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Gannett experiences

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by flexmaster33, May 3, 2010.

  1. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Hi all...I'm in the middle of the job search and just wanted to collect some thoughts on the Gannett chain. I've always like their style/format, but the company has that thrasher rep when it comes to staffing. Is that a real concern or just something that gets floated around...I know the Gannett paper closest to my area has had the same sports staff for years and has hired me as a freelancer in the past. So, I've never seen anything bad first hand really.

    thanks for any insight...please share both the bad experiences and the good.
  2. StaggerLee

    StaggerLee Active Member

    Good: Excellent benefits (although it has been declining rapidly over the last few years); Due to there being 80-some community newspapers and the USA Today, you have plenty of opportunities for advancement, and Gannett is big on moving people throughout the chain.

    Bad: Laundry list. Where shall I start?

    First of all, Gannett is a bottom-line company. If it's not making X% profit margin (whatever they deem that number to be), they're going to cut the shit out of their community newspapers. Layoffs were brutal over the last year and a half, and on top of that, employees have had to take three furloughs (unpaid leave) in the last five quarters. (reportedly no furloughs for this quarter) Some newspapers cut more than others, but nearly 3,000 jobs were cut company-wide. For example, my shop is at a cool, efficient 19 newsroom employees TOTAL for a 35-45K daily in a mid-size city. That 19 is responsible for the daily, as well as several niche publications. That number is approximately 50% of what the newsroom numbers were just two years ago. I think I speak for everyone in that newsroom when I say everyone is pretty much worked to the bone, with little or no overtime (work smarter!).

    Secondly, keep in mind that Gannett is a chain and operates that way. What may be good in New Jersey might not be good in Wisconsin, but their company-wide initiatives will be implemented at every community daily. You'll hear buzzwords and catch phrases such as Diversity and Mainstreaming, Local Local, Information Center (that used to be a newsroom). The flip side is that the initiatives usually last only a year, then are replaced by whatever flavor of the year they come up with at their annual brainstorming meetings.

    Another thing to consider is in addition to the layoffs, Gannett is doing a ton of consolidating. All of the photo toning has been done off-site for probably two years now at a Regional Toning Center. The copy desks are all slowly phasing towards more Consolidated Production Centers, and it was announced late last year that they will move all Ad production to a consolidated center, which will wipe out probably 60-70% of the graphic design jobs. So, basically go into the situation knowing that at any moment they could deem what you do to be superfluous.

    This last gripe goes back to one of the positives of the company. There's tons of room for advancement, but a lot of times it's unwanted advancement. I've seen situations where they'll send out an e-mail congratulating someone on a "promotion" before the person's even been told. Most of the "promotions" are basically consolidating positions and giving someone a title and double the workload. Ever hear the expression "Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians"? That's Gannett. Of the aforementioned 19 members of our newsroom, nine of them are "editors". That means nearly half the newsroom staff are exempt from overtime and thereby are working 50-70 hours a week.

    With all that said, it makes you wonder why people stick around, like the sports staff you mentioned. Most times, it's because people can't afford to go without the health insurance. Others are native to the area in which they work and aren't interested in hopping a bus/train/plane to another newspaper in another state. And still others are gluttons for punishment.

    I would definitely weigh your decision carefully and don't be afraid to talk candidly with staff members there. You can learn more from them than you will from the EE or publisher.
  3. chilidog75

    chilidog75 Member

    In this job market if you're going to be picky about a newspaper job (Gannett or not), then you're not going to get a newspaper job.

    Stagger Lee, for some reason, is acting as if all the problems of Gannett or just specific to Gannett. He's basically describing the entire newspaper industry. If you started a thread asking about another chain, you would have gotten a very similar response from someone else.

    They're ALL INTERESTED in the bottom line. That's not news. THEY ALL cut staff.

    So yeah, weigh your decision carefully (if you actually get offered a job). Not because it's risky to work for Gannett, but because it's risky to work in newspapers period.

    That said, good luck.
  4. chilidog75

    chilidog75 Member

    For the record, I work at a Gannett paper.
    I've been furloughed twice. It sucks. It also sucks to know that our CEO got a $1.5 million bonus this year ---- that kind of money maybe could have saved a job or two, don't ya think? That would have been a pretty substantial cost-cutting measure.

    But I'm lucky enough have a job and actually enjoy it for the most part. Even at Evil Gannett.
  5. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    Worked at three different Gannett papers in my time. Low pay at all. Two furloughs at one, declining benefits, no opportunities for advancement. Not even a mention.

