Occupy newsrooms. Use all those empty desks.


For as long as I can remember Gannett was known as an outfit that skimped on news coverage by using skeleton crews of reporters and editors, for no other reason than to further enrich the owners of the Gannett company.

Good job by David Carr in nailing Gannett and reminding us that reporters and editors who work for the corporate media, whether they realize it or not, are in the same predicament as the unemployed and underpaid who have taken to the streets:

Almost two weeks ago, USA Today put its finger on why the Occupy Wall Street protests continued to gain traction.

“The bonus system has gone beyond a means of rewarding talent and is now Wall Street”s primary business,” the newspaper editorial stated, adding: “Institutions take huge gambles because the short-term returns are a rationale for their rich payouts. But even when the consequences of their risky behavior come back to haunt them, they still pay huge bonuses.”

Well thought and well put, but for one thing: If you were looking for bonus excess despite miserable operations, the best recent example I can think of is Gannett, which owns USA Today.

The week before the editorial ran, Craig A. Dubow resigned as Gannett”s chief executive. His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster. Gannett”s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns.

Carr recounts similar bad news about The Tribune Company, owned by the execrable Sam Zell, who put thousands of journalists out of work and ruined some top-tier newspapers through his greed and stupidity, meanwhile paying out huge bonuses to remaining managers.

The story is only slightly different in Philly, where I live, and all over the country. Newspapers are having a tough time transitioning to the digital age, and their worst enemies are their owners.

As for Carr’s semi-facetious notion of “occupying” the newsrooms… Well, there certainly would be plenty of room in most newsrooms these days if protesters chose to camp out in them.

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3 Responses to Occupy newsrooms. Use all those empty desks.

  1. Pingback: Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » Occupy newsrooms. Use all those empty desks.

  2. Fjord Prefect says:

    I’ve been a Gannett newspaper employee for over 8 years now, and for the last 6, it’s been a virtual warzone at my workplace. I’ve watched a multitude of comrades fall by the wayside each year, more times than I can now remember. I’ve narrowly escaped the unemployment line many, many times as our production department was slowly whittled down from 16 people to 3, as the support staff was cut so our building could continue to fall apart, and as all relevant communications from up top suddenly went dark, leading us into a state of paranoia and worry. Some of us have been lucky enough to have made it through alive…for now. We few survivors greet each other each day with battle-weary eyes, knowing at any minute it could be our last, or at least another mandatory unpaid furlough. But we’ve endured it all for the greater good. We’ve given up our PAY in honor of the ivory tower with the sliver of hope that the company would somehow use those precious funds of ours to transform and save itself, so that we, the workers, could continue to work. We trusted our leaders implicitly. And now this. Now we find out that the 20,000 people who lost their jobs over the last 6 years were sacrificed to the gods of greed: a 37 million dollar parachute given to a man who not three months ago, laid off 700 more employees citing “poor economic conditions.” Someone on another blog I was reading today pointed out that 37 million divided by 700 is roughly 53,000, more than the average yearly salary of anyone at my Gannett-owned workplace, and easily much greater than that of those who were let go. We have been backed into a corner. The people have “eaten cake” too long. It’s time to storm the castle.

  3. Liking what I read, food for thought!

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