst of the trench warfare. I got along with the dot-commies during my last years at USAT, including a couple who hardly had the requisite journalistic background but who wanted to learn and tried hard, which does count for something.
    Sorry for the ramble here by one who parachuted away. I won’t offer some Rodney-King can’t-we-all-just-get-along when the S.S. Gannett seems on course to meet up with a titanic iceberg. All of this just plain sucks, and I feel for every one of you.
    I left the business after my buyout and, except for friends across the country dealing with buyouts/layoffs in EVERY newsroom, I simply can’t look back. It hurts too much.
    And now there is rumoring about perhaps more USAT cuts in the wind as a staff meeting approaches on Aug. 27.
    My deepest despair is reserved for the unanswered question of what the Republic does if/when so many newsrooms, Gannett or otherwise, jettison so many journalists that the fundamental fourth-estate role is fumbled or abandoned. Corny sentiment? Nope. Just a true worry. Maybe it’s pendulum-swing time and we’ll just have to see what the state of newsgathering and watchdog journalism is at the other end of the tunnel, whenever the business finally crawls out.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Moon is calling for a big meeting on August 27. No details about the meeting, of course. Just a brief email announcing it. Sounds like USAT staffers could take another hit. The print vs. online debate might be moot by then, or could really begin to heat up. Stay tuned.

    BTW, a lot of the mistakes made relating to the merger were red flagged early by some staffers and editors. But the people making the decisions didn’t want to hear it at the time. They just wanted to ram this thing through. Some of the mistakes made could have been avoided. Those mistakes are now finally being admitted to in some small ways. However, sounds like they (the top dogs) are getting ready to make some of the same errors in judgment again with new initiatives, many due to the same reason — not getting proper and frank input from all concerned parties. Not understanding history has a way of biting them in the ass. Yet they keep repeating themselves and their ways. So I guess the decision-makers are just going to continue this trial and error process until something sticks. Great way to run a business, eh?

    And then some people wonder why their is tension.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Just for the hell of it, let’s assume the paper all but dies in 10-15 years. Well, why not keep those 50somethings around to see it to the end? Why force them to merge? Why cause them take buyout offers? Why steal their resources so that their jobs become impossible? They’ll either die or retire about the same time the paper goes under. The company will be rid of them. Does Gannett think they can keep the paper alive for that long without them? How’s that going to happen? Does USA Today’s big cheeses believe that anyone coming out of J school wants to work in print anymore? Keep the 50-plus crowd around to put out the paper. Hire your 20somethings to build the web site. Merge those in betweeners who want to be merged. And stop all the fighting. You should be able to coexist because you all serve a function. I agree with an earlier posting. This is two separate businesses. One that is presumably dying, but still paying the bills, and another deemed as the future. You can’t seamlessly merge the two. Assimilation/attrition is a better route for all. But knowing the way managers think, the commonsense approach and most obvious solution often escapes them. There are probably more good ideas and insights in this blog than in a year’s worth of meetings at USA Today. OK, some nutty ideas too, granted. But if the big wigs want real info, they should check this blog out.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    No real dramatic tension in my shop – the “update editor” spent his career on the print side and was put on the Web because he’s fast and has good editing judgement, and he is well respected – but some resentment over the online goodies and allocation of resources.

    There’s strong dislike of the update “throw-it-up-against-the-site-and-see-what-sticks” philosophy – every little thing becomes a breaking news update, with no sense of proportion. A two-car crash can become a carousel item if the day is boring and the art is good. And there’s zero accountability when it comes to policing those awful comments. – but that’s another story entirely.

    Among the younger reporters, there’s more of a willingness to feed the Web beast – sending the first few grafs over for an update before the story’s done and polished, calling in info from news conferences and crime scenes, etc. I think that’s largely because we get our news from the Web. The old guard hates it. But that’s slowly changing.

    There’s a basic “Huh?” attitude in the newsroom when it comes to the big online projects – databases and crime maps and the like. Those are concocted by an all-knowing digital manager without any input from the front-line reporters who might have some actual insight.

    There’s also a fundamental imbalance on the advertising side. Our ad reps are scraping the bottom of the barrel right now to sell print ads just to keep their heads above water. Very, very few people are interested in buying online.

    Yet my paper has two videographers/video editors, two update editors and a whole host of web producers and editors for special stuff. I can’t help but think that cutting one of those jobs, and eliminating the gear and goodies that went with it, would have meant we could have kept two other people who actually produced stories on a daily basis.

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