How Corporate grades you and your boss

“We judge communication not by comments on the blog, but by the quality of communication between employees and their managers.”

— Gannett chief spokeswoman Tara Connell, speaking to Columbia Journalism Review, in a new story about Gannett Blog.

34 Responses to “How Corporate grades you and your boss”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    What she doesn’t realize is that it’s not the quality…it’s just not there at all. Most employees don’t talk to their managers because they don’t do anything about the problem. They’re forced to confront something that isn’t part of their daily routine and get annoyed/mad/flustered/you name it or they flat out have no idea what to do. Those managers were hired as cogs in the wheel to work without question, have no experience, and don’t have clue 1 about how to function with people.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I had a defining moment that day my manager said stories didn’t have to be good. After that, we had nothing work-related to discuss.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Most of the Managment @ A PaPer can’t even say hello to you when they see you,let alone look you in the face when talking to you..There have been a few that were even sent to classes for manners and how to play the managment part, But of course this hasn’t helped. It’s “you can take the person out of the trash,but you can’t take the trash out of the person” And these people walk around and expect the employees to respect them,but then they don’t respect the employees.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    You can command respect but you can’t demand it. Just doesn’t work that way.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    As a director I respect my people who bring suggested solutions to the problems they uncover. If it’s something we can do, we do it. If it’s a situation we can’t change, we work around it. If we’re stuck with it, we throw up our hands and work through the issue together.

    On the other hand, I do take pleasure in antagonizing those who insist on whining, pointing fingers or insisting that nothing ever changes.

    The way I see it, I have to work with you, I don’t have to like you. But the people who make the team look good, who produce, who are decent to be around – I’ll help their careers. If you’d rather be miserable, I can help with that as well.

    If I do the service of convincing you that coming to work at the paper is not worth it, perhaps you will find something you like more. If not, at least you’re not my problem anymore.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Curious whether others have heard the comment, mentioned in another thread here, that work doesn’t have to be good, just good enough. Is that becoming a corporate mantra, or was that isolated?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Didn’t SCJ come up with Good Enough early in her long (ha!) tenure as President of the Newspaper Division?

  8. Anonymous Says:

    “goog enough” came from Palm Springs when Michelle Krans was in charge. Sue took it from us.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Icouldn’t have said it any better myself!
    Funny how most people on this blog want to bitch about how bad their job is. Wonder the last time they offered up a better way of doing business? Nah that would defeat the purpose. Then what would they have to complain about?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    “Good enough is good enough” came to us early last year with the nformation Centers approach and the corresponding push for the Web site. It was specifically applied to stories, photos, video for the Web.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I used to try and improve on good enough. I was a leftover from some other era…one that cared about the product being produced. I no longer work for Gannett…My good enough manager made sure to get rid of all of the people that held a mirror to their faces and expected quality work.
    I have to wonder though, is this attitude just in Gannett or is Gannett a sample of what is going on in the world? If something breaks we just throw it out. No one expects quality products and manufacturers get away with supplying garbage. This won’t change until we change.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    “Good enough” was also the catch phrase at a Cincinnati off-site strategic planning session several years ago. The year before, the motto was “change or die.” I would be willing to bet both originated at Corporate.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    8:37 Director chastising his/her employees anonymously on a blog. Great communication skills. Real classy.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Did I really just read a comment from someone claiming to be a director who admits he/she takes pleasure in antagonizing people?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    It is human nature as a manager to want people to get on board and be part of the team. If people have legitimate gripes, most will find a way to work through them with their team. That is a skill we all had to learn early on. If the problem is the manager, then the team usually can find a way to deal with that also. I don’t have a problem with people venting on the blog but frankly, it does not solve the problem. Success comes from face to face discussions. The only people who can change your day to day is you and your boss.
    Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes to be around negative people. After awhile, the negativity eats away at everyone.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Indeed you did 12:24. Sounds like a hostile work environment to me.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    8:37, I was a person who busted my ass repeatedly, did what was asked of me and more, and when I went to my boss with a problem, always had a solution that included my contribution to fixing it.

    You know what it got me? A near nervous breakdown, hours in therapy and being treated like I was a leper. My boss didn’t even tell me that a project I had busted my ass on won an award. I found out purely by accident, and when I privately emailed him about it, the response was, “Oh, I forgot, I was waiting on info from xxx person.”

