Cincy’s No. 2 editor named top Asbury Park editor

Hollis Towns had been executive editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer since May 2004, where he directed the newspaper’s print and digital coverage for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, Asbury Park Press Publisher Tom Donovan said in a just-issued memo at the New Jersey daily.

In Cincinnati, I’m told, Towns’ job will be eliminated, and his duties distributed among other managers.

Asbury’s top newsroom job had been vacant since Skip Hidlay was named publisher four months ago of two sister papers in the troubled New Jersey group: the Home News Tribune and the Courier News.

Cincy staffers: What can you tell Asbury Park about Towns? 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.

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

71 Responses to “Cincy’s No. 2 editor named top Asbury Park editor”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Cincinnati just had a gigantic, area-wide windstorm on Sunday, and the Mighty Enquirer Website utterly dropped the ball. So good luck, Asbury Park. He was stright out of the Marcie Ersoff School of Journalism.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Marcie Ersoff??

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Repeating my sentiments: wow, APP passed over the guy doing all the grunt work as acting EE, handling buyouts and layoffs and general discontent, to give top slot to the cincy guy. Nice. Way to reward someone.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    The fact that they didn’t give it to him to begin with said it all. I feel for him. He was stuck holding the bag and it was full of the stinkiest manure going. He didn’t deserve that treatment.

  5. Dutch619m Says:

    They are rewarding the scabs from the Detroit strike pretty well. You just have to sell your soul.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Wow, what a giant “fuck you” to Gary Schoening at the APP.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Have fun APP, you have no idea what a shitstorm you’re in for. Good riddance from Cincy.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I once worked for Gary, and while he scared the hell out of me, I had the utmost respect for him. What a shame … dude has more guts than all of the top execs at GCI combined (which is to say he actually has some).

    Typical Gannett … don’t reward one of the few guys who gets it.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    2:24, can it possibly be any worse than the Reign of Terror of Skip?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    2:27, amen to that. Gary didn’t deserve this.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    2:24, I’m really curious about the “shitstorm” you had mentioned. Details?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Shouldn’t surprise anybody that Gary got the shaft. He wasn’t a Gannett-bred, just a mere leftover from the family-owned days. And if Cincy can eliminate the top job, why couldn’t APP take out a layer and let Gary continue to do the tough job in that newsroom. Hell of a worker, gets along with all yet knows that he has a job to do. Decent guy, terrible treatment. Sad, just frickin sad … they just don’t get it …

  13. Anonymous Says:

    The real irony is that Gary is the consummate team player (plus he knows both the newsroom AND the production side)…and this is the thanks he gets from corporate!

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Shitstorm: Translated for the unwashed…a fellow who allows his arse to do his thinking and talking, destroys anyone who gets in his way and thinks a whole lot more of himself than almost anyone else on the planet. Asbury Park will be stunned by the clusterfuck that is coming their way.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Gee, sounds a lot like Bob Collins…isn’t once enuf for the ol’ APP? Wait, it’s NEVER enough!!

  16. Anonymous Says:

    He never got that “sometimes I could be an ass” thing worked out.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Gary, here’s my advice … head for Hawaii … now … you’ve been a trouper for too long …

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Just to fill people in on Marcie Ersoff (I was there then but NOT under Towns so I’M not making the comparison) — this could be an apocryphal story but it’s telling — she was one of a group of ME’s asked to provide a proud example of courageous journalism. Her example was the decision to put the “Ollie North: Good Guy or Bad Guy?” reader poll above the fold.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    A day in the life with Hollis:

    FROM: Hollis Towns
    SENT: Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, 9:46 a.m.
    TO: CIN-Editors
    SUBJECT: Ass-ignment files

    Our planning process has fallen woefully short. Please bring a copy of your updated ass-ignment files to the Planning Meeting today. Unless we get substantially better planning in time for the meeting, I will dole out dozens of enterprise ass-ignments, with strict due dates. There will be no exceptions or passes, even if the reporter is ass-igned to a project (last sentence underlined)


    Attendance at today’s meeting is mandatory, unless you have seen me for a pass.

    We must be able to handle breaking news and keep our enterprise basket full at all times. Right now it is empty! Sundays should be planned well into next year, and they are not. Each one of you will be called upon to discuss your stories and to briefly talk about your planning process. I’d also like dates and times of your last three team meetings given to me before today’s session.

    Plan on a longer than usual session. Clear your schedule.



