Archive for the ‘Asbury Park’ Category

Tally hits 863 as Gannett’s mass layoff spreads; Second big wave to slam papers on Wednesday; Thousands more employees are still vulnerable

December 3, 2008

Gannett launched what is likely the biggest mass layoff in newspaper industry history yesterday, slashing 863 jobs by early this afternoon, in an increasingly desperate bid to return the troubled 102-year-old publisher to prosperity. The final tally could run into the thousands.

Many more layoffs are expected today and tomorrow across the 85-daily community newspaper division, plus USA Today and the Detroit Free Press.

As of 1:51 p.m. ET today, only 24 papers had been accounted for, based on published accounts and Gannett Blog reader reports. Some of the biggest worksites have not announced their plans, including The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and The Des Moines Register, both with about 1,000. Corporate has said the cuts will number “significantly less” than 3,000.

Yesterday, in one of the first of scores of memos expected in coming days, Publisher Curtis Riddle of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., told employees that the paper is cutting 44 jobs — about 7% of all. The reductions include 31 forced layoffs, his memo says.

Publishers started notifying employees early Tuesday. In Nashville, The Tennessean started its layoffs a day earlier than expected, Anonymous@1:21 p.m. said: “So far in the newsroom today, we’ve lost two managers and a copy editor.”

At the Asbury Park Press in Gannett’s especially troubled New Jersey group, Anonymous@12:41 p.m. wrote: “Art department was decimated at the APP. So far the count is 11 in the newsroom.” In Florida, Anonymous@11:10 a.m. said: “The Tallahassee Democrat is handing out walking papers as we speak. Merry Christmas.”

Third round of layoffs
Corporate announced plans for the layoff Oct. 28 — five weeks before they would take effect. Anxiety grew, sending employees hunting for advance word; by late last night, Gannett Blog had recorded about 20,000 visits and 65,000 page views for the day — more than four times normal. Readers also posted more than 750 comments.

“Good luck to all of you,” wrote Anonymous@12:20 p.m. “For those laid off, I hope you find something new — and better — quickly. For those who remain, keep your heads up and your eyes open for other opportunities.”

The job cuts come as papers nationwide complied with Corporate’s demand that they reduce employment by an average 10% in the 30,000-worker newspaper division. The retrenchment follows the loss of 1,100 newspaper jobs in September and August, and the company’s continued earnings erosion.

Under growing pressure, CEO Craig Dubow (left) and other top brass face Wall Street media stock analysts next week during a three-day conference that starts Monday. Yesterday, Gannett’s stock closed at $8.68 a share, up 6%. Still, shares have plunged 76% in the past year vs. a 43% decline in the widely watched S&P-500 Index.

The job reductions are being made through layoffs, attrition and other means. Many papers will notify employees over the next week. Severance benefits are a minimum of two weeks, and a maximum of 26, plus health insurance as long as severance benefits are in effect.

Earlier: Rochester, N.Y., memo is an example of how publishers are breaking the bad news.

We’re tallying layoffs and other job cuts, paper-by-paper. Please post your figures on our list, or in the comments section, below. Also please post any publisher’s memos, plus links to your paper’s stories about the cuts. You may also e-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

[Images: today’s front pages, Newseum]

Asbury Park: Selling trucks via paper’s competition

October 20, 2008

Free online classifieds publisher Craigslist has decimated newspapers by siphoning away millions of dollars in lucrative advertising — costing untold jobs across Gannett. Among them: 120 truck drivers at the Asbury Park Press. Their jobs have been handed off to independent contractors, and the paper is now selling the trucks. One way Asbury Park is advertising its fleet: Why, Craigslist, of course!

Does Craigslist have a website in your community? What’s the impact been on your paper or TV station? 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.

Earlier: Why shifts in classified advertising threaten your job

[Photo: A Freightliner MT45 like Asbury Park’s, Automotive Best Buys]

Chatter: A Currie & Co. sighting at Asbury Park

October 4, 2008

On your minds in yesterday’s Real Time Comments: Corporate suits are in the house, and shares are in the tank.

Much chatted-about incoming top Editor Hollis Towns was reported on site at the Asbury Park Press earlier in the day, greeting a News Department delegation led by Phil Currie. “All metro editors in some big planning meeting that lasted for hours,” Anonymous@8:22 a.m. said. “Currie and Kate Marymount also on site, apparently to pick some brains. Any first impressions of Hollis?”

