Nervous glances: Corporate, Craig Moon — and me

[Glass palace: Gannett and USA Today headquarters]

Hardly anyone talked about Corporate at USA Today during the nearly eight years I worked for the company’s flagship — a big change from the three smaller newspapers where I was a reporter and editor in Little Rock, Boise and Louisville, Ky. At the community papers, Corporate — and that’s what people called it — hung over us like a big, ominous cloud. Top executives back at Arlington, Va., and then McLean, Va., after the company relocated in 2001, liked to say they always deferred to “local control.”

But that was complete and total bullshit. In newsrooms at the smaller papers, the editor or publisher would make sudden, odd requests that we do something. When we asked why, the short answer would be: “Corporate.” No more questions allowed.

Polished granite vs. threadbare carpet
It was entirely different at USA Today. The paper shared a luxurious building with Gannett — but that was it. USAT wasn’t subject to the onerous rules forced on the smaller papers: We rarely worried about diversity and mainstreaming, programs designed to feature more minorities in news stories. The quality control programs — News 2000, then Real Life, Real News — didn’t apply to us. There was much more money for business travel. And if you worked at the main office in McLean, you were cosseted in a gleaming glass office complex with granite floors, acres of stainless-steel details, a nice cafeteria, on-site gym facilities, a softball field and other amenities. The newsrooms where I worked employed nearly 500 often well-paid reporters, editors, artists and others.

Contrast that with the Idaho Statesman when I arrived in late 1991. The dirty, threadbare carpeting in the dimly-lit newsroom was literally held down with duct tape. Desks and chairs were old and battered. The closest thing we had to a cafeteria was the dreary, windowless “breakroom” with vending machines. Staffing was razor-thin: As the business-news editor, I had virtually no support from the understaffed copy desk: I edited and wrote stories; laid out the section, and oversaw page production in the back shop. I routinely put in 10- and 11-hour days, and worked most weekends. I got no overtime or comp time, of course, because I was in management.

Curley’s mysterious exit
USA Today started getting dragged into Corporate’s fold around 2003, when Publisher Tom Curley (left) — a likely successor to then-CEO Doug McCorkindale — bolted Gannett to become CEO of the Associated Press. (We were never told why, of course, but it appeared to follow a clash between the two executives.)

Craig Moon, publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville, replaced Curley. USAT staff began worrying that Moon would manage the newspaper more like one of Gannett’s 84 smaller titles: The budget would be reined in. Worker productivity demands would rise. In other words, USA Today would start carrying more of the load.

None of that surprised me. I had worked for Moon (left) once before, when he was publisher of The Arkansas Gazette for about two years, ending in early 1991, not long before Gannett shut down the paper amid a bruising newspaper war with a cross-town rival. By then, Moon had been promoted to Nashville, already on the road to Corporate.

I didn’t see Moon again for another 14 years years. By then, he’d been USAT publisher for about a year, and was making a surprise visit to the San Francisco bureau, where I worked as a business-news reporter. We had exchanged a few e-mails during the previous months about his impending choice for a new top editor, after Karen Jurgensen got bounced during the Jack Kelley scandal. I urged Moon to consider one editor in particular for the opening — someone other than the Tennessean‘s Mark Silverman; the rumor mill had placed Silverman on Moon’s short list. (Moon eventually hired Ken Paulson — but not before offering the job to someone else, I was told.)

Moon’s nervous look
On that day when Moon visited San Francisco, I don’t think he remembered that I worked in the office there. I buzzed him inside, then re-introduced himself. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like an uncomfortable look crossed his face, as in: Uh-oh: A Little Rock survivor. I wonder what Hopkins remembers?

(Confidential to everyone: I remember everything. Maybe that explains some of the antics at yesterday’s USA Today staff meeting? Or, maybe he’s still pissed off about this.)

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.

