Archive for the ‘Wilmington’ 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]

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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]

Chatter: Jennifer Carroll’s so LOL; plus: Sex sells!

October 13, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Myth vs. reality in Wilmington. And, the politics of comments gives me a perfect excuse to post a sexually charged Ibiza photo (left!) designed to enrich me by driving up page views. (Don’t you love the craven new world of digital journalism?!)

Gannett Digital guru Jennifer Carroll‘s praise for Delaware’s News Journal in an interview with PBS was totally LOL funny to Anonymous@2:13 a.m.: “Give me a break. Wilmington is such a ‘continuous news operation’ that it doesn’t have anyone on hand on Saturday or Sunday until about noon to handle breaking news,” they wrote. “You can get a news assistant on the phone, and that’s about it. And there’s no one on-site from about 4 a.m. until 7 a.m. They do have a very good update editor who does some breaking news stuff from home ‘on his own time’ when he’s able, but that’s the exception to the rule. 24/7?? Please stop lying to people.”

And talk about LOL! “Gannett has begun practicing some sort of dark humor,” comments @10:16 a.m. “I left the company a week ago and just received a letter from the 401(k) administrator. I opened the envelope to find a completely blank piece of Gannett benefits stationery. Who knew anyone at GCI was that profound?”

Partisan politics being, well, partisan, I ran into another buzz saw when I tried to keep comments focused sharply on Gannett in the Real Time Comments open forum. @11:23 a.m. said: “I would like to talk about how Jim is going to raise some money. Does that get me deleted, too?”

@11:25 a.m. fired back: “Only if you suggest some sort of members-only photo gallery of the party scene in Ibiza. TMI.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

[Photo: dancers at Amnesia, one of the big nightclubs on Ibiza, the Mediterranean island where Sparky and I spent the summer]

Tip: Wilmington charging paycheck withholding fee

September 18, 2008

Updated at 5:46 p.m. ET. Based on the comments, below, this fee sounds fairly innocent. (And thank you, Editor David Ledford and HR chief Dolores Pinto, for clearing this up by responding to my e-mail. Not.)

Earlier: In an e-mail, a reader says: “On Sept. 12, the human resources department in Wilmington put a letter in everyone’s paycheck stating that, effective Oct. 1, The News Journal is going to start charging employees an ‘administrative fee’ to take withholding out of paychecks. The reason? The News Journal is using a vendor, ADP Garnishment Services, to ‘provide more efficient service to you.’ The memo doesn’t state what the fee is, but says a list of fees ‘permissible under local/state/federal jurisdictions’ is available through our HR department.

“I did a little bit of research and it looks like states, including Delaware, allow these fees for the collection of child support. That’s right, child support. So is Gannett taking advantage of a law meant to help children in order to help a desperate newspaper corporation? Thanks for any light you can shed on this.”

This fee sounds so over-the-top outrageous that I’ve asked for a response from the paper’s HR chief, Dolores Pinto, and from top editor David Ledford. (I couldn’t find an e-mail address for Publisher Curtis Riddle on the paper’s contacts page.)

Does your worksite charge fees like 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.

Olympics-sized coverage from two smaller papers

August 20, 2008

Part of a series of posts by Gannett Blog Olympics news analyst Ed Hutcheson, a pen name for one of my long-time readers. Ed, an employee at a GCI paper, will file occasional dispatches about Summer Games coverage. It’s all yours, Ed!

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET. The Beijing Olympics are more than a week old, and so far, so good for Gannett’s coverage team. GCI’s plan is simple: Deliver coverage of hometown athletes to their newspapers, then complement it with broader coverage. Let the Associated Press do the rest. It seems to be working.

A byline count suggests a team of at least 16 reporters: 10 from metro and community papers, five from USA Today, plus Gannett News Service columnist Mike Lopresti. If two staffers from the smallest papers are any indication, Gannett and those hometown papers are getting their money’s worth.

Kevin Tresolini, a sports writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., covered at least seven sports, including swimming, field hockey, soccer and tennis, in his first week.

Tresolini describes the job on his blog from Beijing: “Most of what I write (is) Gannett-paper specific — a story about the wrestler for the Shreveport, La., paper, the weight-lifter for the Salem, Ore., paper, the women’s basketball player for the Nashville paper, the field hockey player for Cherry Hill, N.J.,” he says. “Wednesday at swimming, I popped out three different dispatches for three different papers on three different swimmers.”

Bob Berghaus, the sports editor at the Asheville Citizen-Times, covered softball, canoe/kayak, tennis, cycling, swimming and shooting in his first week. He’s also writing columns and blogging.

On his blog, Berghaus confesses that he went into a women’s restroom by mistake, ate some mystery meat, and passed out on his flight to China. On Friday, he wrote a column about how he tried to bend the rules at the swimming venue and didn’t get away with it.

Tresolini has blogged about dishes he has not eaten, spitting in public — and the smog.

Got a tip for Ed? 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: yesterday’s front pages, Newseum]

Rochester’s Kane named new Indy Star publisher

July 16, 2008

Updated at 5:43 p.m. ET. Gannett just announced that Michael Kane (left), vice president of the company’s East Publishing Group and publisher of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., has been named Interstate Group president, and publisher of The Indianapolis Star. Kane, 49, replaces Barbara Henry, retiring Aug. 1, after the Friday Afternoon Massacre. Kane joined Gannett in 1992, when he was hired as marketing manager at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. In comments, below, he’s getting good reviews: “Michael is a class act,” one reader says.

