Archive for the ‘Louisville’ Category

Open wounds: When a popular co-worker is laid off

December 7, 2008

The loss of even one employee is felt keenly when they’re a popular team member — especially if they seem like the last person to be targeted for layoff. The decision seems so arbitrary, which ultimately makes the choice more threatening to everyone left behind.

When bosses duck “why him?” questions, the workplace can grow toxic. That’s the theme of a couple comment threads today, including one where Anonymous@2:28 p.m. writes: “If the company is going to get rid of employees like this one guy, we’re all in trouble!!!!”

I bet you can multiply that story by 85 — all the Gannett papers, in other words, hit by the 2,000 job cuts in the big layoff now entering its second week. Thousands of employees return to dramatically reshaped workplaces tomorrow. There are hurt feelings, and anger. Some employees lack even basic information — including those at The Cincinnati Enquirer, where Publisher Margaret Buchanan has not answered the most basic question yet, Gannett Blog readers say: How many of your paper’s approximately 1,000 jobs did you cut?

Spinning conspiracies
“If Buchanan won’t publicly come clean about this with her employees and readers — something that many of her peers did — then what else is she capable of suppressing? Lots,” Anonymous@3:15 p.m. says in this comment today. “Limiting a well-respected business editor to sign off this week in her final column by stating that her last day was this past Tuesday, with no explanation, confirms it.”

Now, it’s entirely possible the Enquirer ran into an 11th-hour hitch, preventing it from completing its layoff by the end of last week, when most other papers were done. Still, in the current silence, conspiracy theories like those expressed above spread by e-mail, or in furtive loading dock conversations. I’ve seen “survivor’s guilt” float past in a few comments. And there’s what’s ahead: more layoffs next year, no end in sight, until revenue stabilizes.

A toxic workplace
Lawyers and H.R. consultants everywhere have shut down candid talk between managers and employees after a layoff. They cite invasion-of-privacy threats. But silence fuels a toxic workplace. You wish it were possible to corral everyone for a wide-open, honest discussion about why Susie Q. in ad services got laid off, when Stan T. dozes at his desk in plain view of the boss.

So, survivors air hurt feelings on Gannett Blog. That’s cathartic in the short run, but I’m not sure it provides real solutions for the long run. How is the mood in your department now? And what can management and employees do to (OK; I’ll say it) heal the wounds?

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 Enquirer and Detroit Free Press; some Freep employees say they want more information about possible layoffs. Paper-by-paper layoff list]

Breaking: Tally hits 1,400 as mass layoff deepens

December 3, 2008
Gannett’s nationwide newspaper downsizing has now claimed 1,400 jobs since yesterday morning, according to Gannett Blog reader accounts, plus new figures from Nashville (92 of 1,000 jobs cut); Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (59 of 250), and Greenville, S.C. (36 of 500).

Earlier today, two of the biggest worksites revealed their plans. The Des Moines Register is eliminating 74 of 801 jobs. And The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., said it’s cutting 69 of its approximately 1,100 positions.

We’ve only accounted for 42 of the 85 community dailies, plus USA Today. Is your paper included? Please add your numbers and links to stories on our list, or in the comments section, below. Or e-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

Louisville: Why survival of Ford, GM matters here

November 19, 2008

Ford Motor employs 5,600 at two factories in the Louisville area, and General Motors employs 2,000 at its Corvette plant in Bowling Green, 115 miles southwest of Louisville, The Courier-Journal says today in a story about Kentucky’s Republican senators opposing a Democratic proposal to bail out the domestic auto industry.

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

For editors, new software tool — and Connell, too?

November 18, 2008

Gannett is on the verge of launching an online software application to make it easier for its newspapers to share and reuse each others’ stories and other content, readers tell me.

The service, possibly called Gannett One or Content One, could largely or completely replace what remains of Gannett News Service. What’s more, it appears to be a step in the direction of weaning the company off increasingly expensive Associated Press stories, video and other content.

