Archive for the ‘Montgomery’ Category

Day 3: Cincy braces for buyouts; layoffs in Phoenix?Employees vent: ‘felt very much like a hit and run’

August 20, 2008

Layoff Week grinds on for more than 30,000 newspaper employees, waiting to learn whether they’re among 600 getting laid off. “I just can’t imagine a business surviving when employees have to come to work everyday, wondering if that will be the last,” a reader says. Plus: We’re watching Gannett’s stock all day. Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET:

Cincinnati: Editor Tom Callinan is talking to Enquirer editors about “possible scenarios” as Friday’s deadline for 50 companywide buyout applications draws closer. “But we really won’t know what the future will hold until we see who is on the final list on Friday,” local blogger Newsache quotes Callinan telling staff.

Indianapolis: Seven newsroom employees were laid off, according to Indiana blogger Ruth Holladay. They were notified by top editor Dennis Ryerson, “in person or through a telephone call,” Holladay says. They were among a reported 20 — down from an initial 23 — cut loose from the 1,440-employee paper, readers here say.

Montgomery, Ala.: “Checking in from Montgomery,” a reader says. “We’ve been told (per the publisher’s letter last week) that the layoffs will come down tomorrow, the 20th. I’m sure those of us working at the Advertiser will keep everyone here posted throughout the day.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning paper is slated to lay off 10 of about 375 employees. Editor Wanda Lloyd told the newsroom in an 8 p.m. e-mail last night: “I know all of you are anxious about tomorrow. Let’s plan to get together in the middle of the room for a brief staff meeting at 4 p.m. to talk about the future.”

Phoenix: Two reports that 35 workers are being laid off from The Arizona Republic‘s pressroom. “The other ‘common workers’ are getting thrown out without a buyout!” one reader says. “Shame on the Republic management!!” Like the Enquirer, the Republic has delayed any layoffs, pending responses to a buyout offer. I still don’t know how many offers are on the table, however. Plus, were the buyouts only for certain employees — such as those in the newsroom? Why wouldn’t pressroom employees be eligible, too?

Across Gannett: Angry employees slammed newspaper division chief Bob Dickey (left) and other top brass for taking too long to identify those getting laid off. “Absolutely horrible, waiting to find out who the next casualty was,” a reader said, late last night, in one of more than 150 comments. “The way that management carried this out felt very much like a hit and run.”

On Wall Street: What’s next for Gannett shares? We brace ourselves for the 9:30 opening of stock markets this morning — a day after GCI plunged 4.6%, erasing what little was left of the layoff bump.

More on Gannett Blog

  • Day 2: More agony for jittery newspaper employees
  • Day 1: Gannett launches one of industry’s biggest mass layoffs
  • Roll call: Our exclusive paper-by-paper list of job cuts
  • Protect yourself: Advice for threatened workers

Post latest developments about your paper, plus publishers’ memos, other tips, 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 front page, Newseum]

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New Gannett budget cuts hint at huge job losses

August 6, 2008

Racing to shore up unprecedented losses in revenue and profits, Gannett is now quietly engaged in an aggressive new round of budget cuts that could wipe out as many as 2,300 jobs, or 5% of the company’s workforce.

The latest cuts were revealed today, when the Springfield News-Leader reported that GCI is consolidating finance and accounting for 67 of its newspapers and TV stations — moving the work to two new service centers at company locations in Indianapolis and Springfield, Mo. The shift will wipe out a net 167 jobs, the paper says — with the possibility of more consolidation to come. “Gannett may move other services at its more than 100 newspaper and broadcasting sites to the Springfield and Indianapolis service centers,” the story says.

Gannett hasn’t disclosed details of the new budget cuts, including any final target. The consolidations at Indianapolis and Springfield follow similar shifts involving customer service, photo-toning, TV station graphics, advertising art production, and copyediting work. The company’s silence has created even more uncertainty for the company’s approximately 46,000 employees.

“Anyone have a rough estimate of how many Gannett papers have offered buyouts now?” a Gannett Blog reader in Alabama said in a comment yesterday. “I’m in Montgomery, and we haven’t heard any talk of it, but the recent rash of buyouts has many people nervous.”

Rumors swirled last week that the company planned to ax perhaps 1% of payroll, based on June levels. But recent buyouts and layoffs in Cincinnati; Jackson, Miss.; Detroit; Fort Myers, Fla., and Honolulu, have been in the range of 5% of their workforces. If that higher figure were applied across Gannett, combined job cuts would be close to 2,300.