[Images: headquarters, Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects; today’s USAT front page, Newseum]

40 Responses to “Nervous glances: Corporate, Craig Moon — and me”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Jim, I think you need to write a book on this company. The truth needs to come out. Everyone needs to be exposed so that damage can be repaired and we can become a respected company once again.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Jim, did you hear of any antics from yesterday’s meeting firsthand?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    One thing I learned early in my Gannett career was that one had to take care about gossiping about past supervisors, editors and publishers. One never knows when your paths would cross again.
    I “enjoyed” one top editor twice. I was recruited to a larger paper by someone I really wanted to work for only to have him replaced by my old editor.
    As you all know, editors and publishers come and go in Gannett. If you are willing to move to forward your career, you’re going to bounce off of some the same people, over and over again.
    BTW, I’ve always been amazed by the way the editors and publishers are shuffled around, how some are repeatedly rewarded with better assignments (and presidents rings)and others, who are hard working, bright and innovative editors, seem to be repeatedly overlooked. The master puppeteers in ‘corporate’ are still working from behind the curtain.

  4. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @8:26 am: If you’re asking whether I attended the meeting in person, or by phone, the answer is: No.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    As a former employee at the OC level for almost 10 years I saw and felt corporate pressure first hand. The people at the top have changed in the last 4 years since I was an employee but I can share the truth as I saw it in my time.

    Corporate edicts were very rare. When they did occur they made sense from a global perspective – even when they may have seemed not applicable to the individual paper. The level of power of an individual Publisher makes a BIG difference. I worked for two Publishers. One a relatively new employee of a block of newspapers Gannett purchased who was made Publisher. The other – after the former departed the company – was a 30+ year Gannett veteran and connected all the way to the top. It was like night and day. The former Publisher never pushed back. The latter would dig in and say no and get away with it most of the time.

    Perhaps times have changed and things are more top down now. In my time Gannett corporate was not a nasty, malevolent beast barking orders. They were good people who cared deeply about helping their OC members and newspaper succeed and grow. Most of these people are no longer Gannett employees. It sounds like changes at the top have transformed the company in a fundamentally very bad way in the last few years.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Craig Moon encouraged us to go to our bosses with questions rather than coming to this blog. I have several bosses, and all have proven to be untrustworthy or, at the very least, incapable of REALLY listening to their frontline editors and frank, competent staffers. These bosses gravitate towards the people who tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem USA TODAY’s newsroom has.

    The reason this blog thrives is because there are others just like me who feel they can no longer go to their supervisors, even with a simple question. Seemingly significant every encounter with top newsroom managers turns into a poker game. A lot of bluffing on their part and having to read body language on my part. Blocking out deceptive or manipulative language to try to get at least a vague picture of the truth or what might be on the horizon. Frankly, coming here for information is a lot less aggravating then getting the used car salesmen speech from my boss. I rather weed through the speculation of this blog than be lied to face to face by someone who claims to care about my career.

    My bosses do things behind the scenes that have a major impact on careers and the ability for their staff to do its job. I don’t think it’s intentional, I just think these folks are bad, insecure leaders who probably have gotten worse working under Gannett’s mandates. Some, however, are just plain vindictive and arrogant people. They rarely solicit opinions until after the fact, after the grand decision. And by then, if you give a contrary opinion that finds any fault in what they’ve decided, you’re labelled all sorts of untrue and nasty things. These bosses actually think they are being inclusive when in fact they rarely gather the input or facts from people on the front line before making catostrophic decisions. So they continue this trial and error form of management and decision-making, meanwhile confidence in these leaders decreases with each error and trust decays to the point where many folks in the newsroom would just assume avoid their bosses on most days. This is why this blog exists. I don’t expect my bosses to have all the right answers every time, but I do expect them to be secure in coming to me for vital information, and to not penalize me for telling them the facts when the facts aren’t convenient to the course of action they want to embark upon.

    If Moon would look at the involvement this blog receives from USA TODAY staffers alone, he would understand that the reason we don’t go to our bosses much anymore is because we’ve been either burned by doing so or just haven’t gotten any positive results from them. There is something institionally wrong with editorial management at this newspaper. How can a staffer work with an editor for 10 or 20 years in some cases, and not trust his supervisor? Yet, there are countless examples of that that no Gallup survey or staff meeting will ever reveal. Craig, you have to be more creative, sincere and more inviting if you want the truth. Go to people you’ve never talked to before. Convince them to tell you what’s really going on. You will be surprised by the horror stories and deceptions from within your editorial department. If you want to really solve things, and not just appear like you want to, then you will take a very different approach.