  20. Anonymous Says:

    Wow. That’s a GCI hero if there ever was one. More drama = more upward mobility.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Gary is a good guy, but I have to say I think he’s overly sympathetic to reporters and their metro editors. If Towns is the ball buster some here say, it’ll be a big shock in the current APP culture, where the cart (reporters) drives the horses (editors). It’s a wonder to me to see some of the shitty one-source stories with factual errors some APP reporters and metro editors produce. Nudging from an “ass,” which Gary is not, might not be entirely bad.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Anyone know where Hollis grew up? Does anyone (dare) call him Holly? Age? I notice his 3 kids are young.

    Skip is energetic and inspired by news, real news, albeit bringing a biased perspective in some case. This new guy sounds like an anti-Skip. I hope I read that wrong.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Would like further definition of Hollis being an “ass.” Does that translate into micro-manager? We had an EE like that, back before Skip, and things didn’t work out so well for him. There are some in the Jersey crew that don’t mind speaking their mind and won’t be talked down to or bullied – if that’s what Hollis tends to do.

    Cincy folk, can you explain a little bit more what the APP might expect with Hollis?

  24. Anonymous Says:

    In the brief time I was in Cincinnati, and it was around the time Towns was hired, he never immersed himself into knowing the city (he even lived in the way-up north suburbs) and didn’t embrace online. In fact quite the opposite. He thought people wanted to see PDF pages of the paper online, so that had to be developed at a waste of people’s time. I always heard grumbling about Towns from reporters, editors, etc. I’d say it’s addition by subtraction for the Enquirer, but then again, how much worse can it be there?

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Neptune Newsroom was hoping Gary got the job. This stinks.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    Gary deserves the job and him not getting it is just another in a series of big blows for this newsroom. If it was possible to sink the morale even lower, this does it. Gary works hard and knows what he’s doing. This goes to show none of that matters in Gannett.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    8:42, do you call writing negative stories about the school system Skip’s kids attended because he and his wife didn’t like the curriculum “real” news? Or how about the thousands of dollars spent flying reporters and photographers to Disney every year for the Pop Warner Championships and then printing full pages of Pop Warner cheerleading? Is that your idea of “real” news? Do you call screaming at reporters and editors who crossed him, and telling the women that he gave them a pass on being mad because of their hormones a good thing?

    Gary Schoening treated everyone with respect. Even when he was dressing you down for something, he never, ever belittled you as a human being.

    Gary, if you’re reading this, I hope you get out of this hellhole. You deserve so much better than this.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    9:51 has it right. He seemed to be the obvious candidate for the job. He knows the community and has the respect of the staff.

    Goes to show where hard work and decency will get you in Gannett.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    What’s interesting is that Tom Donovan had previously given the impression they’d be holding off on finding a new EE for a while. Anyone notice that what Donovan says and what actually happens increasingly seem to be two different things?

  30. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve known Schoening for almost the entire time (20+ years) that I’ve been at the APP. Standup guy, which is probably why he didn’t get the job.
    It seems that Gannett upper mgmt operates like some kind of mafia crew, with “made” individuals continually promoted despite their lack of actual talent or accomplishment.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Towns is not Gannett-born-and-bred, but could have been, judging from his management style.

    Came to Cinti from Kankakee, IL, and it was obvious from day one the was under water. His main tactic for dealing with all the things he did not understand was to yell and pound the table. He backed off the shouting after a while, but never showed major growth in grasping the many moving parts of a metro daily.

    APP, brace yourself for lots of heavy-handed imperatives. He won’t learn your names, he will not know what you do, but will demand unquestioning obedience to his orders. And if you push back, you will pay.

    Of course, I could be wrong. He may have decided to adopt a whole new way of governing. For your sakes, I hope so.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    Boy, is this the same Gary Schoening that stuck us with his illiterate fishing buddy?

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Let’s remember that it’s far too early to say just what Towns is going to be like. It’s possible that he may well be just what APP needs. Or, it could be the nightmare scenario others here have postulated. We just don’t know. But there is some dead wood in the newsroom management ranks and it could use thinning out. (Are you reading this, Hollis?)

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Towns actually came to the Enquirer from Kalamazoo, a Newhouse paper. His management style was stunning given the usual protocol of Newhouse culture.

    He quickly established himself in Cincinnati as a bully, and his condescension toward women and racial remarks (he told a sports writer he shouldn’t be covering the Bengals because only a black reporter should be covering pro sports) got him into serious hot water.

    He was forever decrying the fact that the newsroom had no respect for him. He was not of the professional character to appreciate that respect and loyalty are earned.

    The infamous “I knew I could be an ass” episode came only after the Enquirer sent him to a sensitivity training session, mostly to keep the company from being sued by an extremely angry bunch of employees.

    Word got around the newsroom that somebody blew the whistle on him in a scathing letter that threatened the company with everything from legal action to the formation of a union in the newsroom.