Plus: Would there be a blowback if anyone noted Gannett’s shares dived 6.8% at the close? “Shhhhh,” wrote Anonymous@4:31 p.m. “No one mention that the stock closed at $15.18 today because that one idiot always complains that we mention it when it does bad but we don’t mention it on the days it does good. So please, no one talk about it because I do not want to hear him crying.”

Join the debate, in the original post. Or, launch a new topic in today’s Real Time Comments.

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

September 16, 2008

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]

Reports: Asbury Park Press laying off 120 drivers

August 25, 2008

Multiple tips from readers while I was at the beach, including this one: “At a 5:00 a.m. meeting this morning, the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J., gives all of its route drivers four weeks’ notice that they are being fired. It’s about 60 full-timers and 60 part-timers. We will get one week’s severance pay for each year of service, plus a four-week bonus. We just have to stay until Sept. 28 to get the severance. If we get fired or quit, we get nothing.”

The spouse of one driver writes: “The routes are going to be subcontracted out to individuals who are willing to work seven days a week, collect the payments from stores, earn no vacation, holiday, or sick time, and no health benefits. The drivers have been offered these routes before they are advertised to the public later this week. Who in their right mind would take it? You have to pay for the upkeep of the vehicle (provided by APP); you have to go out yourself to collect the payments from the stores, and still have to work at night to get the paper out to the stores — all this just to stay in a dying industry.”

Are any other Gannett businesses laying off drivers? 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.

Earlier: Donovan confirms layoffs, cites ‘adverse’ conditions

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

Monday Recap: Special Unsinkable Dubow Edition!

August 25, 2008

[The band plays on: Shares have plunged since Dubow became CEO]

With so many new readers, here’s a chronology showing all the fun we’ve had since Craig Dubow became CEO three years ago.

2005
May 25: Waking briefly from a deep slumber, the board of directors discovers the Internets, and concludes that Gannett is going to hell in a hand basket. Reportedly turned down by its first two outside candidates, the board settles on No. 3: Dubow (left), head of the TV division. Gannett stock closes: $75.31 a share.

2006
Nov. 2: Dubow reveals a major part of his strategic plan to save the company: Reorganize GCI’s newspaper newsrooms around the newly created Information Center model. “This looks an awful lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” writes a certain blogger, who’s privately tracking Gannett. Stock closes: $58.25.

Dec. 29: In one of the first labor-management skirmishes over the Information Center idea, top executives at The Indianapolis Star (left) back down over demands that newsroom employees write advertorials.

2007
March 16: Shares tumble more than 4%, to $55.76, as GCI warns profits will sink. A Morgan Stanley stock analyst says: “Revenues look to be far from reaching some sort of a trough, and until we see some indication of stabilization, we would steer clear from owning the shares.”

July 24: The board approves a 29% hike in the quarterly dividend, the single-biggest increase since 1995. Summering in the Hamptons, Wall Street is unimpressed. Meanwhile, the bubbling U.S. mortgage crisis grows worse and — unknown to most employees — begins to emerge as the biggest threat to Gannett’s future.

Aug. 10: Dubow denies a Wall Street Journal report that says top management is preparing GCI for a sale. Stock closes: $47.37.

Sept. 11: In an alarming memo, Dubow warns that progress is coming too slowly, and hints at a big downsizing: “This is the hard part. This is where transformation gets really difficult. I want to begin talking with you more about this process and what it means. I can’t take away all the pain and doubt, but I can help lead you through it.” Also, Gannett Blog emerges from stealth mode, appearing in public for the first time.

Oct. 24: Former NBC News president Neal Shapiro named to the board of directors.

Nov. 8: Private investment company Brandes Investment Partners doubles its GCI ownership, for the first time claiming an 11% stake. Gannett Blog traffic surges. Stock closes: $40.44.

Dec. 7: In a dramatic downsizing, USA Today buys out 43 newsroom employees, nearly 9% of all — losing some of the No. 1 circulation newspaper’s high-profile staffers. (Those outmoded digital dinosaurs included a guy with an idea for blog. Oops!)

2008
Jan. 10: One of the company’s most powerful executives, newspaper division chief Sue Clark-Johnson, announces plans to retire; she’s later replaced by Phoenix GCI executive Bob Dickey (left). The next day, former USA Today reporter and editor Jim Hopkins reveals he has been the anonymous editor of the nascent Gannett Blog.