    If things don’t improve, expect more blogs like this. People need to vent. Creative people need to have a voice and need to feel they aren’t alone in their observations. I wouldn’t doubt if an exclusive USAT blog starts up real soon. We’re fighting for our lives here, fighting for respect and truth, and if this is the only way to get it, so be it.

    I encourage everyone to continue to participate in this blog, write books or trade magazine articles about the inner workings of USAT. Put light on things that Gannett wants to remain in the dark. Expose top editors who refuse to get down to the nitty gritty without punishing those who truly desire a better workplace. The newspaper has violated its own ethtic policy (the document we sign each year) in numerous ways. I see no need for us to abide by a “contract” that they broke.

    We’re done with going to our supervisors until our supervisors reverse this trend of them against us. Stop with the secrets. Stop with the mind games and little corporate tricks. I don’t need to be a practice dummy for Gannett 101 management trainees. Address real problems and real concerns of all employees, not just those with titles or who make the most noise. And stop turning caring, hardworking staffers into outcasts because they are brave enough to speak up once in awhile. Then maybe we’ll come to you more, and this blog won’t be so filled with outrage and suspicion.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    If I missed it somewhere else (and I don’t think I did), I am still waiting for someone, anyone, who attended the Wednesday USAT meeting to tell us, blow for blow, just what took place. How long it was, what Moon said, how many people attended, what kind of questions. Scrolling up and down Gannett Blog yesterday and today, I haven’t a clue. There was a lot of hand-wringing about whether Gannett IT spies on people, reads their e-mails, etc., etc., and a reference or two about threats not to come to the Gannett Blog, but for Pete’s sake, will SOMEBODY tell us just WHAT HAPPENED? All these journalists and word people, and not a straightforward report. Amazing.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    10:06. I wasn’t at the meeting. I heard from people who were there that the auditorium was packed. The questions were mostly lame (as usual) and self-centered. People can’t seem to think beyond their little universes and look at the big picture. But I digress… Moon didn’t rule out cutbacks; just not going to happen today. My gut feelings is that some people will begin to quietly disappear (forced out) and that the only new hires will be people who can support the web site. Moon introduced the new ad guy. And he slammed Gannett Blog and would rather his employees go to their supervisors than come here with problems. Is he kidding? People in my department steer clear of the corner offices…and with good reason! Cracks me up when these suits think we’re so stupid and would go spill our guts to our bosses who have proven time and time again to be less than supportive. Careers have been ruined at USA Today by people naively doing that.

    I believe you are going to see other methods of getting rid of people at USA Today. Might not be buyout of layoffs. They need to make room for online hires. I think upper management will create such hardships for people who they want to leave that those people will quit on their own, or maybe drop dead at their desks.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Regarding Tom Curley: I’ve always wondered whether he would have reinvented Gannett the way he is reinventing the AP.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    “The Making of McMess”… A potential book title. But it might take more than one book to touch on every aspect of the relatively quick rise and now sudden fall of USA Today. The big causes(bad economy, general state of the industry, cost of newsprint, etc) are just part of the whole reason for the decline (in revenue more than circulation). The little “invisible” failures that happen on a daily basis at the flagship are the tragic human stories that are most interesting in a morbid sense. The hiring process (and all the mandates involved with it that no one wants to talk about), the poor communications, the waste, the lack of leadership, the retaining of dead wood, the unchecked egos, the predictability…all of that is what contributed to where we are now as a newspaper. I am glad Jim brought some perspective to what’s happening in this blog entry. You can see how corporate took something that wasn’t too broken and made it worse. Now with the move to online…things are spinning out of control. Just no real leadership or thoughtfulness in the approach. And through all of this, we still need to get out a newspaper!

