Archive for the ‘Rochester’ Category

Signs that consolidation has gotten out of control

December 10, 2008
“Reuters Blogs joked that even Gannett’s
extra ‘n’ and ‘t’ might not be safe.”

City Newspaper in Rochester, N.Y., in a column yesterday, describing Gannett Blog as “an underground website for current and former Gannettoids. It’s underground in the subversive, not the ‘nobody knows about it’ sense; on the contrary, founder Jim Hopkins is being name-checked all over the place.”

Rochester: Publisher’s memo cites ‘harsh reality’

December 2, 2008

The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., said it is eliminating 59 jobs — about 8% of all. The reductions include 34 forced layoffs, Publisher Ali Zoibi says in a memo that serves as an example of the how publishers are breaking the bad news.

Subject: A Message from Ali Zoibi
Ali Zoibi
President & Publisher
Dec. 2, 2008

To: All Democrat and Chronicle Employees

As you know from earlier communications, the Democrat and Chronicle, and all Gannett properties, have been asked to sharply reduce expenses in response to the worsening economic situation.

We will cut many non-payroll expenses and continue to look at others. But the harsh reality is we need to cut about 8% of our current workforce. That translates to 59 jobs in Rochester. Of that, 14 are employees who volunteered to take a severance package of up to 26 weeks pay. Another 11 positions have been open and will be eliminated.

The actual number of layoffs is 34. Severance packages will be given to those impacted. Our revised full-time and part-time employee count totals 680.

All of our meetings will be concluded by noon on Thursday, Dec. 4. This information is being shared with you before it is reported in the media, ours and others in Rochester. The continuing negative impact on our advertising and circulation revenue and the cost of doing business has created this unpleasant situation.

We do not ever discuss individual personnel issues out of respect for our employees.

The Democrat and Chronicle remains steadfast in its commitment to fulfilling its First Amendment news responsibility, as well as providing excellent daily coverage of the greater Rochester community. Our skills and experience position us well to take full and immediate advantage of the economic turnaround as it occurs.

I ask you to support your colleagues and join with us to improve our business outlook. Together, we can do it.

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]

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 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’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]

Rochester Guild seeks pension error victims

September 21, 2008

On Friday, Rochester Newspaper Guild Secretary Gary Craig asked me to post the following. The 33% error rate he cites, below, for the pension statements Gannett sent to his Guild members is extraordinary. I, too, would like to know the extent of this previously undisclosed rate.

I’m writing in my role as an officer with the Newspaper Guild of Rochester and would like to hear from those of you who’ve had questionable experiences receiving your pension statements. Because we did not resolve our contract at the Democrat and Chronicle until July, we are receiving our statements this week. Unfortunately, there were significant errors — acknowledged by Gannett — in about a third or more of the statements received by our members. According to Gannett, the company that performed the calculations did not add in the pre-1998 years of service for anyone who worked with the company before that year. So one three-decade employee, for instance, received a statement with a pension calculation about a third of the actual figure.

After reading about the errors at other worksites on Gannett Blog, we had limited confidence in the likelihood these numbers would be correct in the first place — and we have even less now. Union leaders spent much of the day Thursday sorting out who received erroneous numbers and, after a bevy of complaints, Gannett acknowledged the error.

Gannett, of course, wants to assure us that the problem is now resolved and thinks we should accept that the corrected statements will be accurate and that the numbers received this week for those who joined the workforce after 1998 were indeed accurate. You can understand our lack of faith.

We’d like to hear from those who got inaccurate statements earlier. We also wonder whether anyone ever saw the actual calculations with their specific numbers — such as your specific final average salary multiplied by the various multipliers, etc. Granted, the formula is available, but we at the Guild wonder whether any employees who questioned or challenged their numbers were given the specifics of their individual calculations.

Gary asks that you please post your replies in the comments section, below. Or you may e-mail him directly via

Earlier: Ask Tara — how many of the pension statements were incorrect?