    Your comments, however, prove something I’ve long believed: Some of you in management are just miserable human beings yourselves. Torturing and antagonizing anyone only lowers yourself to their level. It doesn’t fix the problem. And in the long run, you lose the respect of the people who are doing their best because they get the message that they’d better not complain about anything or they’re next.

    I still do good work. I just do it for a boss who actually says “thank you” and “good job” and actually means it. Try it sometime. You might be shocked at the results.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    12:27 PM
    It is NOT human nature to expect people to join a team that sports the “good enough is good enough” motto. It IS human nature for competent people in a failing company to want to try to improve things.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Communication in this company is defined completely by mandates from up on high. Never have I worked or seen newsrooms across an entire company where the employees are not trusted, constantly intimidated, belittled behind their backs and essentially told that they are easily replaceable. Employee suggestions are either scoffed at by managers or co-opted and reshaped to look like managers came up with the idea in an effort of self-preservation. If Gannett defines communication by the “quality of communication between employees and their managers,” then someone needs to wake up the driver quickly and tell him/her that we are headed straight for a tree and we’re all about to get hurt.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    3:30, we’ve hit the tree already. Corporate is the accident victim whose body is destroyed but the mind is still functioning and doesn’t see that the body is dying.

    Saddest part is they’re the ones who killed it.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    “On the other hand, I do take pleasure in antagonizing those who insist on whining, pointing fingers or insisting that nothing ever changes.”

    I must be crazy because I don’t have a problem with this at all. Maybe because I look around the room and see whiners and fingerpointers and wish like heck their managers would stop being their friend, taking smoke breaks and eating lunch with them and start being harder on them. Maybe some of the non-productive ones would move on and we’d get better people.

    I like this part best:

    “But the people who make the team look good, who produce, who are decent to be around – I’ll help their careers.”