“Every newspaper will face this in the very near future,” a reader here says. “The ‘loser’ papers (those with publishers with the 60’s mentality of 30%-40% profit margins frozen in their brains) are the first to be affected. Cincy is a classic example. They have/had 900 employees? It’s a wonder they aren’t looking for 250 buyouts.”

Budget cuts at your Gannett workplace? Please post details 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 News-Leader, Newseum]

Montgomery paper in ‘unauthorized’ op-ed flap

July 29, 2008

The Montgomery Advertiser was one of two Alabama papers that published an op-ed piece attributed to Charles Steele Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But the prominent civil-rights leader says he did not write or authorize the piece, according to The Washington Post‘s In the Loop: On K Street. “The episode opens a small window onto an open secret of lobbying,” columnist Jeffrey Birnbaum writes today. “Public relations firms regularly solicit authors of opinion-page articles, draft the pieces for them and place the articles in publications where they will have the most impact — all for a fee.”

The purported Steele commentary criticized pending federal legislation that would reduce credit card fees and suggested that retailers stand to profit from it, Birnbaum says.

Birnbaum says editors declined to comment at the Advertiser and at the second paper, the Tuscaloosa News.

Earlier: In Montgomery, watchdog reporting on a budget

[Image: today’s Advertiser, Newseum]

Montgomery Publisher Brown is history; what’s up?

June 13, 2008

Cheryl Lindus (left), advertising director at the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, has replaced Scott Brown as publisher of the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama. Gannett’s bare-bones announcement says only that Brown “resigned.” One of my readers says: “He slashed the shit out of our paper. This is yet another example of how slashing doesn’t yield positive financials.”

Got details on the latest executive shuffle? Leave a note in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Related: In Montgomery, watchdog reporting on a budget, and Calling Louisville: What’s the story on Roegner?

What’s missing in Clark-Johnson’s farewell speech

April 26, 2008

I sometimes read remarks by Gannett executives, then wonder: Are we on the same planet? Check out retiring newspaper division Chair Sue Clark-Johnson‘s speech on April 15, when she left the chairmanship of the Newspaper Association of America trade group.

Laudably, she noted that government is as secretive as ever, underscoring the vital need for watchdog journalism. “Consider that Freedom of Information requests either languish or take years to respond to by a foot-dragging, resistant government,” Clark-Johnson said. “A Knight Open Government Survey in March reported that — government-wide — there are 200,000 pending federal FOIA requests. Individual reporters are routinely threatened with fines and jail time in an effort to chill the free flow of information.”

Fine. But what has Clark-Johnson done in the past year to bolster watchdog work at Gannett newspapers and TV stations? Why is she content to allow, for example, the Montgomery Advertiser to scrape by without a legislative reporter for months at a time? How are journalists to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable when they don’t have working photocopiers?

“We are restricted only by our creativity and will to embrace change,” Clark-Johnson said in her speech. Well, no: Gannett is restricted by the failure of leadership to understand that its strategic plan is failing — that more of the same won’t cut it.

(Confidential to Corporate: Couldn’t you have broadcast video of Clark-Johnson’s speech, rather than just publishing text in the News Watch newsletter? If you walked the walk more often, we might believe you’re really serious about digital distribution.)

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Hat tip, to a Gannett Blog reader, for this item; image: this morning’s Advertiser, Newseum]

In Montgomery, watchdog reporting on a budget

April 2, 2008

The Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama’s state capital might be the new poster child for the harm done to basic watchdog journalism by Gannett’s newsroom cost cutting. As near as I can tell, the Advertiser has been relying more or less exclusively on the Associated Press to handle coverage of the state legislature since lawmakers started the current session in early February. Again, this is the state capital‘s daily newspaper.

One of my readers says the paper’s legislative reporter left last fall, and was not replaced. I asked top Editor Wanda Lloyd in an e-mail whether this was true. She replied: “We’ve hired someone to cover state government and he’s starting in two weeks.” She declined to be more specific when I pressed for details.

The idea that a state capital paper would outsource all its legislative coverage to the AP would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. It would have been deemed an abdication of fundamental responsibility for watchdog reporting: Keeping an eye on government to make sure elected leaders do their job and don’t abuse power. Gannett papers in the seats of power, state capitals, carry an extra responsibility in this regard. That means cities including Phoenix, Tallahassee, Indianapolis, Nashville — and Montgomery.

