Showing posts with label Kool-Aid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kool-Aid. Show all posts

Friday, May 22, 2009

McPoetry | Gannett Presidential Bling Edition

Regarding the newly-named winners of Gannett President's Rings, A good ole rebel@1:26 a.m. writes:

The corporation annually handed out some things
to "recognize good talent," called them presidential rings.
A journalist gazed at the list of ring recipients,
and when she saw some names she knew, she hissed, and spit, and winced.

Hang on one sec, how'd this IT guy get a good review?
It's obvious the president just doesn't have a clue
about the way that our IT guy fails to meet our needs
and makes us less efficient while the company still bleeds!

They gave one to an HR goon, which I find quite suspicious
since their ignorance of employment law borders on malicious!
They answer noone's questions, and what's sad is when they do,
they fail at basic English -- things we all learned in grade two!

And what about this Online wonk, who pissed upon our site,
and caused much of our quality to vanish overnight
while traffic sunk and readers bailed and advertisers, too?
For corporate to notice me, is this what I must do?!

Resolved, from this day forward, I will do as these folks did;
so that I can be promoted and afford to feed my kid.
I'll do the crappiest job I can, view cohorts with disdain,
give up my lifelong quest for truth and live for personal gain.

I'll delegate, then take a break, then ruin someone's day.
That someone can't fight back, because I'm great at CYA,
and even if they had a point, my enemies would be fools
because I'd be the boss, and that would mean I make the rules.

I'll say 'quit now' to coworkers that actually want to try
to put out a good product that someone might want to buy
I'll sell crap to the customers, because they're stupid hicks
who don't know any better than to fall for corporate tricks.

And when the readers notice and the company goes bust,
my friends and I won't worry. No! That will not bother us!
We'll live well from our savings after being overpaid.
for incompetent 'management', we reaped the highest grade.

Oh, I'm a Kool-Aid drinker, and that's just what I am.
And for good work and quality I do not give a damn.
I hate the advertisers for questioning our ways;
Much more, I hate the reader base. I'll piss on them for days."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

S.O.S.: This is your News Department on Kool-Aid

I've never met Ann Clark, one of two executives Corporate stationed at Arizona's Tucson Citizen last week. But Clark may recall me as the blogger who made light of an especially dreadful News Watch article published under her byline last fall.

A general executive in the News Department, Clark is supposed to help mentor thousands of reporters and editors in the community dailies. Now, however, she's in Tucson with another Corporate executive, apparently charged with one of these missions:

1. Quell a mutiny among 60 employees, all in the Tucson Citizen's newsroom, after Gannett ordered them to put out the newspaper on only a day-to-day schedule, with no guarantee of future employment, pending an unlikely sale to 11th-hour bidders as early as next week. The paper stays alive at least until until then.

2. Provide support to those employees during an incredibly difficult time, as Tara Connell described Corporate's goals for Clark and the second executive from McLean, Va.: Bob Oliver, a vice president for compensation and benefits.

Kool-Aid O.D. evidence
Last fall, I offered Clark's News Watch article as fresh evidence of how little Corporate had changed, more than two years after CEO Craig Dubow started pushing urgent, meaningful "transformation'' to keep Gannett alive. What was my smoking gun? First, some context.

The article was published by the News Department when long-time Gannett executive Phil Currie (left) was still in charge. (Fort Myers News-Press Executive Editor Kate Marymont assumed the position with Currie's retirement late last year.) Currie's job was to help journalists do watchdog journalism -- a newspaper's most fundamental responsibility -- at a time when GCI's finance side was putting the screws to newsroom budgets. I recall him mostly for his many, many editorial quality control and efficiency programs, beginning with 1991's News 2000, and ending with the Local Information Center business model of 2006.

Yet, by last September, Gannett's newsrooms were in disarray. Only a month before, the company had launched one of the largest workforce reductions in its 102-year history. The 600 newspaper employees laid off, combined with the elimination of 400 more jobs, was probably the industry's single-biggest such cut since World War II. (The December cuts were bigger, of course.)

