Archive for the ‘Des Moines’ Category

Des Moines: Laid-off cartoonist’s exit a ‘stunner’

December 7, 2008

Brian Duffy drew The Des Moines Register‘s famous front-page editorial cartoon since 1983 — until he was laid off this week, along with 69 other workers at the paper. In an interview with WHO-TV, he lashed out at Gannett — and at the Register, for how management told him he was being let go. “That’s the stunner,” he says.

Bulletin: Gannett laying off 10% of newspaper staff; Dickey warns in memo: ‘fiscal crisis is deepening’

October 28, 2008

Reeling from a second consecutive quarter of big revenue declines, Gannett just announced plans to lay off 10% of its newspaper employees — up to 3,000 workers — by early December, as the nation’s top newspaper publisher struggles to right itself. Newspaper division president Bob Dickey (left) disclosed the mass layoffs in a memo sent to employees just moments ago.

The unprecedented cuts follow the elimination of more than 1,000 jobs since August in GCI’s biggest and most troubled division: U.S. Community Publishing. But those cuts amounted to only 3% of the unit’s employees. Other publishers, including Miami Herald owner McClatchy Co., have sliced much deeper; that chain has exacted two rounds of 10% cuts since June alone.

The division’s 84 dailies plus USA Today account for nearly 80% of Gannett’s revenue, and 65% of its 46,000 employees. Today’s job reductions appear confined to those dailies. I don’t see any reference in the memo to cuts at GCI flagship USAT; it rivals The Arizona Republic as Gannett’s single-biggest employer.

Publishers in dark; Wall Street applauds
In Iowa, Des Moines Register Publisher Laura Hollingsworth told employees about the cuts in an e-mail, but warned she was unable to say “what that will mean in terms of number of layoffs,” the paper is now reporting. Hollingsworth is one of GCI’s most powerful publishers; she’s head of the West region of newspapers.

Investors rallied around Gannett’s shares today, after an initially tepid response. GCI’s beleaguered stock, down more than 70% from a year ago, closed at $10.22 a share, up $1.09, or 12%. Still, Wall Street had a similar reaction to the August layoffs, before sending shares back into the toilet.

Employees wonder what’s next
“Here’s a question for Mr. Dickey,” one worker said: “Do the layoffs and cutbacks stop here, or should Gannett employees keep that resume up to date and keep looking at CareerBuilder and Craigslist for job openings?” (More questions.)

Reflecting new uncertainty that could pinch productivity in weeks ahead, another employee writes: “I’m supposed to start groundwork on a big project this week, but am thinking about asking my bosses what the chances are that I’ll be able to finish it. I’d much rather spend my last few weeks on the job wrapping up some of those smaller, community-focused stories that I’ve been pushing to the back burner, instead of something that’ll never see the light of day.”

Related Gannett Blog posts

Please post your reactions 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.

Carroll: Gannett Digital now in ‘major’ hiring push

October 10, 2008

The digital division will eventually include more than 100 technology and IT staffers, more than doubling the number before the late 2006 launch of the Information Center model, according to an interview Jennifer Carroll gave to PBS’ Media Shift blog. Carroll, a main architect of the Information Center strategy, was named Digital’s vice president of digital content in April. From the Q&A:

Media Shift: Many newspapers complain that it’s expensive to get good programmers or that it’s difficult to recruit them because they’d prefer tech companies or start-ups. Has it been difficult to hire them at Gannett?

Carroll: We’re right in the middle of a major hiring period at Gannett Digital for exactly those kinds of people and we’ve been very impressed by the response. Some are coming from start-ups, some are coming from existing online companies, others are those that we’ve gone out and recruited in the past couple years. We have been a lot more proactive about being in places we weren’t before, like tech conferences and R&D sessions. We’ve tried to learn and grow so we can stay ahead instead of running to stay in place like everyone else.

We’ve done a lot of hiring over the past three months in all these areas: product development, audience, technology and operations. At the same time, the economic realities that are affecting all sorts of pockets across the United States, including in real estate, have forced newspapers to make reductions so we are putting a premium on innovation and growth to support some of the work that our local newspapers are doing. We are taking on the R&D role that they don’t have the staff to do.

[Hat tip, Romenesko. Image: today’s Des Moines Register front page, Newseum; Carroll singles out the paper for praise]

Metromix: As more sites launch, how’s the pace?

October 1, 2008

[Rochester: a recent screenshot of its Metromix site]

Gannett and Tribune Co. announced an important partnership in October 2007 under which the two publishing giants would roll out a collection of entertainment websites called Metromix, aimed at 21-to-34 year-olds with “significant” disposable income. The goal was to spread the sites to more than 40 other markets — including the nation’s top 30 — by the end of this year; most of those new sites presumably would be where Gannett publishes papers or owns TV stations.