But this is the new reality, one I’m not sure Corporate fully appreciates. Otherwise, management wouldn’t whipsaw publishers and editors with demands for budget cuts — while simultaneously urging them to bolster watchdog journalism, to save the print version of papers. “Our watchdog role is perceived as central to our responsibility as a local newspaper,” the recent Gannett Newspaper Division Print Task Force‘s 14-page report says, in a series of recommendations. “As economic pressures persist, ensure that we maintain the expertise in our Information Centers to provide strong watchdog and in-depth reporting.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with AP stories about Alabama state lawmakers — except that you can now get that stuff all over, courtesy of the Internet. What incentive do readers have to go to the Advertiser for state government coverage? What message is Gannett sending to Montgomery readers once accustomed to some of the nation’s best journalism? When Gannett bought the Advertiser in 1995, the paper had won three Pulitzer Prizes. The second, in 1970, was for “reports that exposed a commercial scheme in using Alabama prisoners for drug experimentation.” Sounds like state government watchdog reporting at its finest.

In staffing and circulation, the Advertiser is typical of many Gannett papers. Corporate says it employs 375. Daily circulation is 45,000; Sunday is 53,000. Montgomery, meanwhile, is a typical midsize American city, with about 200,000 residents.

Now, I’ve taken a couple shots at Lloyd over the Advertiser‘s 11th-hour decision last year to cancel three summer internships because of budget cuts. But you know what? I’m sympathetic to Lloyd. Corporate keeps putting the squeeze on its newsrooms to do more with less. And this is one of the results.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s Advertiser, Newseum. The front page carries an AP story about slowing state tax collections]

How I spent my Gannett summer vacation

January 29, 2008

I got an internship — and then the company pulled the rug out from under me! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this summer, anyway. Phxsoul, a Phoenix-based blog for African-Americans, is promoting Gannett’s 2008 Talent Development Program. Those are the internships where, against all odds, many of the positions are magically filled by minority applicants — even though, of course, reserving spots for minorities would be illegal if it were official policy. (OMG: I’ve said something bad again about GCI’s sacred diversity policy!)

Advice to applicants: Don’t bet the summer rent on your internship if you wind up at a paper like the Montgomery Advertiser. Last June, the Alabama paper was forced to make quick budget cuts, leaving three interns suddenly jobless.

[Image: this morning’s Advertiser, Newseum]

Hot Off the Press: Montgomery Advertiser

November 11, 2007

In this new feature, I’m occasionally spotlighting Gannett newspaper front pages in print, drawn randomly from the Newseum‘s collection. This is today’s Montgomery Advertiser, which is very heavy on graphics; click on the image for a bigger view.

Basically, it’s a one-story front built around “The Wars They Fought” package. I like it! It took me a long time to come around to this, but I like front pages with big visuals pointing to good stuff inside.

The Advertiser at a glance:

  • Publisher: Scott M. Brown
  • Executive Editor: Wanda Lloyd
  • Founded: 1829
  • Joined Gannett: 1995
  • Employees: 375
  • Circulation: 49,789 morning; 59,413 Sunday

A question for you: How often does your newspaper have a one-story front? E-mail Gannett Blog, or comment below.

A higher price for saving intern wages

June 18, 2007

The Montgomery Advertiser was forced to make quick budget cuts last week, Journal-isms said today, leaving three interns suddenly without summer jobs. Similar cuts could be coming at other Gannett properties, the site says.

“I would not have done this if I had any other choice,” Editor Wanda Lloyd told Journal-isms. She said publisher Scott Brown told her recently the paper would be asked to consider possible cuts for the rest of this year. “The money for the three interns was not in the budget,” Lloyd said. In order to meet new budget targets, Lloyd said, she might have had to cut a full-time staff member.

The good news: The displaced interns were hired by Schurz Communications, a South Bend, Ind., chain of 15 dailies and five weeklies. The bad news: A bigger cost may yet outweigh any of Montgomery’s savings. I’m talking about the negative publicity that followed, especially in the wake of CEO Craig Dubow‘s well-publicized bid to boost talent development. Here’s one blogger’s reaction, linked to from heavily trafficked Romenesko‘s blog: “Intern Injustice: Gannett Gives The Middle Finger To Three Ala. Interns.” Ouch!