Feb. 15: The Poopgate scandal grabs headlines, as Courier-Post employees in Cherry Hill, N.J., threaten a U.S. Labor Department complaint if they don’t get paid for overtime they have worked.

Feb. 28: The 2007 Annual Report reveals that GCI’s workforce plunged 7% in the previous year, to 46,100. Looking ahead to 2008, Dubow promises: “I assure you, you will see progress.” Stock closes: $30.23.

March 13: Gannett discloses that Dubow was paid $7.5 million in 2007, including a $1.75 million bonus. Employees are outraged: “Gannett stock plummeted almost $50 a share inside of a year and he gets a $1.75 million bonus? And reporters and editors are making due with less staff, less resources — I’m beyond shocked,” one says. Stock closes: $29.97.

March 26: Public documents reveal the company’s charitable arm, the Gannett Foundation, has quietly allowed Dubow and other top executives to steer nearly $424,000 to their pet charities — far from communities where the company does business.

May 29: Squeezing employees more, Gannett lays off 55 workers at the Asbury Park Press and three other N.J. newspapers.

June 9: The financial picture worsens: GCI writes off nearly $3 billion of its assets.

June 11: Gannett freezes its retirement plan. Furious employees heap blame on Dubow: “Kiss my ass,” says one worker. Stock closes: $25.99.

June 27: The Friday Afternoon Massacre reorders the troubled newspaper division, putting publisher’s jobs into play at Indianapolis and Louisville.

July 16: Gannett discloses that second-quarter earnings plunged 36% from a year ago. Dubow says the near-term outlook is grim. Investors panic: Shares trade as low as $14.70. Stock closes: $16.57.

July 31: Monthly traffic surges on Gannett Blog. The number of unique visitors climbs 21%, to about 17,500. Page views soar 41%, to about 144,000.

Aug. 13: Management grows more desperate, disclosing plans to lay off 600 employees and eliminate another 400 jobs in the troubled newspaper division. Shares briefly surge, but soon begin falling again.

Aug. 18: Gannett starts issuing pink slips. Enraged employees complain the layoffs are taking too long: “The way that management carried this out felt very much like a hit and run.”

Aug. 22: GCI says July revenue dived 12.3% from a year ago, as classified ad losses accelerate. Stock closes: $17.67.

Sept. 9: In a major reorganization of its troubled newspaper division, Gannett discloses it has laid off about 100 directors — heads of human resources, production, advertising and other high-profile jobs.

Oct. 1: Gannett says Standard & Poor’s has put the company’s long and short term credit ratings on credit watch, with “negative implications.” Dubow tries to calm investors: “Our underlying fundamentals remain strong and we continue to be a solid investment grade company.”

Oct. 24: GCI says third-quarter earnings plunged 32% on a worsening decline in newspaper advertising sales, spurring more job cuts by year’s end — and encouraging the once-unthinkable: slashing the company’s unusually generous dividend.

Oct. 28: Reeling from a second consecutive quarter of big revenue losses, Gannett announces plans to lay off 10% of its newspaper employees — up to 3,000 workers — by early December. Stock closes: $10.22.

Nov. 28: Internal Gannett documents show every company newspaper but Detroit’s was profitable as of the third quarter of 2007. Highest profit margin: the Green Bay Press-Gazette, at nearly 43%.

Dec. 3: Gannett has launched newspaper division layoff. Within days, employees have counted nearly 2,000 jobs cut. Stock closes: $8.87. (Closing price the day Dubow named CEO: $75.31)

And these are just the highlights (lowlights?) What have I missed? 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.

In Asbury Park, a view on a photog’s juggling act

July 22, 2008

Updated at 1:57 p.m. ET: Asbury Park Press‘ chief photographer for video, Thomas Costello, did some quick work recently after a plane crashed near his New Jersey home, and an apartment building caught fire. His account of how he handled the stories offers a window on the lives of 21st century journalists, balancing new web responsibilities with traditional duties. Here’s what he told me:

“Saw a report of a plane crash on my news pager about 20 minutes from my house. Got there at about 7:30 p.m. and shot a quick photo that was transmitted back for a web update. Continued shooting the video on the plane crash until at about 10:30 p.m. got another report on my news pager about an apartment building fire with people jumping out windows. The news gods were with me, since this was just across the Shark River from where the plane crash was.