  11. Jim Hopkins Says:

    I would be surprised if 25% of Gannett and USA Today employees know about this blog. Seems to me that Moon only spread the word further at yesterday’s meeting. Why does that make sense?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    USA TODAY has many problems, true, but all this ‘I’m afraid to go to my boss,’ ‘everyone is lying and has a secret agenda,’ ‘those who speak out are punished’ stuff seems more about the poster than the actual situation.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I think the character of Al Neuharth was a crucial factor in the demise of Gannett. His overwhelming egotism drove out all honesty, and he filled corporate and high local management with careerists driven by a mixture of fear and ambition. Eventually a horde of sycophants surrounded an emperor incapable of noticing that he was naked. The company’s devastating collision with external circumstances may have been inevitable after it had been so damaged.
    The Titanic hit the iceberg long ago, but few noticed. When Dubow and predecessors finally started to get wet feet, they had focused so much energy on personal “career development” for so long that they lacked the smarts to do much real problem solving. They created “Real Life, Real News” and other silly management fads. They issued edicts on the six different types of breakout boxes that newspapers should use to dumb down the product and insult readers’ intelligence. They bought CCI (“Can’t Cut It”) systems with pathetically bad software that never got better. They slavishly embraced anything related to “new media” but ended up buying the even more pathetic Suxotech and led the most awkward and halting online transition ever.
    In other words, that solipsist Neuharth permanently bent the corporation and left it without the skills to survive.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Jim, I think they are using you as a foil. Some truly wild stuff gets thrown around on this blog, and management can easily scoff at it being patently nonsense while at the same time adopting a toned-down policy of selective layoffs and other enticements for employees to leave. How can Craig Moon say with a straight face he can’t rule out layoffs at USAT when he knows the plans are afoot? When caught, management can always say it’s really not as bad as I have been reading on Gannett Blog

  15. Jim Hopkins Says:

    I hear you, @1:21 pm. But I’m extremely reluctant to delete comments here. As always, however, I welcome suggestions.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    I think what you are doing is great. I find the truth is often somewhere halfway between what I read on this blog, and what management is saying. I think this blog does a great service, and I thank Gannett colleagues for their efforts. As for the interlopers, there is little that can be done.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I work at a community paper.

    I don’t go to my supervisor for anything. Why? For the reasons listed so eloquently by the USAT poster above. There are a lot of secrets and mind games and political ploys if I talk with my supervisor about even little things going on.

    I submit budgets, crank out stories and innovate in my own way. I find that adhering to that formula allows me to maintain a communication blackout with the newspaper. It’s better for me. It’s better for them.

    It’s a terrible environment for any kind of business. The upside: As long as I keep cranking copy, blogging, producing videos and staying out of the way … it’s smooth sailing.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    USA Today is still a great newspaper with loyal readers. Jump on an airplane and look around. Ask people NOT in the business. I have a lot of friends who love the paper. Why all the negativity? It’s sad.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Also, I haven’t seen much (inaccurate) “truly wild stuff” being thrown around here.

    There is some “truly wild stuff” going on with GCI. Adjust your settings.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    5:58 p.m. nailed it. There isn’t much on this blog that is out of bounds. The “truly wild stuff” usually gets shot down and corrected. Everything else is right on the money. They’re scared of it.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Gannett management response is all over this blog. People! You must not talk amongst yourselves, even outside of work, about any perceived problems! You must not even think about it. You must put your nose down, and get back to work! All of you! Or else we will give you a bad review, and you will not get more than 1% raises! Just look at what happened to the poor old schleps who were just shown the door! You could be next! You’re the reason our company is failing! All of you! You must work harder! You have no ideas! You’re responsible for coming up with the ideas that will make this company successful, and you’re not doing enough to make it happen! How will your family feel if you only bring home a 1% raise or less? You’re lucky you have a job! You’re a company full of whiners! Nobody will want to go along with the idea you just proposed because that doesn’t fit in with the direction they’re going in now! There’s no use taking it up the chain because this has already been tried before! There is no use taking it up the chain because I already know what the answer will be! They’ve already made it clear that they don’t want that kind of thing anymore, so there’s no use in trying! Go ahead and take the idea up the chain, but you will be wasting your time and it will reflect poorly on me and the rest of the team!

