Tenn. pub’s retirement spurs consolidation chatter

Gene Washer‘s retirement today as publisher of The Leaf-Chronicle has readers here wondering whether Gannett may use his departure as an opportunity to do away with the top job at the daily in Clarksville, Tenn. Washer, 68, leaves after 45 years at the newspaper — 13 under GCI ownership. A replacement for Washer “will be named soon,” the paper says in a very (!) long story, quoting Ellen Leifeld, publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville, and vice president of Gannett’s South Newspaper Group, which includes the Clarksville daily.

But with GCI cutting costs by asking publishers to oversee multiple papers, Gannett Blog readers are speculating on this open-comments post about what’s next in Clarksville:

  • “If you have another Gannett paper near by, you might have a shared pub. A few papers are already putting a pub over more than one paper.”
  • “Nearest Clarksville is Nashville, where the publisher has her hands filled already. . . . The retiring Clarksville publisher is 68, three years beyond normal retirement age, and kept around to allow GCI to figure out what to do. I gather he got fed up waiting for a decision after three years. The big game plan, I once heard, involved folding both the Leaf-Chronicle and the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal into the Tennessean, despite the distances involved. Think that plan still alive, maybe part of the move towards creating statewide newspapers in Arizona, New Jersey and Tennessee. Stay tuned.”
  • “Putting middle Tennessee together a long-time GCI dream. Dickson, Gallatin, Henderson, Fairview and Ashland already under the Tennessean, so it would only be a small step to bring in Clarksville and Murfreesboro. The problem is that the Tennessean‘s presses are already contracted out to other publications, including Nashville Scene, City Paper, and the Nashville Business Journal. Cramming the other publications would be very difficult, but would save a huge amount of money. Since Gannett is looking for cost savings, I’ll bet they will go ahead with this plan and work out the difficulties afterwards.”

Gannett’s Tennessee papers

  • Leaf-Chronicle, Clarksville: 21,253 daily, 24,551 Sunday
  • The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro: 14,635 daily, 18,159 Sunday
  • The Jackson Sun, Jackson: 31,596 daily, 36,915 Sunday
  • Tennessean, Nashville: 162,911 daily, 224,318 Sunday

[Image: a recent screenshot from the Leaf-Chronicle‘s homepage; circulation data, 2007 Annual Report to shareholders]

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29 Responses to “Tenn. pub’s retirement spurs consolidation chatter”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Gannett newspapers in Ohio have had publishers with multiple papers for years. Papers there have had top editors with multiple papers for years. Papers have there long ago consolidated printing operations into a few locations.

    None of this is new strategy. The fact it’s happening now with some of the larger papers in the company is no surprise. If we can keep a few more reporters and photographers on the streets, I’d take that any day over more editors and publishers sitting in corner offices.

  2. Tennessean Mushroom Says:

    “Putting middle Tennessee together a long-time GCI dream. Dickson, Gallatin, Henderson, Fairview and Ashland already under the Tennessean, so it would only be a small step to bring in Clarksville and Murfreesboro. The problem is that the Tennessean’s presses are already contracted out to other publications, including Nashville Scene, City Paper, and the Nashville Business Journal. Cramming the other publications would be very difficult, but would save a huge amount of money. Since Gannett is looking for cost savings, I’ll bet they will go ahead with this plan and work out the difficulties afterwards.”

    This has already been tried. In addition to the rags listed above, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal is also printed at 1100 Broadway. Gannett tried move all of the DNJ operation (circa 2006) to Nashville in anticipation of closing the DNJ and having The TN be the only rag, but the folks that read the DNJ in Rutherford Co kicked up an almighty fuss — even threatening to start their own rag with gobs of community support — and Gannett backed off. Do the folks in Clarksville have the same devotion to the CLC?

    Currently, Gannett delivers the DNJ, TN, and USAT in Rutherford.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Publishers with multiple papers nearby makes economic sense, and saves money since these execs earn really comfortable six figure salaries. Also cuts down on expenses of memberships in the local country clubs, Chamber of Commerce dues.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    7:33: This is a much different environment than 2006, as GCI desparate for real cost-savings, and economy/Internet makes it difficult for any newspaper competition to start up. If Rutherford feels that strongly, they could start a Web site and try that way, but I don’t see an uproar stopping the consolidation this time.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting comment about Gannett’s Ohio operations. Funny thing is that a great deal of that work occured before Gannett acquired those newspaper clusters.

    Gannett is too slow to act on so many levels that its no wonder that its in the mess that its in.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    The Poughkeepsie Journal and The Rockland Journal News in New York got rid of their Managing Editors, could they be merging with The Westchester paper?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Wisconsin has had a couple of general managers running papers. If you’re not a publisher/president, that saves some perks only publishers get.

    Still do the same job, still have to show up for the rubber chicken Rotary dinners. Just get paid less. Most of the GM’s moved into publisher jobs somewhere, eventually.

    Makes sense for the smaller markets that share print facilities, news/copy desks or ad designers. Who needs a publisher for a glorified bureau?

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Re: Ohio and Wisconsin – Thomson did all the heavy lifting in creating those clusters. When Gannett bought us, they refused to see where clustering made sense and started dismantling cross market sales tools and dropping additional ad directors all over the place.