Related: the Star‘s story, plus the Democrat and Chronicle‘s

Earlier: Ooh, la, la! Rochester ‘threesome’ a surprise hit. Plus: the Democrat and Chronicle‘s school textbook probe

Fun facts about Babs!
The sex-survey lovin’ Henry has ginormous feet, according to newspaper division President Bob Dickey, who told the Star today: “Michael has huge shoes to fill.”

Rochester: What can you tell Indy about Kane? And who’s going to replace him at the Democrat and Chronicle? 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: Democrat and Chronicle]

Sixteen years later, Little Rock mafia rises in GCI

July 11, 2008

Updated on Oct. 4. With the promotion of Kate Marymont (left) to a top News Department job in April, the number of former Arkansas Gazette employees in influential Gannett positions has grown even more. That’s ironic, of course, because many suits at Corporate would just as soon forget that bitter Little Rock chapter. About 700 employees lost their jobs in 1991, when GCI pulled the plug on the paper — likely the single-biggest job loss in Gannett’s 102-year history. (Yes, Virginia: newspapers really do fail.)

CEO Al Neuharth bought the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily in 1986 at a deep discount, during his victory lap as he was leaving Gannett. Five years later, in October 1991, GCI closed the Gazette when its annual losses approached $30 million in a bruising newspaper war with the crosstown Arkansas Democrat. The Gazette‘s assets were sold to what is now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Only three months ago, Editor & Publisher named the Democrat‘s Walter E. Hussman Jr. as the trade publication’s Publisher of the Year.)

Marymont was the Gazette‘s metro editor. Other Little Rock survivors still tied to Gannett include former finance vice president Evan Ray, just promoted to senior vice president/finance and operations amid last month’s Friday Afternoon Massacre; USA Today Publisher Craig Moon, who was the Gazette‘s publisher (and frequent jogger*); Susie Ellwood, then marketing director, and now general manager of the joint operating agency publishing the Detroit Free Press; former production director Austin Ryan, now vice president/production in the newspaper division; former Managing Editor David Petty, now publisher of The News-Star in Monroe, La.; the advertising department’s Larry Whitaker, now publisher of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and the finance department’s Joe Williams, now the Clarion-Ledger‘s finance director; former state editor Bob Stover, now executive editor at Florida Today; and former copy desk chief Jill Fredel, now assistant managing editor at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. (And me: I was the Gazette‘s business news editor, before leaving for Boise, then Louisville and San Francisco, where I finished my Gannett career at USA Today.)

I’ll bet I’m missing other Little Rock alumni. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Related: a Gazette oral history, featuring an “I know nothing” interview (.pdf!) with Neuharth, in May 2000

[* “jogger” is an extremely obscure-but-pertinent reference; image: my Gazette employee ID photo, taken in October 1987]

Gannett newspapers clean up in APME awards

June 27, 2008

The Detroit Free Press won the Associated Press Managing Editor’s Public Service award for its excellent investigation, showing that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff lied under oath in a costly lawsuit against the city. And The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., won for a series of stories revealing patient abuse, rape and assaults, and felons working as doctors and attendants, at Delaware’s only mental hospital.

Reader: Wilmington newsroom gets a shake-up

June 17, 2008

Wilmington News Journal Managing Editor Alecia Swasy left that job abruptly on Friday, a reader tells me, with Editor David Ledford telling the staff in an e-mail yesterday only that she had “resigned.” Swasy had held the job at the Delaware newspaper only since January.

Managing editors typically are the No. 2 executives in newsrooms. Yet, as Gannett saves money by combining more jobs — such as production and IT directors — I wonder when managing editor posts might be eliminated altogether, too.

Has your paper eliminated the managing editor’s position? 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.

[Image: today’s News Journal, Newseum]

Holidaze: Moms in the big house!

May 11, 2008

Holidays bring really dopey story assignments from editors desperate to fill the newspaper. But, hey: ‘Tis the season, right?

I plead guilty! Yours truly recalls the day when he, too, discovered there were women in prison. And some of them had kids! And that meant mothers behind bars — on Mother’s Day! (Frankly, I’m surprised I could only find two Gannett papers heaving that holiday chestnut into print today. Don’t worry: Father’s Day is June 15.)

The News Journal, Wilmington, Del.

The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

  • Story: Missing mothers
  • Mom: Patience Francis, 31, sold two hunting rifles to a federal agent for $160. Previous legal run-ins included an arrest for repeatedly stealing from a grocery store, plus a DUI. She has at least three kids.
  • Home sweet home: Dale Women’s Facility, Waterbury, Vt.
  • Obligatory cognitive dissonance: Save for the high brick walls and concertina wire, Saturday’s tea party was perfect.
  • Quotable mom: “Nobody told me I was special.”

Was it the assignment to spend Mother’s Day with a mom — who was a man, before her sex-change operation? Use this link to e-mail your worst holiday story assignments; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note, in the comments section, below.

[Images: Susan Hayward, in 1958’s I Want to Live!]