  22. Anonymous Says:

    There’s a “12 exclamation mark” limit in the white zone.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    9:48 a.m. nailed it. Go to your supervisor with a suggestion or a question, and you’re labeled as a complainer. There are some talented journalists at USAT. Unfortunately, they are not in positions of power. Basically, all the editors care about is filling the space. They do not care about what they fill it with. They do care about having time to jog around the pond or work out at the health club. Many days editors disappear for an hour or two so they can get buff, while their reporters are hard at work. But that doesn’t matter, because editors stick together and would never reprimand one of their own. Thoughtful, intelligent reporting counts for nothing, unless you are a member of the top caste at TNN. Self-promotion counts for a lot.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    12:40 p.m. said: USA TODAY has many problems, true, but all this ‘I’m afraid to go to my boss,’ ‘everyone is lying and has a secret agenda,’ ‘those who speak out are punished’ stuff seems more about the poster than the actual situation.

    My response: Are you friggin’ kidding us! So, according to you, there is just one person (the “poster”) at USAT afraid to go to his/her boss? Just one employee afraid to be frank and honest with their supervisors? Yeah, right. Oh, and Gannett/USA TODAY management never lies, deceives or manipulates its employees? I was lied to three times just this week alone! Not blantant, sinister lies, but nonetheless lies. And I am not including what was said at the Moon meeting. Gosh, either you’re off-the-charts naive, a kiss-ass (which there are a fair number of) or you’re in upper management and have an agenda. The volume of similar complaints on this blog alone should tell you this isn’t an isolated problem at USAT. The only thing I will agree with you on is that USAT does indeed have many problems. And as outrageous as this might sound, lying is not the biggest problem, in my opinion. Lying is a byproduct of other issues. There are more profound things that have a huge impact on the product and on the spirit of many employees who feel broken and helpless as they watch their careers unravel. Watch for increases in sickness, resignations (for those who can afford it) and even deaths in the next year or two. It’s that toxic an environment. Unreasonable demand after demand being placed on very anxious people. Fearful people who can’t go to their bosses because the bosses either are creating the fear/demands or are just unable to understand what it is these folks are feeling. They aren’t just fearful about losing their jobs, they are fearful that with growing demands they simply won’t be able to do their jobs effectively anymore. I know plenty of people with similar feelings to the “poster,” so please no more uninformed, PR remarks about USAT staffers having good relationships with their supervisors! The newsroom is filled with suspicion, fear and has numerous people who feel totally out of control…even if they don’t show it to their bosses.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    I concur that many USA TODAY editors are lacking in various ways as managers and visionaries. Too many are into simple labels and simple solutions. While some folks might be afraid of change, I am not one of them. And I am an editor! I am a manager who,perhaps surprisingly to some, tends to agree with a lot of what is said here. Where I see smoke, I tend to think there is fire. And I see a lot of smoke on this blog. Granted, there are also some purely personal grudges and malicious comments here. I think most who read this blog are educated enough to understand the difference. I also think most are wise enough to respect varying opinions, though some seem overly defensive for whatever reason.

    I have been accused of being an obstructionist, and it hurts because my bosses simply do not know my heart let alone my mind. To label someone unjustly, I’ve come to realize, is to lose that person in spirit, loyality and productivity. Trust becomes fractured. Victims of stereotyping shut down. I try my best not to do that to the people who I supervise, although there are instances when it is clear that someone is exactly what they project. Sometimes they are incompetent, limited in their work ethics or skills. Sometimes they are complainers with no honorable motives. Some do abuse the system.

