Archive for the ‘Indianapolis’ Category

NYT: On dealmaking sidelines, GCI came out ahead

December 10, 2008

Tribune Co., MediaNews Group and McClatchy Co. — all business partners of Gannett’s — gorged on newspaper deals in 2007 and 2006, only to wake up this year with too much debt and not enough income. Plenty of other investors made the same mistake, too, leading to an industry bubble that has now burst.

“There are some exceptions to this story,” Richard Perez-Pena reports for The New York Times today. “Companies like Gannett that do not have a lot of debt, and did not make major new newspaper acquisitions in recent years, are in much better shape than their peers, despite sharp revenue declines.”

The last big Gannett deal I recall was more than eight years ago, when the company paid $2.6 billion cash to the Pulliam family for The Indianapolis Star and The Arizona Republic, plus four dailies in Indiana and Louisiana.

Papers would be in trouble no matter what. “But the companies in the weakest condition are there largely because they borrowed a lot of money to buy papers,” Perez-Pena says, singling out Tribune, which just sought bankruptcy protection. “Tribune’s was the biggest of those deals, $8.2 billion to take private the company whose assets include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and 23 television stations, a transaction that almost tripled the company’s debt.”

[Image: yesterday’s Star front page, Newseum]

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Report: 300 CareerBuilder layoffs follow tax break

December 8, 2008

The big employment listings website controlled by Gannett has laid off more than 300 employees, a published report says today — just two months after winning a $2.9 million tax break to add 185 jobs at its Chicago headquarters.

This is at least the second time a Gannett business has won a tax break for creating jobs in one city, while simultaneously eliminating jobs elsewhere. CareerBuilder had threatened to leave Chicago without the public money.

“Most of the laid-off workers are from the Chicago corporate headquarters,” the East Valley Tribune near Phoenix, Ariz., reports. “However, some have also been let go from the Atlanta offices. The company’s public information office in Chicago refused to answer questions about the layoffs, although a telephone call by the East Valley Tribune to a branch office near O’Hare Airport confirmed the layoffs were made Friday morning.”

CareerBuilder won the nearly $3 million in Tax Increment Financing to help pay for an $11.6 million renovation of Chicago office space at 200 North LaSalle St., the city’s Department of Planning and Development said in a statement on Oct. 8.

“Eight hundred employees will be located at the headquarters,” the statement says. “CareerBuilder will also retain 615 positions at three other affiliate offices in Chicago, and add 185 jobs over the next two years. CareerBuilder had been considering relocating the majority of its employees to one of its other locations before selecting Chicago for its corporate headquarters.”

The impact of any layoffs on the Tax Increment Financing isn’t clear. I’ve asked CareerBuilder and the Chicago planning department for comment.

Earlier tax breaks in Indiana
Gannett owns 50.8% of CareerBuilder. Tribune Co., which just filed for bankruptcy protection, owns 30.8%. The rest is held by McClatchy Co. and Microsoft.

In September, the state of Indiana agreed to give GCI up to $935,000 in tax credits for creating up to 200 jobs at a new finance center in Indianapolis. A second finance center is being developed in Springfield, Mo. The centers will consolidate accounting and other work that’s been done at the local level across Gannett. A net 167 jobs were to be eliminated in this consolidation.

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.

Layoff stories: ‘I am a newspaperman. Well, I was’

December 3, 2008

Part of an occasional series of personal accounts by readers. This was posted by an Indianapolis Star reporter earlier today.

I walked in the door home a few minutes ago, kissed my wife, and since I don’t know what else to do but be a journalist, I’ll report:

The bosses at the Indy Star are handling it fairly well, compared to some other shops. No bum’s rush out the door or anything. Handshakes, pleasantries, all that. Take your time gathering your things.

The first few minutes after you get back from HR on the 6th floor are interesting. Everyone can see the gray folder in your hand, and some people start avoiding eye contact. Most, though, soon approach and offer their condolences. Not a few hugs are exchanged. Our theater and classical music writer, an absolute workhorse who gave me a very classy goodbye, soon got the call himself. He had to take a minute and down some caffeine before going up.

My last act as an employee was to call an author I’d scheduled an interview with next week to cancel. I’d been pursuing that source for the better part of a year, dropping off materials for her to read and calling every few weeks to convince her to sit down. My persistence paid off and I was finally going to nail the interview, but now it’ll never happen. She reminded me not to forget to return the two books she’d loaned me to read.

Like most people in the Star newsroom, I’d preemptively packed up a bunch of stuff. All I really had left was a bunch of clip files and archives of the entertainment section, of which I was the editor for nearly two years.

‘I am not ready’
Newspapers are surprisingly heavy, especially when you’re carrying them to your car on your last walk out of the building. It’s funny; we think of newspapers as being so insubstantial, so temporary in their usefulness, soon to be discarded for the next batch. It’s only when you gather them up together that their corporeal heft is plain. I look at what I wrote over the past year, and it’s at least two novels worth of words.

A writer? I never considered myself as such. I am a newspaperman. Well, I was. I don’t know what I am now. In this market, I know what my chances are of landing another newspaper gig. I have to face that this is probably the end of my journalism career — it goes without saying that I am not ready.

But there are hundreds of us today, thousands. My story is not special. But I still wanted to tell it, because that’s what I do. Did.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

Are other pubs following Kane, Hudler examples?

November 21, 2008

Publishers in Indianapolis and Fort Myers, Fla., have kept employees up to date on how many of them are likely to be laid off over the next two weeks. Indeed, Indianapolis Star Publisher Michael Kane recently lowered his estimate by nearly half — surely, welcome news for employees trying to plan ahead.