[Image: today’s Democrat and Chronicle, Newseum]

In Rochester: Dept. of Articles Needing a Follow-up

August 11, 2008

Word for word from a story in today’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “A Genesee County man today is facing felony charges after he married the person who had a court order against him. Timothy T. Cole, 45, of Batavia, was charged with first-degree criminal contempt, a felony, on his wedding day, said Genesee County sheriff’s deputies. Deputies were called to a Walnut Street residence just before midnight Friday to investigate a domestic dispute. Cole is accused of violating a court order of protection by marrying the person he was barred from going near, deputies said. Cole was arraigned in Batavia City Court and was remanded to the Genesee County Jail without bail. He’s slated to return to court at 1 p.m. tomorrow.”

[Image: today’s Democrat and Chronicle, Newseum]

Whoo-hoo: It’s single-copy price increase day!

August 11, 2008

Today’s e-mail brings reports of 50% hikes at the Tallahassee Democrat and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle — two papers among the reported 20 papers scheduling such hikes.

Plus: Rochester D&C would be mouse-free!

July 29, 2008
“My cat could do a better job.”

— a Gannett Blog reader, not so thrilled with Indianapolis Star General Manager Ali “Advertorial” Zoibi, the newly named publisher of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Indy’s Zoibi named new Rochester publisher

July 28, 2008

Updated at 3 p.m. ET: It’s now confirmed; here’s the Democrat and Chronicle‘s story.

Earlier: Indianapolis Star General Manager Ali “Advertorial” Zoibi, 51 (left), takes the top job at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, blogger Ruth Holladay is now reporting.

Indy: Please brief Rochester on the ethically-challenged publisher they’re now getting. Short iPhone post; updates later. Comment, below, please!

Earlier: An Indianapolis blogger, a ‘500’ pace car — and a penis

[Photo: Democrat and Chronicle]

Reader: New website design lowers, slows traffic

July 22, 2008

Regarding Democrat and Chronicle Publisher Michael Kane‘s recent appointment as new publisher at The Indianapolis Star, a reader says in an especially smart comment about the new GO4 website design for Gannett’s community newspapers:

“GO4’s templates and structure and technology approach is horrible for innovation. While part of the concept was to foster innovation and flexibility by allowing sites to leverage content and presentation assets from other sites, achieving that is as much a fantasy as sites being able to share content seamlessly through Saxotech. GO4 is a clusterfuck, and the reason why is execution, not intent. There is a fundamental lack of the right skills in the right places at GMTI, Gannett Digital and throughout local markets. The new GO4 code is a mess. Gannett Digital and GMTI made some bad founding decisions early on. Resources have been too strained to implement, debug, support or improve the GO4 deployment.

“Virtually every site’s traffic growth has seen slowed, diminished or even reversed since launching the GO4 redesign. While some blame is correctly to be laid at the fact that redesigns upset usage habits, especially of older users, this excuse is way too often cited, especially by folks at Gannett Digital. A good redesign should boost traffic, not decrease it. Tons of experiences throughout the Web industry prove this. I cannot underscore the cost being felt throughout Gannett local markets in terms of lost opportunity, declining audience growth, staff demoralization and eventually potential slowed gains in market share — all as a result of the new GO4 sites being generally slow, hard to navigate and harder to use.”

Good news is only news
The comment continues: “Keeping the extent of the problem from being fully realized is the fact that Gannett’s competitive culture means local markets tend to report their successess, not their failures, up to corporate. Monthly reports to corporate are filled with good news about the GO4 impact — the negative realities, obvious to users and employees in local markets — is downplayed or not presented to Digital at all. And so, we cling to the tiniest shreds of good news, such as diminutive changes in demographic and dwelltime trendlines, while site after site whose traffic has grown 25%-50% year-over-year for years on end suddenly find themselves below or flat with last year’s traffic.”

Join the debate, in the original post.

Earlier: With more at stake, we know less about Pluck

[Image: a screenshot of a recent Democrat and Chronicle homepage]