Archive for the ‘Chatter’ Category

Chatter: On moms, talk ‘leaders’ — or ‘paid shills’?

December 13, 2008

[Ground zero: The Indianapolis Star launched the original moms site]

Chatter is an occasional peek at your comments. In today’s edition, readers are debating the ethics of paying people — including men — to spark provocative discussions on the
Moms Like Me websites.

It all began early yesterday, when Anonymous@12:10 a.m. wrote: “Anybody out there in Gannettoidland hear of any shenanigans with their Moms sites? At the paper I work at, two males in the Information Center were directed by management to pose as females in the Moms forums to start conversations to increase traffic. Also, some moms in the community were getting paid a weekly stipend to go on their sites and start conversations. Is false page view generation an actual strategy for all sites?”

Next, Anonymous@1:06 a.m. piped up: “The mommy site at my paper also has paid shills. Please expose this scam.”

In Phoenix, Anonymous@9:32 a.m. said: “A couple of people who work on the Moms site were told to set up multiple user IDs and make numerous posts to drive traffic. I don’t think *they* were paid (other than their salaries) to post, but I know they paid their friends to set up multiple IDs and post. This was several months ago and management claimed not to be aware of the practice. They said the practice was to stop. Not sure if it actually did.”

Take a chill pill, everyone! wrote Anonymous@3:19 p.m. “There’s nothing ethically wrong with paying community management staff to foster communication within an online forum,” they wrote. “The only gray area here is if they actually have men posing as women — and even that is laughable. Those of you freaking out are grasping at straws — there’s no ‘fake traffic’ or ‘false page view generation’ here; the traffic is real, if people want to take part in the conversations. This kind of thing happens all over the Internet and is considered more than normal — it’s often mandatory to get communities started. Lighten up and concentrate on the fact that you might lose your job next week, next month, or next year. Sheesh . . . stop complaining and start solving problems.”

Related: The exciting 1,674-word Moms Like Me Privacy Policy makes riveting, late-night reading!

Now, it’s your turn. What’s the story at your moms site? 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.

Chatter: Oh, woe is you, little town of Burlington!

October 28, 2008

Chatter is an occasional peek at your comments. In today’s edition, readers compete for the title of Gannett workplace with the most pathetic holiday expectations.

Way up there in crunchy granola Vermont, a reader wonders: “How many GCI shops are having holiday parties this year? Bonuses? I work in Burlington. We haven’t had a party in 5-6 years, but every year for Thanksgiving we get a choice of a ham, block of cheese, turkey or some vegan thing. Simply outstanding.”

Moments later, a Garden State reader fires back: “You’re kidding me, right? We get nothing in N.J. In fact, we’re expected to walk to work, for miles, all uphill, in the snow, and with no shoes! And we like it!”

Then, from Somewhere Unknown in Gannettland, another reader insists: no, their Gannett workplace is the most pathetic! “This holiday season we will all get a Cornish game hen with pink slip stuffing!”

Finally, from a sturdy, Midwestern state: “Snow in N.J.? Wah, wah. Come live in Wisconsin; we had snow yesterday.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

Chatter: Buying (and selling) GCI on the cheap

October 15, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’re chattering about. In today’s edition: Gannett’s stock plunge attracting vulture investors. Plus: time to put the entire company up for sale on eBay?

With Gannett shares getting clobbered an extraordinary 14%, one reader wrote: “Someone is going to go after Gannett. Hard. I just don’t see GCI being able to survive in its current form. I think the only question is ‘Who?'”

Time for an auction, another reader said: “Sooner or later Gannett’s board will realize that this Elmer-glued collage of big newspapers, small newspapers, community newspapers, foreign newspapers, TV stations and oddball websites is unsustainable. The stuff’s not going to be worth much more in the near future. A lot of the papers won’t be worth anything at the rate Gannett is dismantling them and outsourcing so many functions. Time to test the market and see what these papers and stations will bring on eBay.”

Finally, noting a sly reference to my nickname for Al Neuharth, a third reader said: “Refresh us, what’s your nickname for Al? Big Al? Little Neuharth? Octogenarian Retired CEO Who Still Suckles at the Corporate Teat? Bloodsucking Egomaniacal Asshole? Beezlebub? Any of them work.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

Chatter: On money scheme, you deliver tough love

October 13, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’re chattering about. In today’s edition: mixed reviews of my effort to make a buck through advertising sales, and a voluntary subscription fee of $5 per quarter.

I thought my favorite tough-love mom (left) was channeling anonymous comments when I read the following, “I have to ask: Have you not been job hunting since you took the buyout? Are you just now trying to figure out how to make a living? I’m sure living the life in Europe over the summer was fun, but if you’ve spent the last 10 months mostly doing this blog and not figuring out your future I have to question your wisdom. Please tell me I’m wrong.”

