Archive for the ‘Buyouts’ Category

What happens to GNS after ContentOne’s launch?

December 13, 2008

Regarding the new editorial service that CEO Craig Dubow unveiled before Wednesday’s UBS conference, a reader tells me the following in an e-mail; can anyone else confirm — and add details?

The ContentOne concept, which management concedes has not been fully thought out, will also eliminate Gannett News Service, which has to date collected and edited stories from papers and put them on its wire for all to use. There may be a few reporters and editors left at GNS, but they would be part of ContentOne. GNS’s 60 employees will be able to ask for a buyout, but the terms and conditions of those buyouts won’t be revealed until early January. Gannett wants GNS to cover the Obama inauguration, so it is deferring the buyouts and layoffs until after the inauguration.

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]

KUSA-TV staff gets buyout offer; layoffs threatened

November 21, 2008

The Denver NBC affiliate is offering a voluntary severance program to some employees age 55 and up with at least 10 years’ service, General Manager Mark Cornetta said in a memo. As is often the case, the deal comes with a warning: “If the voluntary offer does not result in a sufficient number of volunteers, or if business conditions worsen, it may be necessary to consider other expense reductions, including layoffs.”

Have any other Gannett TV stations recently offered buyouts? 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.

Why ‘buyout’ is just a nicer way of saying ‘layoff’

November 17, 2008

From an ongoing debate between readers and yours truly; this exchange appeared today in comments on my post seeking first-person accounts from layoff victims about what it was like to be told you’re losing your job.

Anonymous@12:13 p.m.: Not to belabor the point, but you were not laid off. USA Today said it needed to cut 45 positions. A letter went out to all eligible employees, offering a buyout. I received one. So did you. The choice was to accept, by Gannett standards, a pretty generous deal or to play the odds and stay. As it turned out, 43 people volunteered to take the money and leave. That’s what you did. The company decided at the time that 43 was good and it would not lay off another two people. Being laid off is an emotional trauma. Those who are laid off merit respect, dignity and compassion. You, trying to cloak yourself as a “me too” victim, do a disservice to those fine men and women.

Jim Hopkins@12:26 p.m.: You and I will continue to (respectfully, I hope) disagree. I spent my career cutting through business jargon, which is why I treat buyouts and layoffs as the same animal. You are correct that we received letters from USAT. Yet, I’m looking at that letter right now, and the word “buyout” never appears in the text. What does appear, however, is the following sentence: “This offer is voluntary; you do not have to accept it. However, if we do not meet our goal to eliminate 45 newsroom positions through this voluntary program, we will need to begin the process of identifying positions for an involuntary layoff program.”

Voluntary vs. involuntary layoff program? Whatever it’s called, it’s a layoff, in my book.

Earlier: In my own buyout, secrecy and hurt feelings

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: My USAT ID card, taken on my first day, May 1, 2000]

Buyouts: How many volunteers where you work?

November 12, 2008

Newspaper employees are applying for buyouts this week — in some cases, hoping to take a bullet for a co-worker who can’t lose their job in the upcoming 10% workforce reduction. Buyout benefits are the same as those for employees getting laid off: one week’s pay for every year’s service, with a 26-week maximum.

How many co-workers in your department have applied? 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.

Gannett offers buyouts across newspaper division

November 5, 2008

The company is now extending buyouts to as many as 30,000 newspaper employees, saying they can apply to be voluntarily laid off under the same terms to be offered in a planned 10% layoff early next month. Gannett’s move appears to be a humanitarian gesture, allowing employees to quit voluntarily in order to save jobs of co-workers who can’t afford to lose their positions.

Among the papers making the offer today and yesterday: The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.; The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., and the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Wisconsin (left).

Volunteers there and elsewhere in the 84-paper community newspaper division would get one week’s pay for each year of service, up to 26 weeks. The deadline for applying is next Tuesday, according to publishers’ memos forwarded to me.

Green Bay Publisher Kevin Corrado‘s memo says: “Gannett has given the OK for each site to explore voluntary eliminations,” indicating this is, in fact, an option available to every paper. Yet, like Corrado, News Journal Publisher Curtis Riddle‘s memo cautioned that his paper won’t necessarily grant all buyout requests: “We must also work to preserve our operational strength as we go forward, so I cannot guarantee that anyone who volunteers will be accepted, but your offer will seriously considered.”

Reader: ‘Weasels’ in publisher’s offices
The offer hasn’t been made at all papers, however, a reader said this morning: “Why is it that publishers of some newspapers, such as Louisville, Wilmington, Honolulu and Rochester, take the high road and first look for volunteers to leave, thereby saving jobs for those who may not be willing or able to leave? To those of you who have publishers with at least that much compassion, consider yourselves lucky. The rest of us are left with weasels and worms in the publisher’s office who will let the designated department hit men do the dirty work so they don’t have to get their hands dirty.”