    That seems like a fair deal. I’ve worked for people like this – at Gannett and other companies and it was great.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    I want to scream when some folks sum this blog up with the simplistic and disrepectful view that we’re all just a bunch of whiners and gossip peddlers. Doesn’t matter how long we’ve been in the business, how educated we might be, how many kids we’ve raised or accomplishments we have in our professional or personal lives. No, to these people who just want to stick their heads in the sand and not see the 500-lb gorilla in the room, we’re just petty complainers who aren’t interested in finding solutions. Well, I for one have offered many solutions over the years. Written countless proposals and even drawn up visuals to show how things might work better. I did that for the first several years that I worked at USA Today, and not a single substantive idea was welcomed let alone acted upon in my department. I had a fairly decent resume coming in, so I was somewhat astonished that I couldn’t make any progress with my new employer. After working at a series of smaller papers, I was appalled at how badly things ran at USA Today and wanted to help fix things in my my little sphere of assumed influence. But even though I was a manager whose job in part was to identify what was broken and to fix it, my ideas seemed to go right over the heads of editors above me. They didn’t seem to want change or couldn’t see the need to reform much of anything. Admittedly, I gave up and just went about doing my job the best I could under a very broken system. Today, change is being suggested again, by others, but the foundation for the change is crumbling because things were not fixed way back when. The change that is being implemented now is shaky at best. Seeing an opportunity to be a voice again, after years of relative silence, I have tried to help in the process by raising some historical perspectives, that A needs to be fixed before we move to B, and once again I have gone unheard. In fact, I have only been included in the process after decisions are made. I can’t even get an item on an agenda to be discussed at meetings. So, the higher-ups march on, somewhat blindly IMHO, instituting changes that will ultimately fail because they didn’t go back and fix the foundation or work out the details for the future. And once again, history has repeated itself in that my and others’ ideas and value to the company are being ignored. I wonder how many others are experiencing this? I know of a few personally, but I suspect there are many more. Anyhow, it’s back to work and back to doing what I am told because there is no sense in trying to reason with the top dogs right now. That’s not whining or being contrary; that’s just reality for certain people in certain departments. There are plenty of people on this blog who would love to be a help, to be proponents of efficiency and change. But we’re being left out of the process in big and small ways every single day. It’s truly amazing because as a manager, I have always felt that I was being paid, in part, for my ideas and solutions. However, at USA Today, that has not been my experience. At USA Today it seems that if you aren’t part of the inner circle of managers, then just editing copy, making assignments, taking care of schedules and doing reviews is all that is really required. That’s fine because those things fill 40 hours a week, but no one should think that the folks on this blog are only whiners looking to cause trouble. Many of us are fairly bright, responsible and willing to communicate outside this blog. But the willingness to listen has to be there. And for almost two decades, and especially lately, the bosses don’t seem to be in a mindset that would allow them to welcome all constructive points of view. Even when they say their doors are open, I rarely find that to be true in the most genuine sense. USA Today is embarking upon some bold intiatives lately, and in some areas, the lack of attention to details is not only discouraging (we all want more from our leaders…we want to feel they’ve really thought out everything), but frightening for anyone who would like to see the brand do well and for jobs to be maintained. Most of us will continue to do our best, some will look to leave and others will just fade away. It could have been so much better.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    There are bad apples in most companies. From my experience, Gannett/USA TODAY has more than the norm. They aren’t bad in that they yell and scream and sexually or racially harass anyone, but they just aren’t inspirational people. Many manage by the book and seem short-sighted. They tend to not address problems in a way that finds real and lasting solutions. They skim over the details — details that are very important to workers and staff. And they discard comments like this as nonsense. As with a lot of people, I have tried to professionally raise my concerns about a host of issues over the years, and haven’t had much luck in being taken seriously. Not that every one of my concerns needs to be a priority for my boss, but geez, would be nice to feel I had some support once in awhile. Seems this blog is popular for one very important reason: Employees are being heard here, and don’t feel they matter much in the office. It might not do much good to rant in a blog, but at least we have a voice. At least management should see some commonality to the complaints here: the silencing of workers, the ignoring of good ideas, the mistrust the prevents staffers from confiding in their bosses. We all try to pretend that we get along, so maybe the problems in person aren’t as noticeable as they are on here. But even if only 10 percent of what is said on this blog is true, Gannett has a major problem on its hands. Not a good time to have a staff with this many issues.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I wish I could go to my boss. I really do. I have tried. I’ve gotten nowhere. He is polite but the results of our meetings have proven time and time again to be unfruitful. It’s to the point now where I just assume my issues really don’t matter to him or the company, and that I am viewed as somewhat of a worry wart. So now I just shut up, as do most of my colleagues on my team. We know this isn’t healthy for us or the company, but we just don’t want the added headaches (along with the growing workload) of being perceived in the wrong way.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    5:04 PM
    Maybe clamming up and collecting a paycheck is a healthy thing to do in a company that reportedly wants to deliver readers nothing above “good enough is good enough.”

  26. Anonymous Says:

    What I have found is that if you succeed in management for Gannett, your pretty much a “yes” man. No matter what proposals you come up with, for saving money or what not, if it’s not THIER way, it’s no way. We were recently told in a meeting that if we had any complaints or saw any potential problems with the centralization, to keep our mouths shut. Don’t they want to head off problems before they happen????? Or all they all knowing (you know, they do our jobs everyday and know every individuality of every station). So we keep our mouths shut and wait for them to fall flat on their faces. BUT when that happens we were also told not to say “we told you so!”.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Good enough is corporate policy. A little piece of history:

    From: Clark-Johnson, Sue
    Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 7:04 PM
    To: Publishers/Newspaper Operating Unit Heads
    Cc: Dubow, Craig; Williams, Jack; Currie, Phil; Connell, Tara; Dickey, Robert; Junod, Joe; Bergin, Jeff; Ellwood, Susie; Daugherty, David; Ryan, J. Austin; Kment, Mike; Lundquist, Peter; Carroll, Jennifer; Klink, Bruce; Donaghy, Dan

    Subject: Happy New Year

    January 1, 2006

    TO: Publishers
    FR: Sue Clark-Johnson

    Most importantly, I want to wish each of you and your families a very happy and healthy new year.

    Secondly….each month I’ll be sending you all a newsletter of sorts. Some will be shorter than others but the purpose is simple: To keep you abreast of key priorities and developments in the Newspaper Division and company.

    It seems appropriate that this first letter looks at the year ahead.