Then, someone sounding like Sparky (?!), quickly came to my defense: “Let the man take a vacation! After putting many years into a career with Gannett, I’m sure he needs time to de-stress and get his bearings. I know I would (will).”

But really touching: Many, many readers were extra generous in buying subscriptions — including one who wrote: “I’m in for $20. That’s half of the co-pay I pay my therapist and I have gotten as much or more relief out of reading this blog as I have from anything else. Thanks for giving us a place to speak up and speak out.”

Thank you all! XOX!

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

To buy a $5 subscription, please use the “Donate” tool in the green sidebar, upper right. Any amount appreciated! Post feedback in the comments section, below. Send e-mail to gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

[Image: Legendary mother Joan Crawford, portrayed in 1981’s Mommie Dearest. My real mom — hi, Raine! — is the world’s best!]

Chatter: Jennifer Carroll’s so LOL; plus: Sex sells!

October 13, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Myth vs. reality in Wilmington. And, the politics of comments gives me a perfect excuse to post a sexually charged Ibiza photo (left!) designed to enrich me by driving up page views. (Don’t you love the craven new world of digital journalism?!)

Gannett Digital guru Jennifer Carroll‘s praise for Delaware’s News Journal in an interview with PBS was totally LOL funny to Anonymous@2:13 a.m.: “Give me a break. Wilmington is such a ‘continuous news operation’ that it doesn’t have anyone on hand on Saturday or Sunday until about noon to handle breaking news,” they wrote. “You can get a news assistant on the phone, and that’s about it. And there’s no one on-site from about 4 a.m. until 7 a.m. They do have a very good update editor who does some breaking news stuff from home ‘on his own time’ when he’s able, but that’s the exception to the rule. 24/7?? Please stop lying to people.”

And talk about LOL! “Gannett has begun practicing some sort of dark humor,” comments @10:16 a.m. “I left the company a week ago and just received a letter from the 401(k) administrator. I opened the envelope to find a completely blank piece of Gannett benefits stationery. Who knew anyone at GCI was that profound?”

Partisan politics being, well, partisan, I ran into another buzz saw when I tried to keep comments focused sharply on Gannett in the Real Time Comments open forum. @11:23 a.m. said: “I would like to talk about how Jim is going to raise some money. Does that get me deleted, too?”

@11:25 a.m. fired back: “Only if you suggest some sort of members-only photo gallery of the party scene in Ibiza. TMI.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

[Photo: dancers at Amnesia, one of the big nightclubs on Ibiza, the Mediterranean island where Sparky and I spent the summer]

Chatter: On advertising, and a missing tin cup

October 12, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Your reactions to my income experiment on Gannett Blog, through advertising and a voluntary $5 subscription charge.

Several readers suggested I seek more lucrative traffic by broadening the blog to include other media companies. “Try adding a separate daily forum for non-Gannett newspaper news,” said Anonymous@7 p.m.McClatchy seems a good candidate for a permanent addition. They’ve missed two interest payments, but their creditors still allow McClatchy to pay stock dividends.”

But @11:08 p.m. said I’m now getting my comeuppance: “Your new digital ad plan does not cover expenses? Let’s beg for $5 every few months? Where’s the tin cup? . . . Wonder why USA Today had difficulty selling enough ads to cover your $140K salary and bennies for producing weak content that few people wanted.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that people read this blog 24/7. But, still, on Saturday? “Can’t help it,” said @12:23 p.m. “It’s like when you sneak a quick glance at that car crash as you drive by.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

Chatter: Drinking over falling stock; a clueless pub

October 11, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Wining and whining about GCI’s tumbling stock. A Luddite for a publisher. And USA Today‘s new cover price hike.

Anonymous@11:55 a.m. said: “At $12 a share, Gannett stock is worth less than a decent bottle of wine. I don’t know if there’s a connection between the two, but somehow I’m sure I would rather spend my money on the wine than the stock. At least I know I would feel better after I downed the bottle. So everyone cash in your stock and go get drunk!”

Sounds like @12:56 a.m. and their co-workers could use a drink: “The people in charge at my paper barely understand how the Internet operates — even our own site. Our publisher was surprised to find out that actual people updated our front-page carousel; he thought it somehow happened automatically, like magic. Sadly, he thinks the same about how the paper comes together.”

On speculation USA Today may retire some vending machines as part of a newly confirmed price hike, @11:10 a.m. wrote: “Street boxes may be expensive and difficult, but they do work at bringing in circulation. And it is circulation that advertisers look at when they decide whether or not to buy ads. I know there is a trend in corporate offices to cut off expensive-to-service circulation, but the downside is that it starts the death spiral and is nothing but brainless cost-cutting. All circulation is costly to maintain and service. It is part of the business.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

[Image: Wynns Shiraz 2005, $10.99 at]

Chatter: GM and you; what are USAT’s real profits?