So, looking to Corporate and the News Department for practical advice on rebuilding their increasingly emaciated newsrooms, here's what journalists got in that Sept. 18 News Watch article:

Headline: Find ways to strengthen your diversity efforts on Information Center Web site

Introduction: Four papers get cited for good work -- Cincinnati, Nashville, Phoenix, and St. Cloud, Minn. Then, word-for-word:

These are just a few examples of efforts by Gannett Information Centers to further understand and report on the diversity communities in which they live. These examples are based on information provided in the All-American Review materials and the Diversity Award entry process. We have culled “Best Practices” of journalism and Information Center actions that reflect the principles of All-American. Examples are organized by key areas in our collective outreach efforts: Diversity committees, Community outreach, Diversity examples, Mainstreaming examples, Staff development and Diversity source lists.

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 rail, upper right.

St. Cloud Times front page, Newseum]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kool-Aid Korner: Just ignore our shrinking papers!

"We feel strongly that our
news products will continue to excel."

-- General Manager Tracie Fowler, assuring readers today, even as she disclosed that the Hattiesburg American has eliminated the position of executive editor, in a cost-saving move.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Payday countdown: What Dubow, Martore earned

Spanning 15 years, that list (left) shows the dates when Corporate released the annual shareholder's proxy report -- the much-anticipated document showing salary, plus bonuses and other goodies for the five highest-paid company executives.

If Corporate's still eating bran with its Kool-Aid, we should see the next one around March 13 -- two weeks from tomorrow. I say that because Gannett has been very, very regular in distributing proxy materials around mid-March of each year, all the way back to 1994, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records show. (Last year's report was released March 13.)

Whatever the date, these four executives almost certainly will be in this year's big-bucks line-up:

1. Craig Dubow, Chairman and CEO
2. Gracia Martore, Chief Financial Officer
3. Bob Dickey, president of the newspaper division
4. Paul Davidson, chairman and CEO of the U.K. Newsquest unit

No. 5 will probably be USA Today Publisher Craig Moon again. The only surprise would be if Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis engineered some sort of first-year package with an extra bonus. Or, if Dickey's predecessor, Sue Clark-Johnson, also triggered a one-time windfall when she retired last year.

Related: Last year's list of the five highest-paid executives. Note: Dubow already agreed to a 17% base pay cut; other officers agreed to wage freezes through this year.

What sort of bonuses will they get for 2008 -- a year when Gannett's stock lost nearly 80% of its value? Stay tuned over the next few weeks. Please post your replies in the comments section, below. E-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And this is your brain on too much Kool-Aid

"Craig Moon is the kindest, bravest,
warmest, most wonderful human being
I've ever known in my life."

-- an anonymous Gannett Blog reader, in a waggish comment on USA Today's publisher, and an upcoming employee meeting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Call: Anticipating Dubow's analyst remarks

Blogger Ken Doctor imagines the Kool-Aid poured tomorrow by CEO Craig Dubow and Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore, when they lead a 10 a.m. ET conference call with Wall Street analysts, after second-quarter earnings are released. "As you know," they say, "we're trying to do the impossible: increase dividends, buy back stock and retire debt. I don’t need a CFO -- just kidding -- I need Houdini."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Currie is now 100% composed of Kool-Aid

Case in point: In his News Watch article yesterday about this week's Information Center teleconference, News Department Senior Vice President Phil Currie (left) has the gall to write the following: "Riding a wave of accomplishment and innovation, Gannett Information Centers soon will move to the next level of operation that builds on an impressive base and capitalizes on success thus far." (Emphasis added.)

How about backing up that lede? The only specific example of "accomplishment and innovation" I could find in Currie's piece is a reference to the mom's sites. Puh-lease. Nearly two years after Gannett finally began merging print and digital, that's the best he can offer?

Earlier: Lost readers: Why we gave up on News Watch

I would love to know how much Currie gets paid. $250,000? $300,000? Your thoughts, 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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reader: Gannett Blog is for 'whiners to whine'

Regarding management's decision to stop defending Gannett before my more than 10,000 monthly visitors, a reader says: "You are drinking your own brand of Kool-Aid, Jimmy. You had a brief window where a cross section of the company was willing to look in. Hoping for an unbiased forum, a place where those who had no voice could speak. Where ideas that had been lost in the chaos could be heard. Some at the top were going to check in to see what ideas and on-point criticisms came up. But that moment is gone. I suspect that most of those with any power have decided, with reason, that this is a forum for whiners to whine. Your numbers are up because whiners like company. And, of course, they have plenty from their positions to whine about. But the execs don't have time for the same old song, have moved on, working on multiple major projects that you largely have no clue about. Whine on."