    From a global perspective, 2006 is a big year in many ways.

    – As an industry we have a lot to prove. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of people assuming newspapers are dead. Is the business changing? Of course it is, but print on paper is a long way from dead. As a case in point, consider this: Of the 56 newspapers we measured last year, 27 have a seven-day reach of 70% or higher, including three over 80%. Of course our success depends on our ability to give our customers the kinds of news and information they want when and how they want it, in print or on other platforms.

    – as a division and as publishers we need to energize our folks with the vision of viability, change, progress and results.

    In the coming year, the newspaper division will be moving along a triple-track:

    1) The first is where we as newspapers are today in a traditional sense. The goal in this track is to improve our newspapers and online sites, to stabilize circulation, to grow aggregated audience and monetize it. The foundation of this track must be the customer not only for viability of the print product but as the foundation of the future. Think about everything you do, every product, service, distribution method: is it customer-driven? This is the track we’d better perfect in ’06. This is the track that depends on our ability to do a better job with local-local news reporting, richer online content (the New Media Spectrum is the guide), and delivering bottom line results.

    2) The second track is the transition track. “Change” is inherent in this track. It is beginning to understand, prepare for and transition to the space where we’re headed (the third track), which will become more clear when the company finalizes the strategic plan. This track positions us more firmly in the digital space and focuses us more aggressively on developing the right content – and learning how to monetize it. It assumes a more strategic and aggressive approach to the development, superb execution of nontraditional revenue sources. It means that operationally we need to look at where we are going, evaluate how we operate today, how we need to change our newspaper structures and processes to adapt to new business models. We operate our business the same way we have for decades; it’s time to assess how best our organizations can meet customers’ information needs and adapt/shift/change our business models, our structure, our resources accordingly. We need to encourage innovative thinking. We need to take some risks.

    3) The third track is the new business model … what we’ll look like eventually.

    From an operational perspective, here’s what I am looking at: All of us at corporate and the folks in the field need to be joined at the hip to accomplish some specific goals this year. This has to be a team effort.

    In ’06, we need to:

    l.aggressively improve our reach across platforms. While aggregated reach is the goal, if we break down the pieces they are:

    – increase traffic/audience
    – improve readership specifically in target audience segments
    – stabilize circulation
    – field and corporate working more closely together on providing advertising and marketing resources and feedback from field and corporate…sharing ideas, programs, best practices

    – get back to the basics of smart selling, reporting.

    We need to change the way we think. That means we all – in the field and at corporate – need to be more proactive in understanding what the challenges ahead are, brainstorm ways to meet them and then communicate them effectively on a timely basis.

    And there needs to be an intense – I mean intense – sense of urgency to change…keeping our customers forefront in our minds. We do a lot f planning – and a lot of “doing” but ask yourselves how often the planning and the execution really has what the customers want as the focal point?

    And to that end, I asked Dave Daugherty, from his unique vantage point of having been in virtually all our markets, what his priorities for ’06 would be if he were publisher.

    In responding, he has put together what I think of as a comprehensive “Primer for ’06” ….the very basic things we must, must do. Now.

    Here’s what he said:

    “The following suggestions come from someone who has never published a newspaper and is not cognizant of the demands, financial limitations and time constraints – particularly the financial constraints – under which publishers operate. My suggestions are based upon what I know our customers care about and what they’ve identified as hurdles to using our products.

    Finally, my suggestions are based on this premise: The larger and more attractive our audience is to advertisers, the more likely it is they’ll use our products and services to communicate their messages to potential customers.

    So, while markets and newspapers vary, and priorities and needs differ, particularly by circulation size, if I were a publisher I’d consider the following:

    1. Am I publishing the “right” newspaper for my community? What can I provide for my marketplace that’s unavailable from any other source? Or, perhaps more precisely, what can the daily newspaper provide for the local community that’s unavailable elsewhere and of importance/interest to the community. What’s our competitive “edge,” what’s our core service? For virtually every daily newspaper the largest part of the answer is local news, local information, and local advertising. Metro newspapers cannot expect higher than 30% – 35% average daily readership without good, zoned, local-local news coverage. For more than a decade we’ve conceded that virtually everything non-local is available, and distributed more quickly, by other media. Should we stop covering non-local topics? Of course not, but it does mean we should redefine how we do it and how much space and how many resources we devote.