    In my opinion, he remains a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Good luck Asbury Park. You’re gonna need it.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Gary is one true blue newspaperman. All the years I worked with him I believed he was everything I admired from those movies about loving the news business. I’m sorry Gary you did not get this one. I don’t know if this will mean you will choose to spend a couple more weeks on your boat with your beautiful wife but you deserve it. Good luck in the future there I wish you all the best. You always treated me with respect and humor.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    You think you’ve seen bad up there, but get back with us in a few months. Towns is the worst manager I’ve ever worked for, and that’s saying a lot after 20+ years in Gannett.

    He’s a pig-headed bully who will make your life miserable, just because he can. He’ll surround himself with middle managers who will have to kiss his ass and agree with him, or they’d better be prepared to pay the price.

    Several smart, upwardly bound managers in Cincy kicked to the curb on his watch, so if you have a good idea and it’s contrary to his world view, start packing now or make peace with the fact that you’ve been neutered.

    To top it off, he’s a computer illiterate who could barely log into the CCI system. He preferred to have editors read the ledes to him and explain the significance.

    However, if you are a big fan of extra long, extra windy and completely unnecessary meetings, he’s your man!

    There was not a tear shed in the Cincy newsroom yesterday. Moral has been bad, but there was a smile on every face.

    Good riddance.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    I hope it works out for him. To me, judging him before you meet him just might be similar to your boss doing your performance appraisal 18 months in advance—then finding ways over that time span to make sure he/she judged correctly!

  38. Anonymous Says:

    Regarding 9/16 1:23 p.m. comment about Enquirer dropping the ball Sunday. That’s just not true and doesn’t deserve further comment.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry 11:46, but the Enquirer has presented Cincinnati’s white death events (snow storms to those who don’t know the local vernacular) with much more vigor on the web than the work you are obviously trying to defend would imply.

  40. Anonymous Says:

    9:16 8:36 p.m. is instructive. To me it, I mean the attitude behind it, explains why Gannett is “well-managed” in a theoretical way, an impressive, enthusiastic bureacracy, but has so much trouble producing anything you’d want to read in a newspaper outside USA Today. All management, all theory, no execution. Any outfit that thinks management understand journalism is just so wrong-headed, and it shows in the product.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    2:06 and 5:02, can you throw us some clues on the illiterate fishing buddy and the dead wood? I don’t remember the former, if I ever knew, and I would like to be forewarned about the latter.

  42. Anonymous Says:

    Does Towns demonstrate his political persuasions, and if so, what are they?

  43. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, let me guess…

  44. Anonymous Says:

    APP, just wait until you have to listen to Towns’s fake laugh day in and day out. Ugh.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    The dead wood … let’s just say that some of the department head “managers” tend to manage by delegation. Everything gets dumped onto assistants, they do nothing themselves, no matter how tight the staffing gets. This is not good in any area, but when it affects, say, local news, that is a problem. But that’s not the only area. It’s not just a “print” issue.

    And we have heard the Hollis laugh already. Reminds me of the guy from the old 7-Up commercials.

  46. Anonymous Says:

    7:16 p.m., the guy is neither illiterate nor a fishing buddy. He’s a former marketing guy who was thrust into the fishing editor’s position when his own department was downsized. You can blame management for that, but you can’t blame him. Of course, some in the sports department made him as welcome as a case of the clap. And these are the same sacks who were recently “too busy” to tell the photo editor that a game had been postponed because of rain, leaving a photographer standing outside in the middle of a downpour. Nice teamwork, fellas.

    And 9/16 10:30 p.m. is talking about an assistant metro editor who got laid off. The criticism is way off base. That editor cared about the paper like few others. In fact, the day before she was laid off, she passed a fire on her way home after a night shift. She called in an online update and then stayed, calling in at least two more updates before heading home sometime after midnight. And the weekend shift thing? The Sunday before she was laid off, she worked. Then she got laid off. Some special treatment for a “pet,” eh?

    Honestly, Jim, some of your posters would bitch about the sun for rising. I’m beginning to wonder just how useful these comment sections are considering the misinformation and crap that is being spread on this site about some of the Asbury folks.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    Skip only comes off negatively to those who are lazy and don’t pull their fair share. Unfortunately, a lot of those “dead wood” type people are still employed, while good, hard workers got laid off. So I say to Skip, keep going after those people not getting it done. They deserve it.

  48. Anonymous Says:

    Hollis Towns DOES come off in all the negative ways you’ve described above (sometimes). But he’s a nice man; I really am serious. He has had some Enquirer staff over on occasion and is a splendid cook/entertainer and his family is lovely. Pls remember he is a person, not just an editor. Honestly, this stuff kind of makes me ashamed.

