Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eeny meeny miny moe

The buyout applications are in, and now the process of selecting those who will allowed to leave begins. The publisher wrote the troops Monday:
From: XXXX On Behalf Of Buchanan, Margaret
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 1:26 PM
To: Cincinnati-All1
Subject: Voluntary Severance Program update

To: All non-represented employees

From: Margaret Buchanan

The deadline for applications for voluntary severance packages has passed and we are beginning the process of determining those we will accept to meet The Enquirer's goals as part of a Gannett-wide staff reduction announced in recent weeks.

I realize it will be a tense two weeks until those involved are informed about the status of their applications. I understand how difficult this will be and I know that many may be disappointed if their applications are denied. But we need to get this done and move on.

The Operating Committee has been working with its managers and supervisors to help determine what positions we should keep and which we can afford not to replace. As stated before, we will do this based on position, job function and years of service. Our goal is to notify employees individually by September 5 as to whether they've been accepted or not.

It's been a trying time for all of us. But I appreciate your hard work throughout, and again encourage you to ask questions – of me, your manager and/or Human Resources.


And Tom's addition:
From: Callinan, Tom
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 3:24 PM
To: CIN-News Users
Subject: FW: Voluntary Severance Program update

In addition to the publisher's note below, here is how the voluntary severance program will be handled in News and related content departments:

My job will be to focus on the positions we can re-assign or restructure around, not the individuals.

I will work with the publisher on which positions in which departments we may consider. Then, where there are multiple volunteers in a certain job category, Human Resources will determine the individuals who will qualify based on years of experience, nothing else.

Here are general guidelines I have established:

-- Our top priority will be respecting our First Amendment responsibility -- public interest reporting and civic engagement.

-- We must protect our local news gathering capabilities.

-- We must protect strategic initiatives, such as NKY and the Edge.

-- We must ensure that basic operations -- the ability to produce a timely and lively web site and well-edited newspaper -- are protected.

-- And we need to keep in mind the demands of an increasingly digital future.

Decisions will be made in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, I don't think it benefits anyone to speculate on what that means for the individuals involved and/or the departments they come from.


Telling reporters and editors not to speculate is like telling birds not to fly. The Enquirer asked for 50 buyout candidates and the word is that many more than that applied. For the newsroom, it means that some people who would very much like to leave will not be allowed to take the buyout. Chances are they'll have to stick around for the Enquirer's bright future.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If you don't take the buyout, you'll have to attend more meetings with Tom

The Enquirer tried to calm the newsroom by holding a series of meetings, to talk about what happens after the buyouts. Instead, boss Tom Callinan, in his inimitable way, screwed up the message and had to issue a clarification.

From: Callinan, Tom
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 1:40 PM
To: CIN-News Users
Subject: Training and new skills

In our conversations about life after the buyouts we have been talking a lot about the future need for diversifying our staff's skills for flexibility and collaboration in a tighter world.….some have misinterpreted that as a call for everyone to learn html, Excel and high-end Avid video … like by Friday or else.

I do not mean to send that message.

What I am trying to say that it will be helpful for our excellent copy editors to know a bit about basic design…our best designers to be able to pitch in on basic copy editing ….bureau reporters able to take a point and shoot to a remote assignment for a head shot … experienced reporters able to fill in for desk editors in emergencies (with differential of course) all to get more involved in basic understanding of linking and imbedding online and in blogs. That type of thing.

We will be assessing our current training and surveying the staff on what you all want and need. And I am hearing that we need to provide an array of training environments for a wide variety of learning styles -- from wikipedias and digital tutorials to group sessions and intense, personal hands-on experiences.

Meanwhile, here's something that Chris has been doing in an informal manner….and to be frank the attendance has been disappointing.

Please consider stopping by.


Every Tuesday 10:30-11 a.m. and Thursday 4:30-5 p.m.

Not sure how to create a message thread on the new Cincinnati.Com? Do you have no clue what RSS is, or why you need it? A new weekly, informal, quick Q-and-A chat session may be just the help you need. Starting next Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon – and running for as long as we want – we'll be gathering in the 19th floor conference room at Elm to go over stuff like this. No pressure, no requirement to attend, no sign-up sheets, probably no food – just the opportunity to whittle away at the nagging stuff that might be keeping us from doing our best.****

And thanks to all for patience, understanding and participation in the discussions we've been having in small group sessions on Elm, Kentucky, Blue Ash, and Butler-Warren … day and night-side.

You are being listened to. I want all to help guide me in making the difficult decisions about how The Enquirer will manage any re-assigning and restructuring that may be needed in the coming months.

How ridiculous. Callinan has pulled this stunt before, calling meetings and pretending that he values your input. The only thing this latest episode did was drive people to take the buyout.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Buyouts and Metromix

There are many names floating around the newsroom, people who are known to be taking the buyout. I won't make those names public, because some of those people are on the fence. One or two have turned in the paperwork for the buyout and then changed their minds. It looks as though the copydesk and Life will be hit hard.

And the reality of what the newsroom will be like after the buyouts is starting to sink in. Rumors are swirling about where Hollis Towns is going, and Tom Callinan is holding meetings this week with newsroom employees about what happens next. He wrote to the staff: "Editors and I have talked about possible scenarios, but we really won't know what the future will hold until we see who is on the final list on Friday. Obviously we may not be able to accept all requests for the buyouts. But we know we will have to do some re-assigning and restructuring in the aftermath. ... I don't have a crystal ball and I can't predict or promise anything about the future in these changing and challenging times. But I will give you straight answers as best I can."