Now, nearly a year later, I’m wondering how the rollout is going — and what sort of impact it’s having on GCI papers that already have started their site. The Indianapolis Star, for example, is getting closer to replacing its award-winning Indy.com entertainment site with Metromix. The paper, now advertising for a new editor of digital content, said Monday that the new version would become the Star‘s “lifestyle channel,” according to a post by Indy.com’s Joey Fingers.

“Sex & Relationships, Money, Work, Tech & Gadgets, More Style and Fashion, and some other freaky little things,” Fingers wrote. “We will still be handling the local entertainment coverage, don’t worry. We just get to pull in their national content, their iPhone app, their Facebook Widget and so much more of their wholesome goodness.”

As Indy prepares to join the Metromix chain, I notice the sites are now in 26 markets — up from five when the Gannett-Tribune partnership was signed. Across Gannett, they’re now in Cincinnati; Des Moines, Detroit, Honolulu, Louisville, Nashville, Reno, Rochester, and Springfield, Mo.

To reach the year-end goal, of course, GCI and Tribune will have to launch in 14 more markets at a time when Gannett has fewer newspaper workers than it did when the two companies hooked up. That’s gotta be a further strain on editorial and ad sales staff, no?

One of Tribune Co.’s papers — the Chicago Tribune — started what is now Metromix, a collection of short stories and event listings focused on nightclubs, restaurants, TV listings and other stuff do do. When the partnership was announced, Metromix was already in New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Orlando, South Florida and other markets where Tribune Co. owned papers.

Like Gannett’s “moms” sites, and the growing number of new “pets” websites, Metromix aims to create a uniform collection of niche sites where ad sales staff can sell both local and national advertising. The national ads presumably would be made easier to sell because of the sites’ uniform design across all markets. (For the same reason, Gannett’s papers have now adopted identical G04 website templates.)

Existing worksites with Metromix: What’s the impact been since you launched? Other sites: When are you scheduled to Metromix? 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 Star front page, Newseum]

A reorg meant to cut costs — and speed up change

September 9, 2008

Updated at 3:56 a.m. ET, Sept. 10. In a major reorganization of its troubled newspaper division, Gannett disclosed today that it had laid off about 100 top managers at the director level — those in charge of human resources, production, advertising and other key departments at the papers. Their responsibilities have been transferred to other managers in the newspaper division’s four U.S. regions.

The move, announced in a memo by division President Bob Dickey (left), had been expected for at least three weeks, and followed the earlier layoff of 600 lower-level newspaper employees, including reporters, press operators and drivers. Another 400 vacant jobs in the division were simultaneously eliminated in that mass layoff last month. Today’s reorganization was the next logical step after the late-June Friday Afternoon Massacre, when Dickey announced the four-region structure.

In “flattening” the troubled unit’s management structure, Corporate hopes to save millions of dollars in wages and benefits. Just as important, reducing the number of decision-makers is meant to speed up change. In his memo, Dickey said: “I believe this new structure will improve communication, streamline processes, accelerate program deployment and, most importantly, improve our marketing efforts.”

Four publishers gain more power
The newspaper division, called U.S. Community Publishing, comprises more than 30,000 employees — the bulk of Gannett’s 46,000. They work at 84 dailies and other GCI businesses.

The reorganization also concentrates more power in the hands of the publishers who lead the division’s four business regions. Those uber-publishers are Laura Hollingsworth of The Des Moines Register; she’s chief of the West region; Curtis Riddle of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., East region; Carol Hudler of The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., South region; and Michael Kane of The Indianapolis Star, Interstate region. (More details about the other newly named regional executives at the bottom of Dickey’s memo.)

Dickey suggested today that Gannett’s financial position might not improve until well into next year — “or later.” He wrote: “Like many businesses, the weakening economy has had a significant effect on our financial performance. Hardest are the classified categories — real estate, employment and automotive, where our year-over-year classified losses are in the 25% range. But it does not stop there: All segments are struggling with the current economic conditions and, unfortunately, forecasters predict that a rebound won’t occur until well into 2009 or later.”

Revenue losses force Dickey’s hand
As across the newspaper industry, Gannett is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue as companies like Ford Motor and Apple shift more of the advertising dollars online, or to handheld devices such as smartphones like BlackBerries. The pace of those losses has quickened in the past year as the economy has soured, forcing Dickey to find ways to accelerate the division’s switch to digital publishing.

Responding today, employees and their families expressed a range of emotions — from anger that more weren’t let go, to sadness. “Today the so-called ‘higher ups’ at various newspapers across the nation were told they no longer have jobs,” Anonymous@5:15 p.m. said, in a comment on Dickey’s memo. “One of which was my father. It’s pretty sad information to hear. Still hasn’t set in yet. He worked hard for many years.”