Earlier: Major deadlines in fast-approaching 10% layoff

Has your publisher offered these buyouts? 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: Newseum]

Calling H.R. pros: Volunteers vs. jobless benefits?

November 5, 2008

As Gannett offers buyouts to as many as 30,000 newspaper employees, one N.Y. worker asks: “I want to know, as many others do, if you volunteer for severance, will you be eligible for unemployment?”

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.

Connell: Cuts to be ‘significantly less’ than 3,000

October 28, 2008

Bloomberg News service, quoting company spokeswoman Tara Connell, says the cuts announced by newspaper division chief Bob Dickey “would be ‘significantly less’ than the 3,000 reported by a blogger.” Connell also said the cuts would not apply to USA Today.

Dickey’s memo refers to a “staff reduction of approximately 10%.” He doesn’t say this is a payroll reduction, which Connell’s remark implies. There are about 30,000 newspaper employees after recent layoffs, buyouts and other cuts — leading to my estimate of about 3,000 jobs lost.

Now, if the 10% figure does apply to payroll, Gannett could reach that number with fewer job reductions by laying off mostly higher-paid employees. In other words: Got a six-figure or high five-figure paycheck? Watch out.

I asked Connell for clarification four hours ago. I’m not optimistic she’ll respond, however, because she told Columbia Journalism Review last month that Corporate is boycotting Gannett Blog.

Other news coverage today

  • The New York Times: “It appears to be the single largest example of the industry’s recent wave of downsizing.”
  • The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription usually required): “The publisher of USA Today and almost 90 other daily newspapers, including The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star and the Detroit Free Press, had announced in August that about 600 workers would be laid off as part of an effort to eliminate 1,000 positions. But in his Tuesday memo, Dickey told employees Gannett’s ‘fiscal crisis is worsening.'”
  • MarketWatch: “So far this year, more than 12,000 job cuts have been announced in the newspaper industry.”
  • Editor & Publisher: “Gannett’s newspaper division announced another round of layoffs due to the economic downturn.”
  • Reuters: “Calculating the exact number of people who will be cut in this latest round is hard, however. The division’s headcount includes hundreds of workers at USA Today who will not be affected, spokeswoman Tara Connell said.”
  • Associated Press: “Gannett isn’t revealing a specific number, but said all would be involuntary. Some 600 of the 1,000 cuts in the first round were achieved through layoffs.”

Have you published a story? Please post story links 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 Des Moines Register, Newseum. It is one of Gannett’s 84 community newspapers facing a 10% job cut by early December]

Breaking: Dickey memo said detailing budget cuts

October 28, 2008

My tipsters say newspaper division chief Bob Dickey is expected to issue a must-read memo as soon as 1:30 p.m. ET today, on a subject we’ve been discussing a whole lot lately.

Here’s the latest — which I haven’t been able to corroborate — from one of the tipsters: “A note from Bob Dickey will go out to all Gannett employees at 1:30 p.m. EDT today/Tuesday re: job cuts. The headline is that GCI is cutting payroll by 10%, with cuts taking effect the first week of December. News staff will take a hit. Employees affected by job eliminations will be paid one week of salary for each year of service, up to a total of 26 weeks of severance pay.”

Other developments, according to that same tipster:

  • Newshole will be reduced by 10%. Editors will be getting guidance and timetables this week.
  • Color news positions will be reduced.
  • Total number of classified pages will be reduced by two in the Monday and Tuesday editions.
  • Pay increases in 2009 will be based on a total 1.5% of payroll.

Any further cuts would follow last week’s third-quarter earnings report, revealing profits fell 32% from a year ago — leading Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore to warn of more job reductions by the end of the year. Her warning followed similar remarks by CEO Craig Dubow one week before.

To emphasize, these are tips from sources I know in four different states — but they could be wrong. Anyone else picking up on this? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Martore: More job cuts coming at newspapers

October 24, 2008

Gannett advised investors today about more job reductions by the end of the year, with details to come in early December. Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore did not say whether the cuts would involve buyouts, layoffs, attrition — or a combination.

“We will be looking at additional (full-time equivalent) reductions in the fourth quarter, certainly on the publishing side, here on the Corporate side, and in other divisions,” she told a third-quarter earnings teleconference of stock analysts. (Her reference to the “publishing side” mostly applies to the 84 revenue-losing community dailies.)

Martore continued, according to the conference transcript: “We are in the planning process right now and looking out to 2009, so when we do, we will try to report on that for you, give you a better sense of it, when we are up on Wall Street in early December.”

Her remarks followed CEO Craig Dubow‘s warning last week that another round of layoffs could be announced by year’s end. Based on Martore’s comments, I now suspect that those proposed spending cuts I posted on last week — as high as 7.5% — may apply to 2009’s budget, rather than to current spending.

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.