Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unpaid Furloughs at Gannett: Here We Go Again

Fresh Out of Tourniquets, Keeper of the Mediocre-Newspaper Flame Uses Band-Aid To Stop A Gusher

When Gannett finally confirmed today it would impose unpaid one-week furloughs on virtually all employees (yes, including the C-suite), the company made it sound like it was doing them a favor.
After all, Gannett, like all other newspaper companies have been buffeted by stiff economic headwinds that have since gained hurricane strength. Thus sayeth CEO Craig Dubow:

After much consideration, we decided a furlough program would be the fairest and least intrusive way to meet these fiscal challenges in the first quarter, which is traditionally the lightest time of the year. We sincerely hope this minimizes the need for any layoffs going forward.

My question: Exactly when was the last time any one in Gannett senior management was sincere?
And nowadays, hope, like talk, is cheap. Trust me, from someone who's been there, Gannett knows cheap.
The furlough -- Gannett did this as well during the recession in the early 90s -- is but a salve, one that will temporarily ease the sting of a plunging bottom line at Gannett HQ. But no one, not for a nanosecond, should believe this will shelve future RIFs contemplated this year and beyond.
Look no further than Gannett's next big hope, ContentOne, whose primary aim is to attract advertisers to all Gannett platforms, and less about improving content. Much less.
The speculation on Gannett Blog and elsewhere is that what's billed as a new marketing initiative and advertising "solution" will, among other things, result in the demise of local feature sections. All lifestyle content in Gannettland will be essentially the same, by and large.
All of which has everything and nothing to do with the furlough except add insult to injury. You lose a week's pay, and before you know it, you lose your job too.
But at least Gannett is still paying a 20 percent dividend on its sickly stock. If only its employees had enough money to buy some.

1 comment:

adam hartung said...

Sam Zell refused to accept that the internet had changed competition. Now readers can get more news faster and cheaper on the web - and Tribune Corporation has simply ignored the shift. Lowering paper cost will not save the Chicago Tribune and LA Times. It will take a new leader, and a new strategy. Likewise, making employees work for free is no solution for the market shifts making USAToday and Gannett less viable. Read more at