    2. I’d conduct a comprehensive content analysis. Establish, objectively, what we’re providing for readers. How much space (total inches and proportion of coverage) is devoted to world news, national news, local news, sports, specific sections, etc? Am I delivering what the community wants, in appropriate quantities? Are local news and local information the highest content priority? If not, why not? Is that “priority” reflected in the content or do we play the, “I know local news is the priority, but today was an exception” game.

    3. As an exercise I’d zero-base the newspaper. Throw everything out, build from scratch, and load the pages beginning with what’s most important to readers. I suspect my end product will be much different and much better than my current product. If we zero-base a general consumption publication – a newspaper – in 2006, will it look as it did in 1955? I assume not. (Sue’s two cents’ worth: this is something every paper should do this week. Then change as appropriate next week.)

    4. I’d determine whether I’ve adopted the right programs – right systems – for my newspaper. Every six months I work with my OC members to assess how we’re doing business, what corporate programs and suggestions best fit my newspaper. Am I maximizing the tools available to me?

    5. Understanding that newspapers aren’t a “breaking news” medium for anything other than local news, and behaving as if we understand that are, apparently, two different things. Every newspaper editor understands we don’t break non-local stories. Yet we cover the front page with stories 24 hours old – or older – with little or no new/additional information. This is our industry’s Achilles heel. I’d simply stop doing it – today. (Sue’s two cents’ worth: Look critically at your Page One for the past week…how many times did you have stories 24 hours old? Ask youself this: do we write for online and update for print or vice versa?)

    6. I’d configure the front page so readers get an accurate, comprehensive snapshot of the previous day – with particular emphasis on the local community. We’ve trained readers to understand that the most important stories, regardless of where they occurred, are on the front page. I don’t think we can retrain them. But we must understand that “most important” to our readers is, more often than not, local. Should I use half the front page to tell readers what’s inside? Maybe. Then I’d stop obsessing about the front page and move on. Once it’s “pretty good,” that’s enough.

    7. Is my weekend entertainment section “excellent?” Is it comprehensive? In addition to inserting it into my Thursday or Friday newspapers, should it also be distributed free, outside the newspaper? As a TMC? Racked and stacked? Should I develop a central calendar so both the weekend entertainment section and the website (and young reader publications, etc.) could draw from it? Of course I should. More and more this content is sought online, our ink on newsprint weekend entertainment sections no longer have the cache they enjoyed in the past.

    8. I’d assess my TMC. What’s its level of usage/readership? Does it contain useful, valuable local content? Is it distributed in a way to maximize the likelihood it will get inside the home? Is it a poorly thought-out compilation of inserts, just thrown on driveways? (Sue’s two cents’ worth: 2005 research confirms that done right, a TMC can be a key component for audience aggregation. This week reassess your TMC. Dave can help you if need be with those properties that do it well – and have a track record for additional reach and value.)

    9. I’d communicate a sense of urgency to my senior managers. We need to begin executing the right decisions, today.

    10. I’d remedy, or attempt to remedy, what readers most dislike – the “stuff” that appears minor to us, but hurts readership:

    · Getting ink on their hands, clothes and furniture (particularly women).
    · Lack of recycling. Or, better stated, “Lack of EASY recycling.”
    · Editorializing on the news pages.
    · “Getting it wrong.”
    · Reporting “old news” as “new news.”
    · Nothing in the paper relating to “my life.

    11. I’d enforce a minimum, daily page count: “No fewer than XX pages.”

    12. I’d identify and establish alternative distribution systems. For starters:

    · I’d investigate streaming a newspaper produced local newscast video to my website – ala Wilmington. If we don’t grab this opportunity someone else will.

    · I’d investigate broadcast opportunities, including partnerships with existing stations and establishing a stand-alone cable channel (we have all the information and news; we just need to get it to market quicker).

    · Don’t throw stuff on the driveway – who could possibly believe that’s convenient or desirable for our customers?

    . (Sue’s two cents’ worth: think about creative, nontraditional partnerships too…with cable companies, radio stations. An example of a unique partnership: Phoenix is in the process of working with a retailer to have an airport store named “azcentral” – the name of The Republic’s web site – and the store will have ample opportunities digitally and in print to disseminate information as part of the newsstand’s them.)