  49. Anonymous Says:

    It is no surprise that an outside candidate got the job. That is what Donovan did with both HR and Finance. Although the internal candidates for those positions were not strong and were too connected to the Bob and Ketan regimen. Gary is another story. What a shame.

    So on another note how come there are 2 head positions in both HR and circ? With all the cuts, come on Donovan let’s be fair.

  50. Anonymous Says:

    11:23, I was one of Skip’s whipping posts. I was far from lazy. I pulled my fair share of the load and then some, working Sunday nights in one area in addition to putting out a section with a paginator, a graphic artist and freelancers. I wrote tons of copy. I shot my own photos and I shot my own videos on multiple occasions because I had a weekly video mandate that the overtaxed photo staff couldn’t always fulfill. And what did I get in return? Nothing but abuse. And that is exactly what it was.

  51. Anonymous Says:

    To be somewhat fair to Hollis, Cincinnati’s publisher, given her wide-spread and well-known abusive style, is a horrible role-model for him, and others.

  52. Anonymous Says:

    To 9:07 a.m.:
    Hollis can be charming, I agree, and his family *is* great. As you say, he’s not just an editor, he’s a person. But the “person” who occupied the office on 19 lacked humanity, and I never saw a twinkle of compassion. He’s like a schoolyard bully; charming if he’s the center of attention, menacing if he’s not getting his way.

    And the bottom line is, 99% of his staff will never interact with him the way you clearly did. The APP folks, like the vast majority of those in Cincy, will never see him in any other setting besides the office, and that is where his brutish behavior comes shining through.

  53. Anonymous Says:

    Towns is destined to be all the more unbearable at the APP because he isn’t going there by his own choosing. Word is that Gannett sent him packing. He already took a pass on the VP-minority development job at HQ and wasn’t terribly interested in the EE job in Fort Myers. Now he’s bumped down to a smaller paper in a state far, far away from his friendly confines of Georgia. Look for Towns to spend much of his time in Jersey looking for a different job. He will spend the rest of his life seeking the one publisher who recognizes him as God’s gift to journalism.

  54. Anonymous Says:

    Gary failed me when it mattered, as did Skip. I welcome Mr. Towns.

  55. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, after reading all this, I have an open mind. I’ve been in this business a lot of years and have observed a lot of newsroom behavior, and the one sure thing is there’s no sure thing.

    A person’s professional qualities are so subjective in our business, and the office politics is even more subjective. The personalities in newsrooms tend to have at least a bit of egotism, if not downright prima donnas.

    It’s a mistake to trust or rely on anyone. Loyalties change with the wind, and grudges and false impressions can linger for decades.

  56. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe we can put this in perspective by considering how bad things are right now at The Star-Ledger in Newark. From what I’ve heard via the grapevine, they’re using buyouts to target people.

    If you have not taken a buyout yet, they apparently call you in and say, “You know, if you stay, your job might not be in the newsroom. How are your accounting skills? How do you feel about becoming an ad salesman?”

    Can you imagine putting out a paper each day under those circumstances? And we think we have it bad here at the APP.

    Those Ledger people have had it so good for such a long time (bigger salaries, annual bonuses, etc.) that you have to feel sorry for the anguish they must be going through.

    On the other hand, after reading Towns’ memo to Cincinnati editors about the lack of planning … if I were in charge of enterprise planning here, I’d be worried.

  57. Anonymous Says:

    I am wondering when there going to bring in new faces and fresh ideas for the other VP and middle managment positions?

  58. Anonymous Says:

    That guy from Marketing has done a good job with Hook, Line & Sinker. It really never looked so good.

  59. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Tom Donovan…Breaking News…This just in…..we wanted Gary. How come he was good enough to do all your dirty work the last couple of weeks??? You’re laying people off and now Gannett will pay the cost to relocate the new guy?? Explain that.

  60. Anonymous Says:

    A marketing guy doing Editorial work,,,how funny is that

  61. Anonymous Says:

    To 9/17/2008 11:14 PM

    Not quite the right timeline. He was in marketing (where I had to deal with him day after frustrating day), but he got shoved into the special sections department during the re-org in September 2007.

    Then he was offered the job in the newsroom and was happy to take it.

    Whoever told you he was “thrust” to the newsroom lied to you. He was invited, interviewed by Gary and welcomed by same.

  62. Anonymous Says:

    9/20/2008 12:46 PM, you’re kidding right?

    Never have their been so many misspellings, grammatical mistakes, partial sentences (my kid in high school even brought them to my attention) and vapid writing in Hook.