    I try to judge each person’s actions and comments on their own merit and don’t look to cubbyhole anyone based on limited interaction with them or vague perceptions told to me by others. However, I know that some of my fellow editors are incapable or unwilling to look beneath the surface of what staffers or other editors are trying to tell them. These editors are under pressure to do certain things, meet difficult demands from the highest levels. The critical mistake they make is in abandoning comments and input made by folks on the frontline. Those folks on the frontline are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of decisions made at the top. They have a large stake in how things go, and a wealth of experience to provide insights that might prevent some major errors and damage that can’t be reversed. Day in and day out the staffers and editors who are out front have to overcome the poor planning that was done by their bosses. I am a boss; I see it. It’s maddening and exhausting to continually be led down the wrong road, knowing as you go down it that you’re simply following orders to march off a cliff. But good soldiers do just that. And to do anything else is to be thought of as a renegade by some. That’s unfortunate for some individuals, and it’s ultimately bad for business.

    The burnout level of lower and mid-managers in particular has always been high in all companies for reasons we all know. But when mid-managers and their staffs have little or no say in their futures or day-to-day tasks, it can be unbearable just coming to work. They are put into losing situations before the day even begins by short-sighted planning from the top, by a gross lack of resources and by longtime issues that have never been resolved. These issues are fixable, but the will has to be there. I don’t always see that will in the USA TODAY newsroom. I see some lip service. I see some surrender and even denial. Once in awhile an honest attempt is made to fix something, but because this is a territorial newsroom, things aren’t always easily resolved.

    All this frustration can lead to confrontation. I have witnessed an increase in newsroom conflicts in the last year. It’s a disturbing trend that I was just discussing with another editor and staffer on Wednesday. Much of it is subtle, but to someone in the middle of the storm each day, it is quite obvious.

    Editors making broad-based decisions need to understand that the pressure they are feeling from above is not a valid excuse to make bad decisions. Those decisions feed into the anxieties of staffers when not processed well. While some departments are functioning reasonably well, some aren’t. Some are faced with far broader changes than others. Those changes must be handled correctly.

    MY MAIN POINT: MEs, DMEs and other top managers need to understand that just as it’s counterproductive for someone to be afraid of change or argue groundlessly againt it, it is at least equally destructive to change JUST for the sake of change, so that an ME or DME can show the top editor that they did something. That “something” has to really be thought out. Critical decisions can’t just make superficial sense, but when examined more closely, have unlimited holes in it. That something often leads to major problems. I see this pattern repeated over and over. Some trial and error is understandable, but not every major change should be approached with the attitude of, “Well, if this doesn’t work we’ll try something else.” We’re not in a position anymore to experiment on a large scale. We have to be more reasonably sure things will work before they are enacted.

    A lot of things work well at USA Today. If they didn’t, the paper would not have risen to No. 1. Many of those things that worked well for the paper could be adopted in the future. There are some proven principles and people that should not be abandoned just because they aren’t trendy. There are certain relationships and alliances that should be maintain and nurtured. Some workflows are highly efficient and help us do the impossible every single day. Details about everything from seating arrangements and schedules to flow charts and titles need to be put under the microscope because neglecting just one of those details could bring down a pretty good and broader plan. The big picture is important, but so are the little “quality of life” issues that can make work much more rewarding, or can turn a job into an impossible situation for one person or an entire team.

    Yes, despite USA TODAY’s success, there are also many things that need to be fixed and changed dramatically. I am a huge proponent of change and of repairing things that don’t work. But, thus far, I see a lot of things being tinkered with that do work and a lot of other things being introduced that have been proven failures in the recent past. I feel like some managers are forcing a nut onto a bolt, even at the risk of stripping the both. They appear to just want to say, “Look the nut is on the bolt” regardless of whether it’s on there properly and without damaging either.

    There is a way to change but also preserve what is working and has always worked. There is a way to move forward but not abandoned lessons learned from the past. If editors making key decisions can blend change/new ideas with respect for history, there will be greater efficiency, more buy-in and less concern about being wrongfully labelled.

    I truly hope this makes sense and that certain courses of action can be examined further as the industry evolves both at USA TODAY and other newsrooms.