Meanwhile, Gannett is pushing a project called Metromix (press release here), a large web-based entertainment database. Each Gannett paper is expected to contribute hundreds of items to the database. The deadline is next week, but the Enquirer is well below its quota. So this week, Enquirer reporters are having to waste their time researching and filing items for Metromix. Gannett often says it doesn't interfere in local news coverage, but here's an example where they dictate to the local papers, who have to drop whatever they're doing and respond.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Enqurier makes itself news

The Enquirer finally reports on its own buyout offer, nearly two weeks after it first made the offer to employees and on the day the buyouts were originally supposed to be taken. The sudden attack of conscience comes because word leaked out that Gannett was looking to cut 1,000 jobs, and the rest of the industry press was reporting it. Much credit goes to Gannettblog, which has kept the pressure on. Word out of the Enquirer is that people are running for the exits, in all departments.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The axe cuts deeper

Many functions of the Enquirer's Finance department are being outsourced to a central operation being set up by Gannett in Springfield, Mo.
TO: All Enquirer Media employees
FM: Margaret Buchanan

In meetings yesterday afternoon, all employees in the Finance department were informed that parts of our financial operations will be moved to two "national shared service centers" located in Indianapolis and Springfield , Mo.

The changes will primarily affect what we do in the areas of accounts payable, general ledger, credit and some aspects of cash accounting. Our Finance division will continue to locally support the organization in the areas advertising billing, circulation billing, payroll and financial analysis.

Because this will be a fairly long undertaking, it is difficult to know exactly how and when employees will be affected. Cincinnati will be among many Gannett sites moving these shared service centers in the next 6 months or more.

The timing of this announcement – during our Voluntary Severance Program – will provide additional options to affected employees. Severance, benefits continuation, job opening information, and employee assistance are among the options available to employees.

I just wanted to make you aware of what's happening.

We appreciate your cooperation. And if you have any questions about this, please feel free to ask me, Dave Wuertemberger in Finance, or Keith Bulling in HR.


The email above doesn't say how many jobs will be cut. It's also not clear if the number being cut in Finance affects the 50 buyouts announced on Monday, but my guess is that these are in addition to the 50. Those people who are losing their jobs will find comfort in knowing that the newspaper they are leaving is poised for success.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The axe falls

The Enquirer, which according to the letter below is poised to succeed in the future, will do so with fewer people around. Today the paper put out the word today that it would like 50 employees to volunteer for buyouts. They are being offered two weeks of severance for each year served, with health benefits during the severance period. That's not a great offer, but it's not as cheap as some might have expected. And, writes publisher Margaret Buchanan, "If this voluntary offer doesn’t result in a sufficient number of volunteers, or if in the future, economic conditions worsen, it may be necessary to consider layoffs."
From: XXXX, On Behalf Of Buchanan, Margaret
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 3:31 PM
To: Cincinnati-All1
Subject: Voluntary Severance Program

To: All non-represented employees

From: Margaret Buchanan

In the last few years, we have implemented a number of initiatives to help us compete in an ever-changing media landscape, and thanks to your hard work and initiative, we are poised to succeed in the future.

However, as I’m sure you’re aware, the economy has worsened in the last year. Despite putting in place many cost-control actions – including some reductions in staff and many non-payroll expense cuts – we find ourselves needing to cut expenses again.

To that end, we are offering a voluntary severance program. Here are some details about the program:

  • It is being offered to all active non-represented employees of Enquirer Media, excluding Operating Committee employees.

  • The company reserves the right to limit the number of volunteers accepted in order to maintain business operations.

  • The program offers two weeks of severance for every year of credited service – up to 52 weeks. This will be paid out the same way as regular payroll until the severance period is exhausted. During the severance period, health benefits will remain intact.

  • The offer is open until August 15.

  • We are looking for 50 volunteers overall.

  • If more than 50 volunteer, we will review whether we can expand the pool. Decisions about which volunteers will be accepted will be based on position, job function and years of service.
If this voluntary offer doesn’t result in a sufficient number of volunteers, or if in the future, economic conditions worsen, it may be necessary to consider layoffs.

Please see the attached Q&A for answers to frequently asked questions.

Eligible employees who are interested should contact Julie Sawyer in Human Resources at (513) 768-8216.

Employees who decide to volunteer should submit a request in writing (signed and dated) to Julie Sawyer in HR. The company will review the list of volunteers after August 15, make a determination and inform all volunteers who have been accepted. Separation dates will be set at that time.


At least she didn't sign it, "Your pal, Margaret." What is her definition of "success"? The Enquirer is getting its ass kicked on the Bruce Ivins story. Compare their pathetic effort to what the New York Times has done. The latter is what reporting looks like. The former is an example of settling for "good enough" but it's really not good at all. The problem isn't the reporter's. It's the combination of too few people, too few resources and too little time creating a bland brew of low expectations.

And it will only get worse. The word of buyouts has unnerved the newsroom, and good people are looking for the exits. Members of the operating committee are exempted from the offer, so that means people who need to go, like Tom Callinan, probably won't.

UPDATE: The buyouts have been reported by the Business Courier, Editor & Publisher, CityBeat and Gannettblog, but not yet by the Enquirer itself.

UPDATE: The Enquirer has extended the deadline by a week.