    The only saving grace is when John Geiser writes the columns.

  63. Anonymous Says:

    I was one of the people who defended the above person’s move from special sections to newsroom. I at first thought that he had the specialized knowledge about fishing, which he does seem to, and, when I read the sections he edited, he exhibited a knowledge of grammar, story contruction and AP and APP style. Now all I can say is that either those press releases he used to handle must have come in in great shape or he had someone proofing his work down there.

  64. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous said…
    Boy, is this the same Gary Schoening that stuck us with his illiterate fishing buddy?

    9/17/2008 2:06 AM

    You hit that nail on the head, alright. But be careful. The guy has a reputation for throwing coworkers under the bus, in a Munchhausen kind of way, and he has some special relationship to Gary, who seems to believe whatever the guy says.

  65. Anonymous Says:

    Lessons he probably learned from a former Marketing Veep who is now alienating people as a publisher.

    Another last laugh from Bob Collins.

  66. Anonymous Says:

    Be careful about the new guy from Cincy. He is an egotist with entitlement tendencies. And while he puts out blistering memos about deadlines, he rarely if ever meets his own. When he gets called on it he can easily become indignant and arrogant.

    Good luck.

  67. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe the first thing the guy from Cincy will do is smack down the guy from marketing to let the guy from the next office down know who’s boss.

    (I really wonder if Towns is reading this blog to see what he’s up against and plan his arrival.)

  68. Anonymous Says:

    oh please. hollis on a blog? not freakin’ likely. this guy can’t even find a story in CCI or navigate his way off the home page on good luck with that.

    tips to his new eds: suck up, smile big, ask how high to jump. he’s a very simple narcissist to please.

  69. Anonymous Says:

    Gosh, there’s not much more I can add here about Hollis Towns, but I can verify that 9/17 8:18 and 10:32 hit the nail on the head:

    He’s manipulative, he’s computer-illiterate and he’ll surround himself with middle managers that he’ll try to get to do his dirty work for him or bully them as well. Yes, he probably will invite you over to his house and cook a nice meal. Oh yes, and he’ll probably hire some women, young reporters and people of color. Yawn.

    Most bullies are harmless jerks who bully because of their insecurities and shortcomings. I would say that description fits in this case. His political persuasions? That might be a little too deep for him.

    And, yes, unfortunately, he drove some talented upwardly-mobile people who weren’t buying his BS out. They all ended up in much better places, though. I would second the advice given: Just suck up, give him what he wants or stay out of his way.

    He can be a very nice guy but he has some issues.

    Let’s hope he’s learned some lessons in Cinti. I want to believe that he has. Otherwise, he IS a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    I sincerely wish folks at the APP good luck.

  70. Anonymous Says:

    This blog is pathetic. The same jerks who slammed him in Cincy have come on this site with the same lies.

    Here is a test for the last poster: name one “upwardly mobile” staffer who left the paper because of Hollis? And, since the poster said he likes to surround himself with “yes people,” name one editor he hired or reassigned to accomplish this?

    When Hollis got there in 2004, Callinan had already put a team in place in a clusterphuck of a reorganization, promoting the lame Julie Engebrecht to Local News Editor and Chris Graves to run online over the highly regarded James Pilcher, who quit afterwards.

    So, no, Towns was not the problem in Cinti it was Callinan and his jealous cronies who were loyal to him and only him. They turned and stabbed the poor guy in the back every chance they got. And for good measure, they labeled him a bully so they didn’t have to do what he asked.

    Callinan told me once to let him know if Towns asked me to do something i did not agree with. What? He encouraged this among many editors and staffers.

    He treated Towns only slightly better than he did former ME Rosemary Goodreau, whom he despised. He drove her out too.)

    Callinan again let it be known he had no use for an ME.

    So no one was surprised when Hollis left. Callinan immediately announced a reorganization and stripped Hollis’ name out of the newspaper the day he was being introduced in Asbury, even though he was not supposed to start there until Oct. 13. He didn’t even bother to buy the guy a cake and send him out with any amount of respect like he did for others, despite the great work Hollis did at that paper.

    It’s reasons like these that many staffers never had much respect for Callinan. I didn’t. He is an insecure, devious and a sad excuse for an editor.

    The bottomline: People knew that Hollis was Gannett’s guy, not Callinan’s. Callinan was envious of the up-and-coming editor and schemed to ensure Hollis lacked overall staff support. When they complained that Hollis was insisting on something, he often told them not to worry about it and to call him a bully. Word got around fast.

    The sad truth.

  71. Jim Hopkins Says:

    And with that last comment, it’s now time to wind down this thread. Thanks, everyone!

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