CEO Craig Dubow and Gannett’s chief spokeswoman Tara Connell described the new initiative in a series of employee meetings yesterday during a Corporate tour of papers at Greenville, S.C., and at Brevard and Fort Myers in Florida, readers say. “There was a TON of open groaning and shifting about this from the news side of yesterday’s meeting,” one tipster told me about the News-Press meeting in Fort Myers.

In a curious twist, I’m told, Connell — who has been vice president over corporate communications since 2003 — would take on an editorial role, working with research and development chief Michael Maness to run the service. (I asked Connell for comment last night, but have not heard back from her.)

Gannett One would let an editor quickly determine which company newspapers have just published a spring gardening story on, say, planting tulips. The story could then be downloaded, re-written to include more local information, then published online and in print, readers say.

Dubow and newspaper division President Bob Dickey talked about the same sharing of information when they visited employees last month in Louisville, Ky. “Someone asked if this meant eliminating AP, and they said that it would probably happen later down the road, but not immediately,” another reader says. “The impression I got was within the next 3-5 years.”

Connell’s credibility problem
An employee since 1972(!!!), Connell has spent the past five-plus years in the public-relations spin cycle, defending Dubow and other top executives even as their compensation skyrocketed while revenue and the company’s stock price tanked.

To be sure, Connell has worked editorial before: Prior to being named the company’s top publicist, she was a managing editor at USA Today before being replaced during a change in top editors. While her defense of Corporate has hardly been full-throated, I imagine her credibility among some editors is now pretty much shot. (Besides, if Connell moves back to edtorial, who’s going to make sure you-know-who doesn’t keep losing her BlackBerry?)

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.

The insiders: Debating ethics of leaking documents

November 8, 2008

Reporters know whistle-blowers play an indispensable role in uncovering abuses of power in government and business. One of the most famous examples: Former tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand, who helped journalists use secret company documents to show that Brown & Williamson of Louisville, Ky., intentionally manipulated nicotine levels to make its cigarettes even more addictive.

Still, plenty of my readers — including some who’ve never worked in a newsroom — are troubled by the idea that Gannett employees leak memos and other company documents to me.

Anonymous@6:47 p.m., who says they’re a former Gannettoid who was never in management, commented recently: “I support you and the blog, but I still believe that sending non-public company information is a violation of the ethics policy. It’s not a First Amendment right, which some folks here have tried to argue; just look at the reporter from Cincy who cost Gannett $10M when he stole voice mails from (Chiquita Brands). Sending company e-mails to a third party is identical to that.”

Gannett encourages its reporters to aggressively monitor public and private power. Does that obligation stop when it comes to GCI itself? 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: Russell Crowe played Wigand in the 1999 film, The Insider]

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]

Pensacola: Florida papers win big high court ruling

October 25, 2008

Led by the Pensacola News Journal, Florida newspapers have won an important legal victory protecting them from lawsuits challenging accurate reporting that might cast someone in a bad light.

From a story yesterday in the Tallahassee Democrat: “The Florida Supreme Court, in a pair of rulings, said libel and defamation lawsuits offer enough protection and refused to recognize false-light invasion of privacy as grounds to sue. The decisions served to uphold a lower-court ruling that tossed out an $18.3 million judgment against the Pensacola News Journal and its parent company, Gannett.”

Ivey, and Corporate politics
Wasn’t this the lawsuit that landed then-Publisher Denise Ivey in Corporate’s doghouse, before she was briefly liberated by now-retired newspaper division chief Sue Clark-Johnson? Ivey, publisher of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., is reportedly now back in Pensacola as a consultant — a victim of June’s Friday Afternoon Massacre.

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.

Calling Asheville: Is Dubow still coming today?

October 21, 2008

And if CEO Craig Dubow does meet with Asheville Citizen-Times employees today, as a reader suggested, could you please tell us what you hear from him? Last Friday in Louisville, Ky., and in Cincinnati, Dubow told employees about another round of layoffs.

Asheville: Please post 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.

Pensacola: An experiment (with Ivey?) continues

October 19, 2008

The Pensacola News Journal is apparently still experimenting with producing two different front pages: One for home delivery, the other for rack sales aimed at young readers. Meanwhile, former long-time Publisher Denise Ivey is heading back to the paper as some sort of advisor, a tipster says: “Just heard the word ‘consultant’ being thrown around. Sounds like she’ll be making a list.”