Join the debate, in the original post.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Clicking with readers, pageviews soar in May

Gannett Blog served more 97,000 pageviews in May -- 39% higher than April's total, a new Google Analytics report shows. More than 12,000 employees and other unique visitors stopped by during the month for their daily antidote to Corporate's Kool-Aid.

Google Analytics has the data, available in a free report I make available to anyone. Want one? E-mail me confidentially, using this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Google Analytics]

In N.J. layoffs, fresh evidence of the new Gannett

It sure is something to watch CEO Craig Dubow dismantle a 102-year-old company right before our eyes: rendering newspapers at corporate chop shops, while shipping untold jobs to low-wage countries -- all in a shaky bid to keep Wall Street at bay.

Only yesterday, Dubow & Co. was at it again: laying off a steep 55 employees at the Asbury Park Press and three other New Jersey dailies -- part of a regional group that's lately appeared on the edge of freefall. And yet, the N.J. papers are only the latest to be swept up in what I imagine is now Gannett's biggest retrenchment since World War II. (Dubow, to be sure, has been retailing it on Wall Street as the more April-fresh sounding transformation.)

In Phoenix, Arizona Republic workers are weighing a buyout offer that one of my readers says stinks. In Westchester, N.Y.; Pensacola, Fla., and beyond, advertising-production artists are terrified of being the next to lose jobs to Los Angeles-based 2AdPro, which is shipping their work to India as fast as Gannett will allow.

In the Broadcasting division, Gannett is eliminating graphics jobs in favor of consolidating work at a central "art house'' in Denver. And the division is now being asked to adopt a version of the Information Center model that was supposed to boost online advertising revenue when it was rolled out across U.S. newspapers last year. (Gannett has been curiously quiet about whether the strategy is working.)

These are only recent examples; I've omitted many others that I know -- and even more I hope to uncover in any reader responses I get to this post. I've been writing about Gannett's downsizing since Dubow issued that scary Sept. 11 memo last fall. It's not at all clear whether he's now putting his pedal on the accelerator, with even more turmoil ahead for this summer. And I'm not expecting any clarity soon on that point. Why? Nowadays, the well-paid top brass don't have time to deal with even basic questions.

So, if you're wondering whether Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore is about to redline your job -- well, don't look for answers from We Work in a Bubble, Va. They're already on their third round at the Kool-Aid Bar!

Your thoughts, 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: yesterday's Republic, Newseum]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lost readers: Why we gave up on News Watch

An employee at a paper in the Midwest told me that he stopped reading the weekly News Watch for the same reason I (mostly) stopped. Under chief honcho Phil Currie (left), the News Department spiked two features in the newsletter that we liked most -- an easy-to-shop list of job openings at each of the 85 dailies' newsrooms, and a rundown of new hires. "When they were listed," the reader said in an e-mail, "it was a weekly must-read to get a bit of a feel for the company, for other sites -- maybe think about other opportunities. Now, as you say, it's just Kool-Aid for the executives."

For me, the newsletter's roster of reporters, editors and other employees moving into new jobs was my local-local Gannett news fix: I liked seeing where former co-workers landed.

I noticed the change when Gannett substituted its CareerBuilder employment website for the old list of jobs that, at a glance, once showed openings companywide. I suppose that move was designed to promote CareerBuilder, while also reducing costs associated with creating the special list for News Watch. I don't know why the newly-hired feature was dumped, though.

Hello, Gander? It's Goose, calling
News Watch desperately needs a revamp to make it more, well, 21st century. I'm thinking of digital improvements like those we recommended last week for the Daily News Summary. Interactive tools so readers can offer feedback. Video showing how, say, an artist created a graphic. How about a team News Watch Blog edited by the News Department? In other words: How about the News Department using the very digital tools it insists the community newspapers adopt? (Don't have time for all that time-consuming Internets stuff? Well, tough shit! And welcome to our work-off-the-clock world. Hah!)

