Archive for the ‘Louisville’ Category

For today’s Dubow visit, a plumber named Joe

October 17, 2008

(Updated at 6:37 p.m. ET.) In an anonymous comment, a reader says CEO Craig Dubow spoke of more layoffs as soon as year’s end during a meeting today with Louisville employees. I have not corroborated this on my own. The reader’s comment: “He was cornered at the end of the meeting by a handsome young man about when the layoffs would occur and how large. He said that the numbers were still being worked on and that sites and the UK had to be visited, but that it would probably be before the end of the year. We didn’t know if that is when the numbers would be known or when the actual layoffs would occur.”

(Earlier.) Back in the days of the old “on-site” visits, the Idaho Statesman once published results of an inaugural Idaho Poll to impress then CEO John Curley and other potentates visiting from Corporate. (It was the pricey poll’s first and only appearance.) Carpeting long in need of repair was fixed. The lobby was spruced up. As business news editor, I was told to make sure Gannett’s stock listing was correct in that day’s paper. You can imagine all the other headaches we faced in this “company’s coming” drill.

Fast forward to today, when CEO Craig Dubow and newspaper division president Bob Dickey are reportedly visiting The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and then The Cincinnati Enquirer, 100 miles northeast in Ohio, for a series of meet-and-greets with employees. Readers here posted questions they’d like Dubow to answer, including: “Do you read the Gannett papers?” (I’d love to hear him answer that one!)

Louisville, Cincinnati: What can you report from your meetings? 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: this morning’s Enquirer, which Dubow and Dickey would be expected to read closely. The front page features the nation’s current “talker” of a story: Joe the Plumber of Holland, Ohio, now enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, 200 miles north of Cincinnati]

Tickler file: Budget cuts? A looming board meeting

October 15, 2008

With Gannett shares screaming lower, and the third-quarter earnings release coming up next Friday, here’s what I’m watching right now. In the newsroom, this would be part of my tickler file:

Budget revisions. We’ve got fresh speculation that Corporate is looking for even bigger spending cuts in the newspaper division — 7.5% or more. What’s that mean for another round of job cuts? Is the deadline timed to next week’s expected board of directors meeting?

Louisville this Friday. CEO Craig Dubow and newspaper division President Bob Dickey have chosen a momentous time for a meet-and-greet with Courier-Journal employees. “Considering the environment these days, it should be an interesting meeting,” a reader said here.

Next Wednesday. That’s when the board of directors will probably start its pre-earnings meetings; these often last two days. If Chairman Dubow has any big strategic changes for fellow directors to approve, he’s now got less than seven days to build those PowerPoint presentations. “Any sweeping management plan has to be put to the board of directors for review and approval,” a reader noted here.

Caution ahead!
Rumor Central is going into overdrive again, so be skeptical about any budget cut numbers or other financial data you see posted in comments here — unless the commenter gives a legitimate source.

“Who knows what will happen?” one reader said earlier today. “Maybe there will be even worse cuts. Maybe far less. But to go kneejerk everytime someone posts something is to show no understanding for how things actually work.”

What else should be on my radar screen? 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.

[Photo: that’s me, watching CNBC moments ago; picture taken with my MacBook Pro]

For Louisville meeting, your questions for Dubow

October 14, 2008

CEO Craig Dubow and newspaper division chief Bob Dickey are taking questions from employees during a meeting reportedly scheduled for Friday at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Gannett Blog readers are posting questions they’d like Dubow to answer. Among them:

Q. Economists seem to agree that the United States is heading into a very bad recession. With the diminished revenues, will there be further large-scale layoffs or do you have a new vision for this company that will allow us to survive the bad times?

Got a question for Dubow? Add it to the original post — or 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.

Readers: Major press printing woes in Louisville

October 1, 2008

Two notes over the past week hint at a dicey situation new Publisher Arnold Garson may now be facing since becoming The Courier-Journal‘s chief executive in August. The writers — including one who says he’s a local union officer — describe problems with press maintenance, heavy newsprint waste, and loss of commercial printing jobs at the paper, which has one of Gannett’s newer print operations.