Ivey, you’ll recall, was Pensacola publisher from 1994 to 2006, when she was named publisher of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and president of the former Mid-South Group of Gannett papers. Ivey lost those two posts during June’s Friday Afternoon Massacre. Arnold Garson of Sioux Falls, S.D., replaced her as Louisville publisher, and the regional authority was moved to the newly formed South Group in Fort Myers, Fla. Ivey was bumped up to the newly created Louisville position of chairman, until her scheduled Jan. 1 retirement.

Like Gannett’s other three Florida papers, the News Journal is in trouble over its exposure to the real estate collapse. Florida is one of four states (Arizona, California and Nevada are the others) that have lost enormous sums of housing-related advertising in the past year — a loss that has pulled down Gannett’s overall revenue and profits.

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.

Stock sinking, Dubow said raising specter of layoffs

October 18, 2008
Less than a week before management reports to Wall Street, Gannett’s shares have sunk to fresh lows — swinging the spotlight on CEO Craig Dubow, after he reportedly disclosed plans yesterday for more layoffs in as little as 10 weeks.

Dubow told Courier-Journal employees in Louisville, Ky., that another round of layoffs is in the works, according to reader comments here, and details I’ve gathered from people familiar with the matter. Dubow didn’t give details on Friday, other than to say the new cuts could come by year’s end. An employee in the meeting said Dubow himself raised the subject of layoffs, without prompting.

“He brought it up and said he wanted to be as transparent as he could be and answer any questions,” the employee told me in an e-mail.

Dubow and his team are reportedly reviewing contingency plans for sharp budget reductions — up to 7.5%, possibly more — in the newspaper division. The timetable is unclear; this may be part of the 2009 budget review. Or Corporate might apply them to the current budget, which would almost certainly require layoffs.

Whatever the timing, I would think Dubow would want to preview details with Wall Street analysts during next Friday’s third-quarter earnings conference call. Big strategic shifts also require approval of the board of directors. The board, with Dubow as chairman, is likely to begin its quarterly two-day meeting on Wednesday.

Any job cuts would follow the layoff of 100 newspaper managers last month in a reorganization of the newspaper division. Those layoffs followed 1,000 jobs eliminated in August in the revenue-losing newspaper division.

A new round would not be surprising, given the economy’s direction (see: toilet) — and Corporate’s prior warning two months ago, in its layoff instructions to publishers: “If advertising and circulation revenues continue to decline, further payroll reductions may be necessary.”

Ad revenue slide accelerates
The newspaper division, which employs about 30,000, accounted for 65% of Gannett’s $1.7 billion in operating revenue during the second quarter. But the division is hemorrhaging ad revenue, the No. 1 source of GCI’s income and profits — further raising the stakes in next Friday’s third-quarter earnings release.

Following are changes in newspaper ad revenue from a year before; the list starts with last year’s first quarter, when revenue first started falling:

Visits paving way for news?
The third quarter probably isn’t going to look a lot better. And all that will pale alongside what the fourth quarter delivers. We’re three weeks in, banking crisis and all, and it’s not looking pretty.

Yesterday, Dubow and newspaper division President Bob Dickey also met with Cincinnati Enquirer employees, before heading to Louisville. And a Gannett Blog reader said today that “some very important folks from Corporate” are due Tuesday at North Carolina’s Asheville Citizen-Times. This suggests Corporate could be softening up the field for big news. (Or it may just be a busy travel week for McLean, Va.)

As Dubow met employees Friday, Gannett shares touched new lows. The stock closed at $10.79, up 12 cents, after trading as low as $10.40 earlier in the afternoon. Still, that capped one of its worst months since I began tracking GCI: shares fell 40%, according to Google Finance. In contrast, the battered S&P-500 Index fell a smaller 22%. (Chart detail, inset; bigger view).

Is Corporate scheduled to visit your paper or TV station in coming weeks? 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 Louisville Courier-Journal, Newseum]