    Two years later, directors turned into managers and we could sell across the state again. Smooth moooove, Einsteins. Even cows know herding works.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Uh, excuse me, 7:32, but those publications you refer to as “rags” (Dickson, Gallatin, Hendersonville, Fairview and Ashland City) are small-town papers that serve their communities very well. Much better, in fact, than The Tennessean currently does.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I’m shocked by the circulation figures for The Tennessean. I’m from a Gannett paper in a slightly smaller city and our circulation is considerably higher. Tennessean’s not doing something right.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Cue the banjo music. A lot of readership is content independent – if you’re used to reading a paper growing up, you subscribe.

    Down in the south, the only reason you need the paper is to see which cousin married which sister.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for advancing the topic.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, the circulation keeps tanking at The Tennessean. The situation keeps getting worse with Ellen Leifeld at the helm. If Gannett wants to speed up the decline of the smaller middle Tennessee dailies, put Leifeld in charge. And as much as some of the haters don’t like Leslie Giallombardo, she did a much better job of selling papers and ads. That’s a fact.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    So, are they having a retirement party for Washer or are they just letting him empty his office and leave without one so that they can save the expense of the cake and soft drinks?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    60 days on, still no pub in Tucson….

  16. Jim Hopkins Says:

    The comment I just removed said someone had been “fired.” That’s too strong a word for comments on this blog.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    My soures say they will replace Gene Washer in Clarksville with a new pub next week. Maybe it will be Craig Hatcher, Montgomery AD. He was AD in Clarksville from 2001-2003.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Tennessean Mushroom: you obviously don’t know what you are talking about. First it’s Hendersonville not Henderson. And in 2006 there was no plan to cease publication of the dnj or was there a public outcry of any sort. All a bunch of bull. I guess you think it sounds good. But you are dead wrong. The dnj continues to be Rutherford County’s newspaper and they have one of Gannett’s brightest editors at the helm.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    I heard that Elvis might be the next publisher in Clarksville. No, wait, I think Brad and Angelina are buying a house there so maybe it’s one of them…

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Let’s not forget Gene Washer gave a significant portion of his life to the Clarksville community. He’s a class act and will be missed. You can talk about the negatives and tabloid gossip later. Give the man his props. Thanks Gene!

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Goody then Leifeld can rule over everyone. Has anyone ever worked worked for that little monster. I remember when we were told that no christmas decoration were to be put up until thanksgiving had passed despite it was our town tradition to hold the festival of lights celebration before thanksgiving with a big kickoff but oops our window lights had to go.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    And as much as some of the haters don’t like Leslie Giallombardo, she did a much better job of selling papers and ads. That’s a fact.

    Guess if there are so MANY haters out there they all can’t be wrong.

    Well, looking at the numbers of declining revenue in advertising I am speechless of why she doesn’t do a better job in McLean. What’s up? Lost the Midas touch???

  23. Tennessean Mushroom Says:

    Anon@8/30/2008 8:04 AM:
    RE: Sumner CO towns: Ever seen quote marks before? I was quoting another commenter. Got that clue?

    RE: DNJ: The plans in 2006 were to shut it down and replace it with the TN inside a localized wrap. Like it or lump it, I was there. That’s another clue for you.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Leslie Giallombardo also knew how to treat people with courtesy and respect. She didn’t scream and threaten and intimidate and treat people like dirt and act like a little dictator. There’s something to be said about creating a positive work culture, and there sure isn’t one at The Tennessean anymore.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    tennessean mushroom, you are full of it. I was there too. There was no plan to shut down the DNJ.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    12:59 pm: What makes you say that?

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous said…
    Leslie Giallombardo also knew how to treat people with courtesy and respect. She didn’t scream and threaten and intimidate and treat people like dirt and act like a little dictator. There’s something to be said about creating a positive work culture, and there sure isn’t one at The Tennessean anymore.

    8/31/2008 12:59 PM

    She, creating a positive work culture???

    You’ve got to be kidding, right???!!! Ever seen her in action at headquarters? My foot!

    I truly believe that when she left Nashville people where celebrating her departure.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Actually, no, people in Nashville were not celebrating her departure. I don’t know about her work at corporate, but I do know about it in Nashville, and many of us wish we could return to those times.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous said…
    Actually, no, people in Nashville were not celebrating her departure. I don’t know about her work at corporate, but I do know about it in Nashville, and many of us wish we could return to those times.

    9/02/2008 11:47 AM

    Please, please, take her back! Haven’t seen anything earth-shaking she created. Look at the advertising numbers and then come back and tell me where she lifted advertisement out of the red numbers? Sorry, but if you’re all that, shouldn’t you be able to do all that.

    Ahhh, I forgot, being elevated by Sue Clark-Johnson got you into the door, but not through your own achievement. This was buddy hiring a buddy and nothing else. If it even would show positive results (and it does not – declining revenue results since she came on board are the proof) I would be the first one impressed. And that’s the job she’s hired to do – nothing else or less.

    Clearly her responsibility is to supply all our units with sound advice – so far they only received TIDE training. Wow! I am impressed, but surely it is a long way to go. Now, facing reality: online advertising is truly favorable over print advertising and ten times cheaper.

    For my part we’re riding a dead horse on this one. There’s another paycheck that needs to be eliminated because online advertising is the future and is already dominant. What you want to tell an advertiser that has the choice to run his ads online ten times cheaper and is more result-driven?

    BTW: Didn’t we eliminate the call centers and create centralized call centers because call centers were outdated? Well, news flash: print advertising goes the same way.

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