Dickey’s announcement came this morning. On Wall Street, investors appeared unmoved: Shares closed at $17.81, down 69 cents, or 3.7%, on a grim day overall for stock markets. The company’s stock is down 60% from a year ago, Google Finance says.

Please post your reactions 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. The Register is one of 84 newspapers in Gannett’s community newspaper division]

Also, that the Cowles family would never sell out

September 2, 2008
“We thought that Gannett wouldn’t dare
gut us so badly.”

— an unidentified Des Moines Register reporter, speaking to the Iowa Independent blog, in a new story about 15 recent layoffs at the Pulitzer Prize-winning paper, sold to GCI in 1985.

Weakened storm Gustav lands west of New Orleans; hundreds of employees publish live news coverage

September 1, 2008

[Army National Guard members patrol the 5th District today after Gustav skirted New Orleans, in this USA Today photo]

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET. Gannett employees from Louisiana and Mississippi, fortified by teams from Florida, Des Moines, USA Today and elsewhere, are covering Hurricane Gustav‘s landfall today, publishing videos and other news reports live and real-time. As millions fled inland, The Times in Shreveport, La., and other sites streamed live storm video.

Watching the story unfold, Gannett Blog readers cheered: “GREAT JOB SHREVEPORT!!!!!!!! The best paper in Louisiana, and the best operating committee and publisher in our company,” one said in a comment, below. “You guys are doing a great job covering the storm.”

[Storm updates: The Timeshomepage, moments ago]

Do you know co-workers there? Wish them well! Please post your notes 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: Gustav revives the overtime-pay debate

[Photo: Rob Curtis, USA Today]

August blog traffic: It’s the end of a newsy summer

August 30, 2008

Amid a surge in readers, the five most clicked-on August posts:

  • Gannett said laying off 600 newspaper employees; pub’s memo discloses total 1,000 jobs getting axed
  • Roll call: Say goodbye to your pink-slipped friends
  • Gannett starts issuing pink slips: 600 jobs at stake; employees tally historic losses; blog updates all day
  • Des Moines: News job cuts, and a ‘have-fun’ e-mail
  • As layoffs begin, spotlight shifts to USA Today

Updated at 5:44 a.m. ET, Sept. 1. News drove traffic sky-high this month — to levels I doubt can be sustained, a new Google Analytics report says. Unique visitors in August jumped 66% from July, to nearly 29,000 (why that metric is tricky). Visits rose 59%, to about 119,000. And page views soared 90%, to about 273,000.

For context: Gannett employs about 46,000. And industry-leading blogger Jim Romenesko nabs 100,000 individual visitors a day.

Free inside!
Google Analytics
has the traffic data, available in a free report I make available to anyone, via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Google Analytics]

Reader: Des Moines’ Washburn is on the right track

August 7, 2008

Regarding Des Moines Register Editor Carolyn Washburn‘s plans to create a “fun committee,” even as the paper considers layoffs, a reader says: “Carolyn gives out money ($50 cash) for monthly Best of the Register awards for good writing, headlines, photos, online contributions and other good work, so lay off. There are food rewards for new hires and retirements. But I like the idea that she wants more. I don’t think newsrooms today have enough FUN. I remember having fun in the newsroom. Wonderful, fizzy, crazy laughfests. Some of it went away when the ‘characters’ retired. Some more of it left when the bar across the ally from one of my places of employment closed. Some of it was knocked out of people who were scared for their jobs or unable to fulfill editors’ expectations. But there is fun to be had in newsrooms, still. And asking the people who would like to instigate some fun to pitch in isn’t a bad idea. I bet, money marbles and chalk, she’ll come up with some budget for it, too.”

Join the debate, in the original post.

Des Moines: News job cuts, and a ‘have-fun’ e-mail

August 6, 2008

Regarding a new round of budget cuts, a reader just sent me the following in an e-mail about The Des Moines Register: “We are facing layoffs in the coming weeks: Editor Carolyn Washburn (left) confirmed it at a staff meeting the other day. And while the number (or names) haven’t come out yet, rumors are that they are going to be about 12-13 newsroom employees affected. The interesting part, however, is that just several days after the staff meeting, Washburn sent this e-mail to the whole newsroom.” 

I’m looking for some of you willing to be members of a new fun committee. OK, you can call yourselves whatever you want. But think popcorns Fridays, and the day the hotdog gun came, and the Perry Beeman/Rodney White band performance. We need more stuff like that. A group who can create a nice celebration for us when we do something huge like launch Metromix. Or win 3 ONA awards. Or to consistently have, and have fun with, BOR. I’d like a group who can spot those opportunities and just throw some fun together, and a group that I can call on when something cool happens who will create some good celebrations and recognitions. If you are willing to help, please let me know.

Says my reader: “People here are not very happy with this!”

Earlier: Batter up! Des Moines Register sex issue’s got juice