    13. I’d conduct a comprehensive market assessment – through survey research, focus groups and assessment panels, and review all the products and services available – to determine the type of news and information residents want, whether they’re getting it, how they want it delivered, where the news and information voids lie, where we’re duplicating our efforts and where the opportunities lie for new, improved or extended products and services. Then I’d execute their desires.

    . I’d consider establishing a minimum number of newspapers I need to sell each day (or, perhaps more realistically, the minimum number of eyeballs I need to reach with all my products) and work backward from that number to determine what needs to be done to achieve that goal – rather than doing all the “right stuff” and settling for whatever reach I get. Target the goal and build the systems to meet that goal. We’re thinking about this wrong; we need to establish target goals.

    14. I’d redefine the organization’s informal business equation. I’d develop an audience target (newspapers sold/readers/website users/aggregated eyeballs or whatever combination makes the most sense)) and manipulate the left side of the equation (resources/personnel/additional expenses) to achieve my customer target goal. (This model assumes, of course, that more customers results in more ad sales and, as a result, greater revenue.) We provide news, information and ad messages for our communities. If we do that well, if we do that better than our competitors, commensurate revenue will be the outcome.

    15. I’d assess the organizational structure. Does it meet the increasingly complex needs of a 2006 local media organization? Of course not. Our structure is unwieldy. As we add new products and services, as complexity increases, as competition grows, are the current structure and hierarchy appropriate? Do we maintain the correct – the most effective – departments? Are they organized properly? Is there redundancy in the system? Is the reporting structure effective? Some publishers have excess “direct reports” which drain-off time needed to address big picture issues – excessive direct reports turn publishers into managers, rather than leaders. That’s a mistake. Are there, in fact, just six direct reports – content, distribution, advertising, production, HR and finance; or fewer – content, operations and finance? Where does non-daily fit into the organizational structure? We’re a stagnant rather than an organic business, we need to change. We’re long overdue to assess and streamline structure. (Sue’s two cents’…this will be a major initiative in ’06 for the division, but it’s an area everyone needs to be thinking about – and planning to change prior to the beginning of the fourth quarter. I’d appreciate your ideas.)

    16. Single copy sales depend upon “a reason to buy,” every day. With that in mind, we need to determine how we can effectively promote the interesting, intriguing, unique content in tomorrow’s newspaper? What outlets do I use to reach my potential audience with that message? Is in-paper promotion effective? Of course not, it’s cheap and it’s a Band-Aid. Create ongoing, day-to-day “what’s coming up” promotion and promotion placement that reaches the potential audience – every day. (And I do know it’s expensive and not easy.)

    17. I’d measure my newspaper against the following criteria:

    · Does it provide comprehensive local coverage – a “state of the community report” – every day? If not, make it the top – the only – editorial priority.

    · Is there a consistent balance between positive and negative coverage – particularly local coverage? If not, fix it.

    · Are there lots and lots (and lots) of local names and faces – including local kids – in the newspaper every day? If not, fix it.

    · Are my best writers and most creative journalists given the most critical assignments – local news? If not, reallocate staff assignments.

    · Are all the important non-local stories covered? Are they edited as tightly as possible without eliminating the important elements?

    · Does the top half of the front page provide enough information about what’s inside the newspaper to entice potential single copy purchasers?

    · Is my front page “too soft?” If so, change it.
    · Does the sports section cover enough major college and professional sports so it’s unnecessary for sports fans to go to an additional source?

    · Are the Monday, Tuesday and Saturday editions significantly smaller than Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? If so, and they probably are, find a way to increase their page count – or spread the page count throughout the week. The size range from day to day is an issue with readers.

    · Is there zoned neighborhood coverage at least once a week? Twice is better. Three times, even better. More often is, in most cases, unnecessary.

    · Is “places to go and things to do” coverage adequate? Is the weekend entertainment section a “homerun?” If not, make places to go and things to do improvements a priority. (This from Sue: that’s in print and online.)

    · Is the TMC effective for advertisers? Does the content draw readers? Does the distribution method encourage readership?