    Been at my new job for a few months and boss is always helping me do things that will help me advance with my company, or other companies if I so choose.
  6. StaggerLee

    StaggerLee Active Member

    Well, considering he asked specifically about Gannett and no other newspaper companies, I gave my opinion of Gannett. I don't know what goes on at other newspaper companies (although I do have friends and colleagues who work elsewhere and haven't had near the amount of cuts or furloughs we've faced).

    And I never pretended to think what's happening at Gannett is exclusive to the company. But he asked specifically about Gannett. So I answered his question.
  7. i worked at a gannett paper at one point in my career.....i'd work retail at babies r us before I work at another one
  8. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    My Gannett experience:

    The Good: I worked with plenty of excellent people, who were professional in almost every way. I had heard horror stories of mean managers, but I never had that where I worked. There was opportunity to do good work, in between the grunt work that was so frequent.

    The Bad: Like Stagger said, layoffs, and the accompanying feeling that no matter how good an employee you were, it didn't matter, because you could be next. Health insurance premiums were pretty high, compared to some other (non-newspaper) companies that I've read about. And the initiative thing was a royal pain. It got to the point where even our managers would say, "Yeah, here we go again, another initiative." Advancement used to be seen as a big plus, now, there's very little of it, and who would want to pack up and move when you may end up being dumped six months later anyways. Pay was on par for the newspaper industry, which is to say, pretty low. Unless you were a manager, you had no chance of saving up enough money over the years to buy a house.
  9. writestuff1

    writestuff1 Member

    Stagger Lee, I was just wondering about an update with the Louisiana papers in the Gannett chain. I know the desk situation was a mess. Is it any better? Could it be worse? Are they keeping the concept or maybe junking it? Saw where Gannett profits were up. Don't guess it means any hirings, huh? Any other info you have to pass along would be appreciated.
  10. StaggerLee

    StaggerLee Active Member

    It's starting to improve, but with repetition almost everything improves. There's still a lot of kinks to be worked out, but the regional copy desk is not going away anytime soon, so they'll keep looking for solutions to make it viable.

    The problem is still staffing. The copy desk is understaffed. The newsrooms are understaffed. It's to the point now where if ONE person calls in sick, the entire operation is in jeopardy. And I understand that's the case in a lot of places, but it seems like they'd have backup plans in place, and right now the backup plan is whoever happens to be there that night just takes on two, three or four times the workload.

    Lafayette probably has the biggest issues, and oddly enough they were one of the first to go on board. In fact, I'm pretty certain Lafayette was the guinea pig, then Monroe, Shreveport and finally Alexandria were added to the mix. Since January, Lafayette has lost its executive editor, managing editor and most recently sports editor. That's your top three managers in the newsroom, if you're scoring at home folks. And word on the street is that the insane hours they were having to work to make sure a paper was actually being produced in Monroe was the main reason for their departure.

    The EE has since been replaced (only took four months), but the ME and SE offices are still empty. As far as I know, there's no timetable to replace either spot. In fact, I'm fairly certain neither spot has even been listed yet. (So, if you're interested in being an SE in Lafayette, you have time to polish that resume)

    Lafayette's sports staff is down to three people (the assistant sports editor, a prep editor and the Louisiana-Lafayette beat writer). That's kind of absurd for a newspaper its size covering the area it covers. But two of those three are salaried employees and are working 60-70 hours a week making sure there's a paper with local copy every day. Alexandria's staff isn't much better with four people and Monroe is basically a three-person operation also.

    The thing that gets lost in this is that the regional copy desk was still in its experimental phase for football season. Lafayette kept a lot of pages in-house, as did Monroe and Shreveport. Alexandria came on so late in football season (late October) that they didn't even get to really experience the regional copy desk on Friday nights. And since then, Alexandria has started printing in Lafayette, pushing their deadline UP to 10 p.m.

    Yeah, Friday night prep football is going to be interesting for those insane enough to stick around.
  11. chilidog75

    chilidog75 Member

    Fair enough.
    I've worked in three different chains. So I guess I have a bit more perspective.
    All chains are slashing staff aren't they?
    All newspapers are trying to "do more with less" aren't they? That was my point. It's not a Gannett-specific problem. It's an industry problem.

    So I would reiterate. Think carefully about taking a Gannett job if offered, but not because of the company. Because of the industry as a whole. Just my opinion, though.
  12. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    If or when I choose to leave, I would be abandoning a situation with dwindling staff where we've been on once-a-month furloughs for a year now. So, job-wise, there's not a whole lot holding me in place.
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