“We’ve heard Louisville is close to losing a commercial job,” Anonymous@7:29 a.m. said in Monday’s edition of Real Time Comments. “Anybody know? Ad sales people going bananas here.”

That followed an e-mail from a Mike Heine, who says he’s a Louisville pressman, and an officer of GCC/IBT Local 619M; Heine’s been with the paper 10 years. “Here in L’ville,” he writes, “we have an $85 million facility that is crumbling. We’ve seen the page counts, and press runs go down for some time now. Lost 30 thousand in 10 months. If we are to keep our jobs, we need commercial work, and lots of it. Problem is, nobody in newspaper world is real good at commercial planning.”

Heine says part of the problem stems from a showdown the union had with human resources chief Randi Austin. “Preventive maintenance is a must, but we don’t have manpower. Company illegally laid off two press operators last winter; during grievance meeting, Randi Austin told us it was not our job to tell them when to do maintenance, but that they would tell us when we could.”

Garson has a history of run-ins with unions, my readers have told me. I wonder if this is why he was sent to replace Denise Ivey after the Friday Afternoon Massacre?

Earlier: New Louisville pub’s age raises tenure questions

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

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]

Calling Miss Manners: Awkward going-away parties

September 25, 2008

[Sheet cake: infamous Wal-Mart version]

Let’s get real: We don’t love all our departing co-workers equally. For example, some of us think we’re God’s gift to Gannett; others hold a different view. This mismatch only gets worse in the case of bigger and more influential colleagues: i.e., the boss. “Why exactly are we throwing a party for this guy?” a reader wrote recently in a comment, about a suddenly departing USA Today editor. “If he has a small posse of peeps he’s close to, they can go have drinks or whatever.”

Yet, as thousands of colleagues leave, we go through the motions — even when the honoree isn’t so, well, honored. An e-mail flashes across department computer screens: “Cake in five minutes in conference room to say goodbye to __________ ,” the note says — adding, a bit hopefully: “I’m sure we all want a nice send-off.”

Next, some poor wretch assigned to the task rolls out the dreaded carrot cake and napkins (plastic utensils budget was cut). Assistant managers look up, then drag themselves to the center of the room. Others s-l-o-w-l-y join in, forming rag-tag circle. Honoree (example: inset, left) stands gamely in the middle. Resigned glances all around. A moment of praise that seems to take until next Wednesday to deliver. An awkward pause, followed by a flutter of faint clapping. Cake in hand, race back to desk to meet a deadline.

(Confidential to Nashville: I’ve just described The Courier-Journal newsroom’s 1997 going-away party for top editor Mark Silverman. Contrary to legend, however, we didn’t dance a conga line through the room when his transfer was announced. Silverman’s exit came only a year after Corporate sent him to Louisville to bring the anti-Gannett faction to heel. We know how well that worked!)

TO: G. Martore

FROM: C. Montgomery Burns
RE: New profit center suggestion!

How about consolidating all going-away party work to a new National Shared Cake-Baking and Employee Recognition Center of Excellence — in Indianapolis?! Synergistic win-wins: More taxpayer freebies!! Plus: Other downsizing companies can outsource parties to GCI!!!

Witnessed a memorable going-away party? Details, please, 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.

[Images: more going-away cakes; inset: No. 1 least favorite co-worker, C. Montgomery Burns]

Giving credit: What I gained from USA Today

September 24, 2008

It turns out that USAT‘s write-tight style works very well for blogging: Short posts, with impact high. Eye-catching art, and provocative headlines with reader-friendly terms — what, where, when, why, how, etc.

That’s a dividend from having worked at Gannett’s flagship for nearly eight years: My writing and self-editing skills really improved. Competing on the same national stories, I often packed as much information — or more — into less space, because I adhered to USA Today‘s famous, tight format. (Folks who don’t work in the newsroom may be surprised: It takes more work to write a complete, short story than it does to just dump all your information into a longer story, and force the reader to wade through it all.)