“Zoomed over there and was able to get video of victims still being loaded in ambulances. Grabbed a few stills from the video and sent that back for a web update (these were very late for our Sunday paper — but they managed to find space). Shot more video and got done there at about 12:30 a.m. Went home to edit both videos and produce a photo gallery of the fire that were all on the web by 4:30 a.m. And then I slept.

“The two videos generated a lot of traffic, and the photo gallery — produced from video grabs — is still doing pretty well.”

One of Costello’s videos is here. (In an earlier version of this post, I’d embedded the video. But the Press uses an annoying player that kicks into autoplay when a page is launched. We. Hate. That!)

Please post your thoughts 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 Park Press, Newseum]

In N.J. layoffs, fresh evidence of the new Gannett

May 30, 2008

It sure is something to watch CEO Craig Dubow dismantle a 102-year-old company right before our eyes: rendering newspapers at corporate chop shops, while shipping untold jobs to low-wage countries — all in a shaky bid to keep Wall Street at bay.

Only yesterday, Dubow & Co. was at it again: laying off a steep 55 employees at the Asbury Park Press and three other New Jersey dailies — part of a regional group that’s lately appeared on the edge of freefall. And yet, the N.J. papers are only the latest to be swept up in what I imagine is now Gannett’s biggest retrenchment since World War II. (Dubow, to be sure, has been retailing it on Wall Street as the more April-fresh sounding transformation.)

In Phoenix, Arizona Republic workers are weighing a buyout offer that one of my readers says stinks. In Westchester, N.Y.; Pensacola, Fla., and beyond, advertising-production artists are terrified of being the next to lose jobs to Los Angeles-based 2AdPro, which is shipping their work to India as fast as Gannett will allow.

In the Broadcasting division, Gannett is eliminating graphics jobs in favor of consolidating work at a central “art house” in Denver. And the division is now being asked to adopt a version of the Information Center model that was supposed to boost online advertising revenue when it was rolled out across U.S. newspapers last year. (Gannett has been curiously quiet about whether the strategy is working.)

These are only recent examples; I’ve omitted many others that I know — and even more I hope to uncover in any reader responses I get to this post. I’ve been writing about Gannett’s downsizing since Dubow issued that scary Sept. 11 memo last fall. It’s not at all clear whether he’s now putting his pedal on the accelerator, with even more turmoil ahead for this summer. And I’m not expecting any clarity soon on that point. Why? Nowadays, the well-paid top brass don’t have time to deal with even basic questions.

So, if you’re wondering whether Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore is about to redline your job — well, don’t look for answers from We Work in a Bubble, Va. They’re already on their third round at the Kool-Aid Bar!

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: yesterday’s Republic, Newseum]

Donovan confirms layoffs, cites ‘adverse’ conditions

May 29, 2008

Asbury Park Press Publisher Tom Donovan told employees in a statement now quoted by his paper in a new story: “This is not a decision that is easy to announce at this, or any other, time of year.”

The story confirms earlier reports by my readers: Gannett has eliminated 55 jobs at Asbury Park and at three other papers in its struggling N.J. group. Today’s layoffs come three weeks after management offered voluntary buyouts to nearly 170 employees.

Donovan disclosed today that only 83 employees accepted those buyouts — triggering layoffs that had been warned if Gannett didn’t reach its targeted cost savings. The three other papers are the Home News Tribune in East Brunswick; the Courier News in Bridgewater, and The Daily Record at Morristown.

Employees losing jobs can apply for open positions at the papers. “It is my hope that the total number of impacted employees will be reduced as a result,” Donovan said.

Related: N.J. employees use Gannett Blog to report buyouts

[Image: this morning’s Asbury Park Press, Newseum]

Dozens of layoffs reported today at N.J. papers

May 29, 2008

Updated at 10:10 a.m. PT: “Your information was correct about the New Jersey layoffs,” a reader just told me in an e-mail. “I guess today is the first day of the rest of my life.”

Earlier: Several of my readers are now telling me that 55 employees were laid off today at newspapers including the Asbury Park Press, the Home News Tribune, the Courier News and The Daily Record. One reader says those who lost their jobs will be able to interview for open positions at each of the newspapers.

Any forced layoffs would suggest Gannett’s struggling group of six N.J. newspapers was unable to reach cost-savings goals when management offered buyouts three weeks ago to nearly 170 employees at five of the papers. Management had warned layoffs were likely if an insufficient number of employees agreed to leave voluntarily.

Can anyone confirm what I’ve been told — and add more details? Leave a note in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.