Nothing would be more cruel than sitting on information like this until early December — the deadline Corporate has set for the 84-daily community newspaper division to reduce employment by 10%.

Kane’s revised estimate: fewer than 55 layoffs among about 1,100 employees. In Fort Myers, which has about 600 employees, Publisher Carol Hudler reportedly is forecasting about 100 job cuts — including 80 layoffs; the rest are unoccupied positions.

Both Kane and Hudler are group presidents, which ought to mean downstream pubs in their regions are following their lead. Are they?

How are you preparing for the 10% cut? Post replies in the comments section, below. E-mail gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

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

Memo: Indy Star cuts layoff estimate nearly in half

November 19, 2008

Publisher Michael Kane (left) has just told employees that The Indianapolis Star now expects to lay off fewer than 55 employees by early next month vs. his earlier estimate of up to 95.

In a memo, Kane says: “As we sorted through our options — which included examining every alternative besides reducing staff — I now believe we can limit our reductions to fewer than 55 employees in early December.”

Kane’s note suggests it’s possible to meet Corporate’s 10% workforce reduction in ways that aren’t limited to cutting payroll. In any case, 55 positions would be 5% of the Star’s approximately 1,100 jobs.

Earlier: We’re building a paper-by-paper list of layoffs and job cuts; just two papers are listed so far, however. Will yours be included?

Phoenix: Republic sells small Diamondbacks stake

November 19, 2008

Gannett’s company-wide garage sale continues in full swing: The Arizona Republic has sold its 1% stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks pro baseball team, ending a relationship that began when the paper’s corporate parent provided seed capital establishing the team 10 years ago. Financial terms, including the sale price, were not disclosed.

The Republic initially made a $5 million investment and two subsequent $1 million cash calls early on to help with the team’s “financial shortcomings,” the paper said in a story reporting the sale. That $7 million stake was worth just more than 1% of the team. Gannett bought the Republic, plus The Indianapolis Star and three other dailies in Indiana and one daily in Louisiana from the Pulliam family in 2000 for $2.6 billion in cash.

Richmond: Press shuts in Jan.; printing to Indy

November 13, 2008

The Palladium-Item will be printed at The Indianapolis Star after the smaller paper in Richmond, Ind., shutters its press in mid-January, costing about 60 jobs, a reader says in an e-mail. The two sites are 73 miles apart. The move also affects USA Today‘s printing, and any commercial work still done at Richmond. The Richmond paper is only the latest to consolidate printing at a sister operation.

Indy Star in apparent bogus anthrax mailing

November 4, 2008

Several hundred Indianapolis Star employees were prevented from leaving the building yesterday while authorities examined an envelope labeled “anthrax.” The mailing, which had a return address of MK Publishing in Sacramento, Calif., was similar to anthrax hoax mailings that have been sent to newspapers across the country, the paper says.

Is it 10% fewer workers — or a 10% cut in payroll?

October 31, 2008

What did newspaper division chief Bob Dickey (left) mean when he told the unit’s approximately 30,000 employees earlier this week: “We will institute an involuntary staff reduction of approximately 10% by the first week of December.”

Well after Corporate dropped that layoff bombshell, many of you are still asking an essential question: “For the 9999th time,” one reader pleaded yesterday. “WHICH IS IT??? 10% FEWER EMPLOYEES OR 10% PAYROLL REDUCTION??? Anyone? Please?”

I now think Corporate intends to whack 10% of payroll, rather than going after 3,000 jobsmy initial conclusion when I began posting early Tuesday afternoon. I reach that new conclusion after recalling this reader tip, two weeks before; it warned of a range of expense cuts under consideration, all in percentages.

Based on payroll, Gannett could get to its targeted savings with less than 3,000 layoffs. All it need do is target higher-paid (translation: older, more experienced) employees. That’s likely how the Detroit Free Press and affiliates reached their target of 150 buyouts in July — with only 116 employees.

Confusing memo, without clarification
In hindsight, I think Dickey simply put out a poorly worded memo, one ripe for misinterpretation. Since then, official Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell has done little to clarify the confusion. Seeking damage control, according to one blogger, Connell told Bloomberg News, Reuters, MarketWatch, and anyone else (except, of course, me) who’d listen that the final number of jobs cut will be “substantially” lower than 3,000. Problem is, she wouldn’t say how much lower.

Early reports from the field have only compounded the problem. Indianapolis Star Publisher Michael Kane reportedly told employees that his paper could lose 95 workers — about 9% of its workers. Since then, other readers have told me that one newspaper in the South, and another in a Western state, also are considering cuts equal to about 10% of workers — not payroll.

I have little hope Connell will address this vital question further. I asked her for clarification soon after Dickey’s memo became public. More than three days later, I’m still waiting.

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, Newseum]

Indy Star could eliminate up to 95 jobs, blog says

October 28, 2008

In one of the first ground-level estimates I’ve seen, blogger Ruth Holladay reports that Indianapolis Star Publisher Michael Kane (left) told employees: “At this early stage, I’m guessing that we could be eliminating up to 95 positions, hopefully less. This is very difficult news to share, but our economic outlook demands it.”

The Star employs 1,100, according to its official Corporate page, so Kane’s upper estimate would equal nearly 9% of the paper’s workforce. That’s in line with the 10% layoff figure newspaper division President Bob Dickey gave in his memo earlier today.

Has your publisher provided an estimate for your paper? 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.