I helped heave a lot of multi-part/multi-day projects into papers in Little Rock, Boise, Louisville — and, in San Francisco, for USA Today. I worked closely with page designers and graphic artists, because I really like visuals (duh). Plus, if people don’t read my package on lax daycare regulation because it looked so gray and boring — well, my series has failed. With me looking over their shoulders, designers sometimes hesitated to suggest trimming my copy. I’d often push them to make even bigger cuts!

Earlier: My life, on Internet time

Got a blog to recommend? 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.

[today’s front page, Newseum]

Nervous glances: Corporate, Craig Moon — and me

August 28, 2008

[Glass palace: Gannett and USA Today headquarters]

Hardly anyone talked about Corporate at USA Today during the nearly eight years I worked for the company’s flagship — a big change from the three smaller newspapers where I was a reporter and editor in Little Rock, Boise and Louisville, Ky. At the community papers, Corporate — and that’s what people called it — hung over us like a big, ominous cloud. Top executives back at Arlington, Va., and then McLean, Va., after the company relocated in 2001, liked to say they always deferred to “local control.”

But that was complete and total bullshit. In newsrooms at the smaller papers, the editor or publisher would make sudden, odd requests that we do something. When we asked why, the short answer would be: “Corporate.” No more questions allowed.

Polished granite vs. threadbare carpet
It was entirely different at USA Today. The paper shared a luxurious building with Gannett — but that was it. USAT wasn’t subject to the onerous rules forced on the smaller papers: We rarely worried about diversity and mainstreaming, programs designed to feature more minorities in news stories. The quality control programs — News 2000, then Real Life, Real News — didn’t apply to us. There was much more money for business travel. And if you worked at the main office in McLean, you were cosseted in a gleaming glass office complex with granite floors, acres of stainless-steel details, a nice cafeteria, on-site gym facilities, a softball field and other amenities. The newsrooms where I worked employed nearly 500 often well-paid reporters, editors, artists and others.

Contrast that with the Idaho Statesman when I arrived in late 1991. The dirty, threadbare carpeting in the dimly-lit newsroom was literally held down with duct tape. Desks and chairs were old and battered. The closest thing we had to a cafeteria was the dreary, windowless “breakroom” with vending machines. Staffing was razor-thin: As the business-news editor, I had virtually no support from the understaffed copy desk: I edited and wrote stories; laid out the section, and oversaw page production in the back shop. I routinely put in 10- and 11-hour days, and worked most weekends. I got no overtime or comp time, of course, because I was in management.

Curley’s mysterious exit
USA Today started getting dragged into Corporate’s fold around 2003, when Publisher Tom Curley (left) — a likely successor to then-CEO Doug McCorkindale — bolted Gannett to become CEO of the Associated Press. (We were never told why, of course, but it appeared to follow a clash between the two executives.)

Craig Moon, publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville, replaced Curley. USAT staff began worrying that Moon would manage the newspaper more like one of Gannett’s 84 smaller titles: The budget would be reined in. Worker productivity demands would rise. In other words, USA Today would start carrying more of the load.

None of that surprised me. I had worked for Moon (left) once before, when he was publisher of The Arkansas Gazette for about two years, ending in early 1991, not long before Gannett shut down the paper amid a bruising newspaper war with a cross-town rival. By then, Moon had been promoted to Nashville, already on the road to Corporate.

I didn’t see Moon again for another 14 years years. By then, he’d been USAT publisher for about a year, and was making a surprise visit to the San Francisco bureau, where I worked as a business-news reporter. We had exchanged a few e-mails during the previous months about his impending choice for a new top editor, after Karen Jurgensen got bounced during the Jack Kelley scandal. I urged Moon to consider one editor in particular for the opening — someone other than the Tennessean‘s Mark Silverman; the rumor mill had placed Silverman on Moon’s short list. (Moon eventually hired Ken Paulson — but not before offering the job to someone else, I was told.)