    · Are graphics, “charticles,” photos, grids, etc. used frequently to present information efficiently?” If not, change how information is presented.

    · Does the newspaper have one great local columnist? If not, trade-off multiple mediocre columnists for one great one. Five mediocre columnists do nothing for readership. One great columnist attracts readers. Pay the necessary salary to attract and keep this columnist. Market tenure is critical to establishing a successful columnist.

    · Are we jumping too many stories? What’s “too many stories?” More than one. How do I get enough stories on page one without jumping? Write shorter stories.

    · Are there enough local photos? Are there enough photographers? Are there enough local people in each photo? It’s much, much more desirable to have four mediocre quality photos with five local people in each photo than to have one spectacular photo.

    · Do I have enough briefs?
    · Is the same stuff in the same place everyday? Can I find the lottery number in the same place everyday? How about the obits? The local sports scores? Are recurring features anchored so it’s easy for readers to find them? If not, start anchoring – don’t make it hard for readers to find what they want. No newspaper is better at this than USA Today.

    · Am I executing an effective destination section strategy for appropriate topics? If not, fix it.
    · Do I change the look of the skyboxes regularly so they don’t get stale? If not, do it.
    · Is the weather summary above the fold? If not, get it there.
    · Are the day and date prominently displayed? If not, fix it.
    · Do front page photos cross the fold? If so, stop doing it.
    · Are the headlines compelling? If not, fix it. Compelling headlines are critical – one of the most important elements of newspaper content (maybe the most important).

    18. Drastically reduce the time between good ideas and their launch.

    19. I’d employ one excellent local sports columnist. I’d want him/her to be controversial, but not a dope. Too many sports columnist think they’re clever, most aren’t. Sports coverage is entertainment; it needs to be treated as entertainment.

    20. I would apply the “sports section formula” and keep it consistent everyday.

    21. I’d consider the assets and liabilities of converting to a tab. At a minimum, I’d determine whether I could reduce the physical size of the broadsheet format. If I could, I would (not for the cost savings, although that’s a benefit, but because readers like it better.)

    22. It’s critical to determine whether our newsrooms understand 21st Century newspapering. They must. If they don’t, let me say we’re way past time to try to convince the unwilling of the error of their ways.

    23. I’d review my ABC circulation reports and get a thorough understanding of my newspaper’s distribution and distribution patterns, including where I’m losing circulation and carefully review third party, employee copies and NIE. Then, I’d graph the pattern of my circulation over the past eight or ten years – backing out employee copies, NIE and third party. It’s a reality check and an instructive exercise.

    24. I’d determine whether the NDM is defined correctly. I’m surprised when OC members don’t know or don’t understand their NDM, intimately.

    25. Does my newspaper sponsor, exclusively, one high profile, unique, important community event each year? If not, I’d establish one.

    26. Is the newspaper recognized as a leading “community citizen?” If not, figure out how to make that happen.

    27. I’d encourage change, innovation and forward thinking and hire and reward those who provide it. I’d demote and/or replace those who don’t.

    28. I’d hire smart young people and promote them before they’re “ready.” We need energy, intellect, innovative thinking and “generational perspective” from young adults. We need to look forward.

    29. If I couldn’t do it any other way, I’d take 10% of my FTEs from the newsroom – or wherever else I could spare them – and assign them to my online efforts. They have to come from somewhere, we have to move forward with online much more quickly.

    30. We need to think about our business, we need to think about our products, we need to think about our distribution, we need to think about our customers. (From Sue: First and foremost we need to think about our customers. Period.)

    31. If I must reduce pages I won’t make wholesale cuts – use a scalpel, not a cleaver. Don’t cut all of anything, cut parts, reduce – e.g., some stocks, some TV listings, some national/international. Keep in mind, every component of the newspaper has its audience. Think of everything as a small hook that we have in some of our readers – everything is of value to someone. Make reductions carefully and with forethought.

    32. Innovate, innovate, and innovate. Try something new; if not everyday, every week.

    33. I wouldn’t be afraid to fail.

    34. When creating a newspaper, logic dictates that we design it based on customer needs. But, it’s important to remember, each customer has his or her own set of needs – there’s no universal solution to satisfy everyone. And, while it’s possible to customize products for groups of individuals, that model breaks down quickly since cost and practicality limit the number of options.”