    I somewhat regret having to express my ideas (I had to avoid specifics, sorry) here rather than to my supervisors directly, but I simply don’t feel comfortable stating this in any other venue at this time for reasons I can’t reveal. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I know some of the ideas I have outlined don’t relate to every department at USA TODAY, but I feel I have heard enough from around the building, and certainly have been adversely impacted by decisions from my team leaders to validate my opinions. I believe that most of my remarks here are a reflection of how the folks I supervise generally feel, though I don’t claim every observation is universally seen.

    I am also asking Jim to post this as a separate item on the blog so that it will be more visible and that something good can come from it. Regardless, I hope everyone will take this in the spirt it is given. I don’t want to be confrontational or alarmist, but some things just need to be brought to light for the sake of USA TODAY and a number of people I respect and whose careers hang in the balance for various reasons.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    12:27, awesome post. I hope it has the positive impact you’re looking for.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    12:27 — that is simply an marvelous post. My hat is off to you for, perhaps, the most reasoned and thoughtful post I have read. Frankly, I stopped reading this blog a while ago because of the overwhelming amount of negativity and personal attacks. It simply had become depressing. A colleague encouraged me to take another look. I did and am heartened to have read your post 12:27. I sincerely hope it is read by by others, including the MEs, DMEs, executive editors, but most especially the Editor. He’s a good man and I fear there is a lot he is not being told about what is truly happening in his newsroom.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you. Please help me share my posting by encouraging folks to read it. I don’t say that out of ego, but rather because I am trying very hard to speak for a greater good that might help us all regain our dignity and brighten our futures.


  29. Anonymous Says:

    Incredible! A thoughtful comment on this blog. Nice job by 12:27. I would love to put it up on the screen at the next USAT newsroom staff meeting! Would be more productive and stimulating than the usual fare. Ken, go for it. Put it up on the screen! Let it spark some real discussion.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Related to this, and from another posting about this item, I must agree with 12:27. USA Today has thrown money and bodies at problems for too long. Some editors don’t seem able to find more creative solutions. We’re going through this again in some ways. Bodies, I mean, not money.

    Visions are fine and even commendable in some ways. Big ideas and broad-based plans can inspire if communicated correctly. But I am always most impressed when that vision also includes evidence that the person who is rolling out the vision also speaks specifically about how all the “small” obstacles are going to be addressed. Too often, we’ve heard grand plans for a grand journey without a road map, passport or other specifics that can bolster confidence and sustain excitement.

    USAT editors need to stop saying things about unchartered territory. While some of this is unchartered, there are examples of very similar challenges that you can learn from if you exam the past. Please, stop answering questions with “they” have no answers. You can’t get buy-in unless you convince the average Joe or Jane that you are thinking about them, as individuals, and their specific challenges they have to do their jobs. And that you do have some answers for them, even before they ask the questions. Think ahead, like you would in a chess match. You don’t just move pieces without considering what is going to happen next…unless you want to lose. Think of all the possibilities, get opinions, read this blog! LOL. At least appear as though you care and have thought all the little things through and will support your people through these very trying times. I rarely see that coming from the editors’ offices. I just hear that this or that is going to happen and to make the best of it. Well, how is it going to happen, and when it does, what else has to give to make it happen? And when that gives, then how does that affect others and their jobs. Think of the domino effect, not just the grand plan. If you do that, and demonstrate you’re on top of things as 12:27 said (schedules, seating, etc), people won’t be so anxious and there will be the enthusiasm you desire as top managers.

    I probably didn’t state this all that well. Probably too emotional. Read 12:27’s post for a bit more clarity and heart!