Moon’s nervous look
On that day when Moon visited San Francisco, I don’t think he remembered that I worked in the office there. I buzzed him inside, then re-introduced himself. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like an uncomfortable look crossed his face, as in: Uh-oh: A Little Rock survivor. I wonder what Hopkins remembers?

(Confidential to everyone: I remember everything. Maybe that explains some of the antics at yesterday’s USA Today staff meeting? Or, maybe he’s still pissed off about 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.

[Images: headquarters, Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects; today’s USAT front page, Newseum]

Blog: Louisville no longer replacing missed papers

August 26, 2008

If a Courier-Journal carrier skips you, or someone steals your paper, or if it gets wet, and you call for a replacement, “it’s not gonna happen,” the ‘Ville Voice says. “There will be no re-delivery of missed papers on weekdays.”

The paper eliminated the customer service because its circulation department was especially hard hit in the recent round of layoffs, the blog says. The Louisville, Ky., paper laid of 15 of its 1,100 employees.

The blog quotes a memo it says newly appointed Publisher Arnold Garson sent to the staff: “This is a step other newspapers have taken to help reduce costs with minimal impact. Saturday and Sunday redelivery continues.”

Has your newspaper discontinued re-delivery of missed papers? Was the impact as minimal as Garson said? 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.

Earlier: New Louisville pub’s age raises tenure questions

[Image: today’s Courier-Journal front page, Newseum]

Monday Recap: Special Unsinkable Dubow Edition!

August 25, 2008

[The band plays on: Shares have plunged since Dubow became CEO]

With so many new readers, here’s a chronology showing all the fun we’ve had since Craig Dubow became CEO three years ago.

2005
May 25: Waking briefly from a deep slumber, the board of directors discovers the Internets, and concludes that Gannett is going to hell in a hand basket. Reportedly turned down by its first two outside candidates, the board settles on No. 3: Dubow (left), head of the TV division. Gannett stock closes: $75.31 a share.

2006
Nov. 2: Dubow reveals a major part of his strategic plan to save the company: Reorganize GCI’s newspaper newsrooms around the newly created Information Center model. “This looks an awful lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” writes a certain blogger, who’s privately tracking Gannett. Stock closes: $58.25.

Dec. 29: In one of the first labor-management skirmishes over the Information Center idea, top executives at The Indianapolis Star (left) back down over demands that newsroom employees write advertorials.

2007
March 16: Shares tumble more than 4%, to $55.76, as GCI warns profits will sink. A Morgan Stanley stock analyst says: “Revenues look to be far from reaching some sort of a trough, and until we see some indication of stabilization, we would steer clear from owning the shares.”

July 24: The board approves a 29% hike in the quarterly dividend, the single-biggest increase since 1995. Summering in the Hamptons, Wall Street is unimpressed. Meanwhile, the bubbling U.S. mortgage crisis grows worse and — unknown to most employees — begins to emerge as the biggest threat to Gannett’s future.

Aug. 10: Dubow denies a Wall Street Journal report that says top management is preparing GCI for a sale. Stock closes: $47.37.

Sept. 11: In an alarming memo, Dubow warns that progress is coming too slowly, and hints at a big downsizing: “This is the hard part. This is where transformation gets really difficult. I want to begin talking with you more about this process and what it means. I can’t take away all the pain and doubt, but I can help lead you through it.” Also, Gannett Blog emerges from stealth mode, appearing in public for the first time.

Oct. 24: Former NBC News president Neal Shapiro named to the board of directors.

Nov. 8: Private investment company Brandes Investment Partners doubles its GCI ownership, for the first time claiming an 11% stake. Gannett Blog traffic surges. Stock closes: $40.44.

Dec. 7: In a dramatic downsizing, USA Today buys out 43 newsroom employees, nearly 9% of all — losing some of the No. 1 circulation newspaper’s high-profile staffers. (Those outmoded digital dinosaurs included a guy with an idea for blog. Oops!)

