Archive for the ‘Tallahassee’ Category

Tally hits 863 as Gannett’s mass layoff spreads; Second big wave to slam papers on Wednesday; Thousands more employees are still vulnerable

December 3, 2008

Gannett launched what is likely the biggest mass layoff in newspaper industry history yesterday, slashing 863 jobs by early this afternoon, in an increasingly desperate bid to return the troubled 102-year-old publisher to prosperity. The final tally could run into the thousands.

Many more layoffs are expected today and tomorrow across the 85-daily community newspaper division, plus USA Today and the Detroit Free Press.

As of 1:51 p.m. ET today, only 24 papers had been accounted for, based on published accounts and Gannett Blog reader reports. Some of the biggest worksites have not announced their plans, including The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and The Des Moines Register, both with about 1,000. Corporate has said the cuts will number “significantly less” than 3,000.

Yesterday, in one of the first of scores of memos expected in coming days, Publisher Curtis Riddle of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., told employees that the paper is cutting 44 jobs — about 7% of all. The reductions include 31 forced layoffs, his memo says.

Publishers started notifying employees early Tuesday. In Nashville, The Tennessean started its layoffs a day earlier than expected, Anonymous@1:21 p.m. said: “So far in the newsroom today, we’ve lost two managers and a copy editor.”

At the Asbury Park Press in Gannett’s especially troubled New Jersey group, Anonymous@12:41 p.m. wrote: “Art department was decimated at the APP. So far the count is 11 in the newsroom.” In Florida, Anonymous@11:10 a.m. said: “The Tallahassee Democrat is handing out walking papers as we speak. Merry Christmas.”

Third round of layoffs
Corporate announced plans for the layoff Oct. 28 — five weeks before they would take effect. Anxiety grew, sending employees hunting for advance word; by late last night, Gannett Blog had recorded about 20,000 visits and 65,000 page views for the day — more than four times normal. Readers also posted more than 750 comments.

“Good luck to all of you,” wrote Anonymous@12:20 p.m. “For those laid off, I hope you find something new — and better — quickly. For those who remain, keep your heads up and your eyes open for other opportunities.”

The job cuts come as papers nationwide complied with Corporate’s demand that they reduce employment by an average 10% in the 30,000-worker newspaper division. The retrenchment follows the loss of 1,100 newspaper jobs in September and August, and the company’s continued earnings erosion.

Under growing pressure, CEO Craig Dubow (left) and other top brass face Wall Street media stock analysts next week during a three-day conference that starts Monday. Yesterday, Gannett’s stock closed at $8.68 a share, up 6%. Still, shares have plunged 76% in the past year vs. a 43% decline in the widely watched S&P-500 Index.

The job reductions are being made through layoffs, attrition and other means. Many papers will notify employees over the next week. Severance benefits are a minimum of two weeks, and a maximum of 26, plus health insurance as long as severance benefits are in effect.

Earlier: Rochester, N.Y., memo is an example of how publishers are breaking the bad news.

We’re tallying layoffs and other job cuts, paper-by-paper. Please post your figures on our list, or in the comments section, below. Also please post any publisher’s memos, plus links to your paper’s stories about the cuts. You may also e-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

[Images: today’s front pages, Newseum]

Text of Bob Dickey memo on 10% mass layoff

October 28, 2008

To: USCP Publishers & General Managers

As all of you are painfully aware, the fiscal crisis is deepening and the economy is getting worse. Gannett’s revenues continue to be severely impacted by this downturn, and our local operations are suffering. While we are doing our best to reduce all non staff-related expenses, I am sorry to report that we must do another round of layoffs across our division.

To that end, we will institute an involuntary staff reduction of approximately 10% by the first week of December. The terms of the severance will be one week for each year of service with a cap of 26 weeks.

Each publisher is responsible for developing their local plan to achieve the expected goal. Decisions will be made locally because each of our markets is unique, with differing market conditions and individual needs in light of our previous reductions.

I have asked that all plans be completed by Nov. 14 at which time they will go through the standard review process.

I fully understand this announcement will cause you concern but I felt that once a decision was made it should be communicated as quickly as possible.

While this is more bad news, it is a sign of Gannett’s determination to remain healthy and viable as a company during these turbulent economic times. We continue to be a leader in our industry, not only because of our fiscal strength but also because we have a plan to aggressively grow the company when the economy returns.

To that end, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. We need to grow revenue as well as continue to find efficiencies. I would appreciate your help and ideas on both fronts.

My e-mail address is rdickey@gannett.com. I promise you will be heard and receive a timely response.

I appreciate your understanding and commitment during these challenging times.

Thank you.

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 Tallahassee Democrat, Newseum; it’s one of four Florida dailies, hard-hit by the real estate bust squeezing Gannett’s revenue and profits]

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.

Account this! Mileage reimbursement rates edition

September 23, 2008

As Corporate reportedly burns up pricey jet fuel on jaunts to island getaways, mileage reimbursement rates across Gannett are soaring (hah!). Last month, for example, the Tallahassee Democrat boosted its rate a measly two cents — to 28 cents a gallon. That’s only half the rate allowed by the IRS, which earlier this year recognized the burden higher gas prices place on workers.

Now, a reader wonders how Gannett treats this in its financials. “Is there some ‘accounting method’ used whereby they claim the full allowance (58.5 cents), even though they’re only reimbursing half of that? That would be a huge financial fiasco, IMHO, if true.”

I get this question from lots of readers, so I thought I’d post it. That scheme sounds very unlikely. (But if anyone could find a way, it would be our fave financial wizardress/de facto CEO — Gracia Martore!)

Meanwhile, more cheeky questions:

  • What’s your current mileage rate?
  • When was it last increased?
  • How much was the last increase?

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.

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.

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]

Tallahassee’s Gabordi: Spend — don’t cut back

February 29, 2008

Golly! It’s sure interesting to see Senior Vice President Phil Currie apparently authorizing a reprint of Tallahassee Democrat Executive Editor Bob Gabordi‘s remarks on further newspaper cutbacks.

Here’s Gabordi in the just out-issue of News Watch, the weekly company newsletter to newsrooms: “This is the right time, in my opinion, for investment in our business, not cutbacks. You cannot sustain a business model that relies on cutting over the long haul. You have to figure out new revenue streams and be willing to try new things. Some will work, some won’t, but you have to try.”

Has Currie cut back on the Kool-Aid?

[Image: this morning’s Democrat, Newseum]

Here’s a big downside to community bloggers

January 17, 2008

The Tallahassee Democrat and other newspapers are risking Jayson Blair-like scandals as they publish blogs and news stories by “citizen journalists” who haven’t been properly vetted, Mother Jones magazine says. A story of a community blogger shilling for Wal-Mart without disclosing her financial ties to the controversial retailer.

[Image: this morning’s Democrat, Newseum]

Hot Off the Press: New Year’s Day editions

January 1, 2008

A selection of first-day-of-2008 front pages from across Gannett shows balloons, noise makers, and fireworks in Appleton, Wis.:

. . . Staunton, Va.:

. . . and Tallahassee, Fla.:

[Images: Newseum]