    That’s most of what Dave wrote back in response to my request. I asked him if I could share it with you because he’s dead-on in every bullet point.

    There are several items he lists I want to underscore as we begin the new year:

    -focus on what the customer wants…what kinds of information, where, how and when
    -get rid of what’s not working; do what we need to do.
    -and do it now.

    If we do those things right then we ought to be successful in reaching our audience goals and, subsequently our monetary goals fall into place.

    So there it is, the “primer for ’06.”

    In January we have some groups getting together on a variety of topics that you’ll be hearing about and, we hope, will provide you some ideas and tools to use as we move through the new year, especially in terms of growing aggregated audience, growing circulation, growing online, improving local-local news reports. All of us at corporate pledge closer communication and collaboration. We want to hear your ideas – and we want to share them. There is some very good work being done by many of you. We will find a way to glean more “best practices” from you – and share them with all. Just as you will be assessing and changing what we do and how we do it, so will we. You’ll hear more about that in the next few weeks.

    If you have thoughts, ideas or suggestions, we welcome them. Don’t hesitate to send me a note.

    Thanks for all you very hard work and efforts in the year just ended. I am looking forward to working with you all in the year just beginning.

    Sue C-J

  28. Anonymous Says:

    snoooooore…makes me glad I’m no longer part of Gannett’s managemenet team.
    They love to hear themselves speak.
    It’s all about ego, ego, ego.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    How much did a communication company pay her to communicate in writing like that?

  30. Anonymous Says:

    The thing is, I took it to heart, and while we haven’t gone gangbusters here we have done pretty well, all things considered. I love the way people trash people like Sue.

    I can’t wait for Obama to get into office. I will bet 100-1 he will start getting trashed no later than two months into office.

    When you are in a position of power, any power, you are trashed. Some of Gannett’s managers on this site, wonderful managers, have been repeatedly trashed.

    Policies, that work so well and work so well in other companies, are trashed. I guess it’s the way human beings act. Trash the king, whoever he or she is.

    Where I live there is a Congressman. Been in the office for years. Done wonders for the community. Won awards, brought money to the area, helps people in need. Today he was trashed on the radio for something so trivial I can’t believe it’s in there.

    I suspect that’s what this blog is. A place to trash someone. I know, Jim, you will point to this or that which was nice about someone, but the fact is that this morning I looked at more than 600 posts, and more than 500 trashed something or someone. A few were middle of the road posts, and just five had anything decent about someone or something in it.

    I guess it is true, if not bad news it’s no news at all.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    7:55 AM
    Wonder if you could assess the effectiveness of that January 1, 2006 memo.
    Is it specific? Is is clear? Any errors? Parsimonious?

  32. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous said…
    Did I really just read a comment from someone claiming to be a director who admits he/she takes pleasure in antagonizing people?

    9/06/2008 12:24 PM

    Yes, you did! Now, isn’t this just the personification of a narcistic little a$$hole???

    Further someone’s career – you’ve got to be kidding me. If you have a complainer I am sure there is a way to get rid of this person. I have more respect for a supervisor to outright fire the whiner, but to let them stay on and just mistreating them doesn’t seem such smart idea in my eyes. But then, there are some people who are deep-down sadistic and enjoying other people’s misery. I’ll guess he/she thinks its entitlement.

    What a moron!

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Cheaper to have them quit than fire them – less hassle with having to find “cause”, don’t have to pay unemployment…

    C’mon, really. I’m sure the ‘director’ wasn’t talking about crapping in the crabass’s cubicle. Just giving the garbage assignments covering school board meetings or whatever. The kind of thing that lets someone know they aren’t loved, and should move on.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    I just read that whole memo and man, it’s a blueprint exactly of what wasn’t done at the APP, particularly in sports. They killed off coverage of the Nets and Devils. They killed off sponsorship of an all-star football game for graduated high school seniors that was one of the highlights of the summer for thousands of people at the Jersey Shore for nearly 30 years. And they continually slashed the sports section page counts and pushed up press starts to the point that there was little of value to the readers. When readers complained — loudly — management yelled at sports for not doing things instead of looking at the fact that they were the ones who were killing the product.

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