2008
Jan. 10: One of the company’s most powerful executives, newspaper division chief Sue Clark-Johnson, announces plans to retire; she’s later replaced by Phoenix GCI executive Bob Dickey (left). The next day, former USA Today reporter and editor Jim Hopkins reveals he has been the anonymous editor of the nascent Gannett Blog.

Feb. 15: The Poopgate scandal grabs headlines, as Courier-Post employees in Cherry Hill, N.J., threaten a U.S. Labor Department complaint if they don’t get paid for overtime they have worked.

Feb. 28: The 2007 Annual Report reveals that GCI’s workforce plunged 7% in the previous year, to 46,100. Looking ahead to 2008, Dubow promises: “I assure you, you will see progress.” Stock closes: $30.23.

March 13: Gannett discloses that Dubow was paid $7.5 million in 2007, including a $1.75 million bonus. Employees are outraged: “Gannett stock plummeted almost $50 a share inside of a year and he gets a $1.75 million bonus? And reporters and editors are making due with less staff, less resources — I’m beyond shocked,” one says. Stock closes: $29.97.

March 26: Public documents reveal the company’s charitable arm, the Gannett Foundation, has quietly allowed Dubow and other top executives to steer nearly $424,000 to their pet charities — far from communities where the company does business.

May 29: Squeezing employees more, Gannett lays off 55 workers at the Asbury Park Press and three other N.J. newspapers.

June 9: The financial picture worsens: GCI writes off nearly $3 billion of its assets.

June 11: Gannett freezes its retirement plan. Furious employees heap blame on Dubow: “Kiss my ass,” says one worker. Stock closes: $25.99.

June 27: The Friday Afternoon Massacre reorders the troubled newspaper division, putting publisher’s jobs into play at Indianapolis and Louisville.

July 16: Gannett discloses that second-quarter earnings plunged 36% from a year ago. Dubow says the near-term outlook is grim. Investors panic: Shares trade as low as $14.70. Stock closes: $16.57.

July 31: Monthly traffic surges on Gannett Blog. The number of unique visitors climbs 21%, to about 17,500. Page views soar 41%, to about 144,000.

Aug. 13: Management grows more desperate, disclosing plans to lay off 600 employees and eliminate another 400 jobs in the troubled newspaper division. Shares briefly surge, but soon begin falling again.

Aug. 18: Gannett starts issuing pink slips. Enraged employees complain the layoffs are taking too long: “The way that management carried this out felt very much like a hit and run.”

Aug. 22: GCI says July revenue dived 12.3% from a year ago, as classified ad losses accelerate. Stock closes: $17.67.

Sept. 9: In a major reorganization of its troubled newspaper division, Gannett discloses it has laid off about 100 directors — heads of human resources, production, advertising and other high-profile jobs.

Oct. 1: Gannett says Standard & Poor’s has put the company’s long and short term credit ratings on credit watch, with “negative implications.” Dubow tries to calm investors: “Our underlying fundamentals remain strong and we continue to be a solid investment grade company.”

Oct. 24: GCI says third-quarter earnings plunged 32% on a worsening decline in newspaper advertising sales, spurring more job cuts by year’s end — and encouraging the once-unthinkable: slashing the company’s unusually generous dividend.

Oct. 28: Reeling from a second consecutive quarter of big revenue losses, Gannett announces plans to lay off 10% of its newspaper employees — up to 3,000 workers — by early December. Stock closes: $10.22.

Nov. 28: Internal Gannett documents show every company newspaper but Detroit’s was profitable as of the third quarter of 2007. Highest profit margin: the Green Bay Press-Gazette, at nearly 43%.

Dec. 3: Gannett has launched newspaper division layoff. Within days, employees have counted nearly 2,000 jobs cut. Stock closes: $8.87. (Closing price the day Dubow named CEO: $75.31)

And these are just the highlights (lowlights?) What have I missed? 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.