Consider last Thursday's edition: The top editor at the Pensacola News Journal, Dick Schneider, writes about his paper's asking readers for money-saving ideas to help them through rocky economic times in Florida's poorest urban county. Schneider's content is OK; it's the one-dimensional presentation that's nuts. His piece is basically a text document; I count one embedded link, to a three-week-old Schneider column in the News Journal, inviting readers to participate.

His News Watch piece doesn't include an e-mail address, so readers could contact him with feedback and follow-up questions. What's more, the article is illustrated with what I finally realized is a screen shot (inset, above) of a Gannett News Service story that appeared in the Pensacola paper, apparently as part of its new money coverage plan. Want to read it? Don't look in Schneider's article for this easy-to-add link; the News Department didn't include that, either.

Do you read News Watch? Got any other examples of ways the News Department and Currie could improve their digital support? Leave a note, in the comments section, below. Or use this link to e-mail feedback; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Recap: Overdosing on Kool-Aid ain't pretty

Posts you might have missed last week, while Big Al became Big Man on campus:
  • Cancel my paper! Circulation plunged at New Jersey's Courier News, where publisher Ketan Gandhi is still missing in action.
  • Bad blogger: Readers spanked me over my annual shareholders meeting coverage. (Software, it turns out, isn't foolproof.)
  • Binge drinker: Gannett lifer Sue Clark-Johnson mainlined the purple stuff when she wrote her farewell speech.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Memories: When Wall Street loved McCorky

Oh, what a difference four years makes! Business weekly Barron's gushed over GCI's prospects in its Dec. 1, 2003, cover story, "Gannett's Good News: A reviving ad market should boost the shares of a hungry media giant." (Paid subscribers should be able to get the story here.)

Gannett's stock traded at $86 a share at the time. Barron's portrayed then-CEO Doug McCorkindale (left) as an uber-confident media mogul on the prowl. Now, listen here: "Dow Jones is a great franchise, and if it ever came into play, I'd be very interested,'' he dictated to the weekly.

Institutional investors were, of course, bullish: "This is a company with some of the highest margins in its business, some terrific assets and a proven first-class management team focused on doing the best for stockholders," said Henry Berghoef, director of research for the Oakmark Fund, which counted Gannett among its 20 holdings. "Not only should this industry see a good bounce back, but Gannett should bounce back harder and faster than others."

Or, not.

As we now know, McCorkindale's stewardship (Internet? Is that a new country club?) left Gannett in terrible shape when he turned over the CEO's job to Craig Dubow, 18 months after that Barron's story. Nonetheless, McCorkindale is still on the payroll: Gannett is paying him $150,000 a year for five years "to enable the company to benefit" -- totally LOL now! -- "from his many years of experience,'' the proxy report to shareholders for 2006 says. Plus, the board of directors also gave him that $1.3 million parting bonus, just for being an all-around swell guy.

And whither his coveted Dow Jones, owner of Barron's and The Wall Street Journal? News Corp. Chief Pirate Rupert Murdoch snapped up that sucker -- and is now using it to threaten Gannett flagship USA Today. As Barron's noted last year, in an April 9 follow-up: Given industry challenges, GCI might have to rethink its conservative financial and corporate strategy. Unlike the New York Times Co. and Washington Post Co., Gannett doesn't have a controlling family or super-voting stock. "If the company doesn't move, it could attract activist investors who would seek to force change,'' the story said.

I decided Barron's was drinking the Kool-Aid in 2003, so I sold all my Gannett stock -- some $25,000 worth -- a few days after that story was published. I now own just enough to be admitted to the annual shareholders meeting, scheduled this year for April 30.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why you should be distracted by the 'noise'

[Shhhh! James Cayne of Bear Stearns, Craig Dubow of Gannett]

Imploding investment firm Bear Stearns did more than just drag Gannett's shares down today, along with just about every other stock. Bear's meltdown over the past four months is a case study in why journalists need to keep the pressure on self-serving CEOs:

Nov. 1. The Wall Street Journal says Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne was goofing off at golf courses and bridge tournaments, while two multibillion-dollar Bear-managed hedge funds lost all their value in the credit crunch. Cayne, in a huffy defense e-mailed to employees, says: "I stand by the record of success the firm has had over the 14 years that I have had the privilege of leading this great organization. I remain, as I have been for many years, intensely focused on our business. Thank you for your continued dedication to Bear Stearns, and don't be distracted by the noise. I am certainly not."