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Read 12:27. I swear whoever wrote it works in my department. USAT DESIGN (formerly Graphics & Photo). Seems so relevant – but maybe other departments are facing the same issues and obstacles. I found it to be genuine, regardless of where it came from or whether I entirely agree with it all. (It is very long!). The author seems sincere. I found it to be refreshing, especially if they really are a manager as they say. Wish more comments read like that. I see no need to bash or do hit & runs on here. Sad that everyone feels they have to remain annoymous – including me.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    I read 12:27 twice! Gosh, that is the kind of comment I would enjoy reading more often on here. Not a cheerleading piece and not a gloom-doom rant. Some blunt realities, logically advice and a hint of optimism for USAT newsroom folks. Yet I can’t help feeling 12:27 is a bit naive in thinking such a large organization can be more in touch with each individual and every facet of every job. On the other hand, all businesses come down to individual people and relationships. Maybe there is some hope if USAT managers and staffers take a step back and examine the course they are on and their methods of getting to where they want to go. I don’t think what is occurring nows is a disaster, per se, but I don’t think it’s working well either. I personally know of several people looking to leave. They are good folks too. Sad to see them so beaten. I think trends like that will hurt or at least slow down the transitions we are going through. More than ever, we need good folks. Folks who know the business, know their jobs. Folks who can compensate for the slippage of late.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    I do not work in the newsroom but am astonished at all that is going on just a few floors beneath me at USA Today, at least according to this blog. My dealings with the newsroom have been few. I find it to be a totally different culture when I walk through there compared to the floor and department I work on. I will leave it at that and get back to work! Hope you all resolve things as your content is what helps sell our brand.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Pretty good post 12:27. I hope things work out and that editorial begins functioning in a more inspirational mode. Y’all do some good work but I know things are hard right now. Hang in there!

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Amen! We need the news folks to help sell the paper and the web site. We need managers to be more aware and for everyone to be as productive and creative as possible during these rough times.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    It’s a very simple reason that corporate provided more oversight to newspapers other than USAT:

    USAT is not part of the newspaper division.

    When most folks in newspapers think of corporate, they tend to think of things from a division perspective.

    USAT has always had much more leeway with what it did compared to the local papers because of the much more complex things that are required to get the paper out.

    When I worked at corporate, we bent over backwards to try to come up with solutions that the gave the local properties as much flexibility as possible. We weren’t always successful, and sometimes we “imposed” our solution.

    But for the most part, we tried our hardest to help the papers, not get in their way.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    I do not work in the newsroom. It appears to me reading this blog that there are really two camps: one is the local papers and one is USAT. And at USAT most of the frustrations seem to be in the newsroom. I like my department and we have a good culture. I know that is not a popular thing to say on a blog mostly written from a negative place. But I also know that if the journalists dont get their issues fixed, its not good for any of us.

  38. Jim Hopkins Says:

    I just wrote the following, on this USAT-related post:

    I’m repeating it here, because it’s relevant to this string, too: If Gallup turned up any of these sentiments, were they reflected in the reports given to Moon and other big cheeses? And who audits Gallup’s work, to make sure it doesn’t boost employee approval ratings to justify their contract. And, and: How much does/did USAT pay Gallup?

  39. Anonymous Says:

    We’re done with going to our supervisors until our supervisors reverse this trend of them against us. Stop with the secrets. Stop with the mind games and little corporate tricks. I don’t need to be a practice dummy for Gannett 101 management trainees. Address real problems and real concerns of all employees, not just those with titles or who make the most noise. And stop turning caring, hardworking staffers into outcasts because they are brave enough to speak up once in awhile. Then maybe we’ll come to you more, and this blog won’t be so filled with outrage and suspicion.

    8/28/2008 9:48 AM

    Amen to that! This is what is going on at all sites – not just USAT! For the most employees haven given up to care and who can blame them? Get to work, do your job and go home. Why rattle the cage when you are ignored and everything stays the same. Let’s face it: the supervisor you might be reporting to wants to keep his cushy job, too! And what better way than to keep your mouth shut? The next best thing is to leave this company and doing another kind of work. Let’s face it: the newspaper is a dying giant and to get out while you can maybe the smartest decision one can make.

  40. Anonymous Says:

    First, let’s be clear – as an ex-staffer at one of those “community” newspapers — I HATE Gannett. I am glad the stock is in the tank, I am glad for the layoffs, I am glad for the impending collapse. It serves this corporate brand of evil right. I HATE Gannett for all the careers ruined by mindless, thoughtless corporate hacks who never cared for real journalism. I HATE Gannett and I laugh out loud every time I see the stock fall — which I see frequently.

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