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.