October 9, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: General Motors’ shaky finances. Plus: How USA Today‘s costs get moved across the ledger.

Anonymous@2:17 p.m. wrote: “What does a bankruptcy of General Motors mean for GCI? It will cover the dealers, garages and everyone connected with the industry. It will also devastate Detroit and its readers. It is happening. Take a look at GM’s stock today, which slumped to 1930 levels. We are really being screwed.”

On USA Today, @3:57 p.m. said: “The truth is that USAT is not economically viable without the community newspapers which publish a majority of the USAT editions, and bury the huge production costs in their production budgets.”

And I chimed in @6:36 p.m., agreeing with a reader’s plea that I rein in the political chatter in Real Time Comments that has nothing to do with the company. “Much as I want this to be an open forum, implicit in that is that everything relates to Gannett,” I wrote. “So, please: On any topic, including politics, please keep your comments sharply focused on Gannett. Thanks!”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

Chatter: Overtime pay, and USAT layoff angst

October 9, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Should employees likely to lose their jobs now seek overtime pay Gannett wrongfully denied them in the past? Also: A USA Today employee seeks advance word on possible layoffs.

Anonymous@10:18 p.m. said: “I’m not a lawyer, but I’d guess that if you wrote on your time sheet that you worked 40 hours/week, even though you really worked more than that, you wouldn’t have a case. Did a manager ever explicitly tell you to lie on your time sheet?”

@10:23 p.m. quickly replied: “Indirectly, by saying that all OT needed to be approved in advance.”

And @8:41 a.m. said today about GCI’s North Carolina newspaper: “I worked overtime for six years at a Gannett paper in Asheville, and never got paid for it. At least an hour and a half, give or take, everyday. I was told I could not write it down on any time cards and could only put the hours I was hired to work: 37.5. Yes, I worked over 40 hours every week. The funny thing was when I turned in my two week notice, they insisted on paying me for the overtime I worked the second to last week. And the last week they would not let me turn on my computer to begin work until 8am even though I came in at 7 a.m. Looks like someone trying to avoid a lawsuit.”

On speculation that USA Today may raise its cover price 33%, to $1, @9:14 a.m. wrote today: “Does anyone have any info on the possibility of more USAT buyouts or layoffs by the end of the year? With the price of the paper possibly going up, the X-mas party nixed for the first time ever, and the economy crashing, it seems likely that more cuts are coming. I can accept the harsh reality of cuts, but I can’t accept the lack of fair warning. I wish the suits would give us a heads-up, even if just in general terms.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

[Image: today’s USAT front page, Newseum]

Chatter: $300K executives in Corporate finance

October 8, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Debating the worth of Corporate finance executives paid $300,000 each, a reader says. Plus: Your words of encouragement as I start looking for work.

Anonymous@12:01 p.m., piling on to an earlier comment about “bloated” staffing at Corporate in McLean, Va., said: “The biggest bloat in McLean is in the corporate Finance department. They have six, count ’em, six VP and above level executives. That does not count the two finance VPs in the newspaper division for a total of eight. At 300K a pop, that is at least $2.4 million for executive number crunchers — not counting company cars and country clubs. It looks like the folks that are making the rest of our life hell are not looking to get their own house in order.”

Agreed, says @12:07 p.m.: “I am still having a very hard time believing these people didn’t trim some folks up there after this latest round of cuts. It’s just amazing. In economic terms, very few of these positions add any value to the products that the newspapers are trying to put out with reduced resources. I’d love to see a list of direct, objective contributions to bettering a newspaper or a process that any of these people have initiated or implemented. How many monkeys does it take to change a light bulb again?”

But @1:27 p.m. cautioned: “Before making wild comments about people in finance, you might want to consider that a multi-state and multi-country business like Gannett has many different state tax rules to comply with. Add that into the federal tax work, the SEC requirements and other responsibilities and I hardly think these people could be called ‘monkeys.’ Maybe if some of you spent more time writing quality stories, instead of posting on blogs, maybe the company would be doing better.”

Whatever! says @1:59 p.m.: “Monkeys everywhere should be insulted!”

As I return to San Francisco from the beach resort of Ibiza, and a cloudy outlook for employment, I got lots of encouragement — especially in my effort to generate income on this blog. “I hope you find a way to make Gannett Blog support you,” says @5:50 p.m. “I’d subscribe. Or if you get advertising — I will support that. I’m an ex-Gannettoid, 20 years of servitude, left before the human sacrifices — and I’d like to ask those still in the trenches: Without this blog and the sharing of information, what would the past year have been like? Isn’t this service invaluable to you? And if you say no, why do you read it?”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.