Jan. 8. Cayne steps down as CEO. "The changes have been prompted by a mounting crisis at Bear Stearns, which has historically specialized in mortgage-backed securities,'' the U.K.'s Guardian says. "The firm has written off $1.9 billion in losses relating to last year's meltdown in the home loans industry and analysts have questioned its future as an independent entity."

Today. Bear Stearns stuns Wall Street, disclosing that it turned to a rival bank and the federal government for an 11th-hour bailout to prevent its collapse. Investors are spooked. Stock markets tank. Gannett shares tumble more than 5%, closing at $28.43.

And where's Cayne, now the firm's chairman? With his company's very existence threatened, today and yesterday, the unrepentant Cayne has been playing in the North American Bridge Championship, in Detroit, the WSJ's Deal Journal blog says.

Still drinking the Kool-Aid? Use this link to e-mail feedback; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gannett 101: The strategic plan for dummies

Combine a generous helping of Kool-Aid with 46,100 humor-filled employees and -- voila! -- you've got profits. (Confidential to Corporate: We're not laughing at you; we're laughing with you!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reader: 'Love it when the strategic plan works'

Gannett's stock rose smartly today, closing at $29.65 a share, up nearly 4%, on a powerful Wall Street rally. The higher price returned GCI to the No. 2 spot among newspaper publishers, based on market value. (News Corp. remains No. 1.)

The rankings had shifted dramatically just a week ago, when Gannett fell two rungs. Today, a reader noted that GCI is back at No. 2 -- suggesting CEO Craig Dubow had been vindicated. "Love it when the strategic plan works,'' the reader said in a comment on that post.

Ah, yes: the strategic plan. So transformative! Based on Google Finance data, here's the performance of Gannett stock vs. other major publishers, since July 15, 2005 -- the day Dubow became CEO:

Love it when McClatchy and Lee Enterprises make Dubow look good!

Confidential to Corporate: Ease up on the daily Kool-Aid deliveries; some of the managers in the Dark Tower are starting to O.D.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Monday Recap: We're in such good humor :)!

Posts you might have missed while I got the Goldilocks treatment:

  • Prozac-ly! CEO Craig Dubow reminded us that a smile is just a frown -- turned upside down.
  • Ready for our close-up? We debated just how many news staffers are shooting video -- and whether any of it's good.
  • Kool-Aid resistant: A top editor urged less budget-cutting -- and Corporate aired his plea!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Tallahassee's Gabordi: Spend -- don't cut back

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]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Diversity, thy name is Fernandez -- or Garcia

Among the most sacred cows in Gannett are the various diversity-in-news-and-hiring programs that Corporate has been pushing on journalists as long as I can remember -- something I referenced in this post, now drawing lots of comments.

"My favorite anecdote on such matters came from a buddy who had to cover a country western festival in the 90% Caucasian upper Midwest and was ordered to mainstream his story,'' one commenter just wrote. "He spent all day looking for anyone remotely non-white and came up dry. However, he did find a white woman who was married to a Hispanic man, so her last name was Fernandez or Garcia or something along those lines. When he turned in the story, he happily noted he'd found a mainstream source . . . after all, just look at her name!"

(Clearly, I wouldn't be writing such means things if I was drinking my daily glass of Kool-Aid!)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Get ready for the monotony of monetization

Consider this a Kool-Aid Alert. I'm detecting a major new buzzword spreading across Gannettland. A Gannett Blog reader says editors met recently to talk about ways to "monetize'' more of the newsroom's offerings. Then today, News Division honcho Phil Currie, writing in this week's edition of News Watch, says (threatens?):

"We see this coming year as one in which the success we have had in the Information Centers will be refined and built upon, moving us ahead even more and increasing monetizing opportunities in the process.''

Oy. I'm sure we're all looking forward to the mandatory meetings to discuss that! Now, can we please just fast-forward to 2009 already?

Heard your editors using this buzzword? Know any others? Use this link to e-mail examples, please. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.