Dear Gannett. Fuck yourself. Love Jeff

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 11.43.18 AM

Dear Gannett:

Fuck yourself.

Love, Jeff

PS: I’ll elaborate. You hired me 20 years ago. Remember? Nashville. The Tennessean. I was 22 and, for a quick spell, a dreadful food and fashion writer. I came to you an excited kid anxious to make something of myself. I worked hard, climbed up the ladder, pretended you and I were great friends.

But I knew. I just knew.

First sign? The nut graph. I’d never heard of it before arriving in your newsroom. Then you told me that every story—context, flow be damned—required an early paragraph telling readers (specifically) what the story was about. Readers, after all, are dumb, and articles needed to be easily digestible for little minds.

Second sign? Focus groups. Tons and tons and tons of focus groups. Telling us how we should write. Telling us what to cover. Telling us how readers could best be pleased.

Third sign? A requirement that every story include at least one minority quote—even if the story had nothing even remotely to do with race, class, diversity. Profile of a country singer? Need a minority quote. News from a Republican meeting? Minority quote. Silly, stupid, paint-by-numbers journalism.

Fourth sign? Relating to No. 3—no real interest in issues of diversity. Talking a good game, but doing shit about it.

Fifth sign? Jumps. You got rid of them. Stories needed to be (with rare exception) confined to one page. Don’t wanna make readers work.

Sixth sign? Advertisers had greater say. Remember when you made me apologize to a concert hall because, well, they were a key advertiser, and my piece didn’t praise their shit fall lineup? Remember the follow-up piece you ran on their insistence? The hand-job you gave them? Boy, that was great.

Seventh sign? Charts, graphs, charts, graphs. Why detail and texture, when you can run 300 words with a chart?

Eighth sign? Layoffs. Buyouts. More layoffs and buyouts. Never executives, mind you. Always writers. Editors. Designers. People who busted their asses for $30,000 annually. And why? Why? Because …

Ninth sign? Stock value. You still made profits. Hell, you still make profits. But it’s not enough. At the start of every year, you project what will be. If that projection falls short, heads roll. Then more heads roll. Then more …

In case anyone missed this, a few days ago The Tennessean chopped off even more heads. It’s all a part of some ridiculous “Newsroom of the Future” plan—which involves 15-percent layoffs and forcing all paper employees to reapply for their positions.

Gannett folks shrug, say it’s a byproduct of the modern newspaper as a ghost. Yet who created that ghost? Who stripped down the products, then stripped them again and again? Who ripped the hearts and souls out of newspapers? Who ended investigative reporting? Who did this to the newspaper business?

Answer: Gannett.

One of the laid-off Tennessean employees is Maurice Patton, my former colleague in the sports department. Mo has been at the paper for more than two decades. He devoted himself to covering local high school and college athletes; did so amazingly well. He was loyal, hard-working, detailed, smart.

Now, he’s unemployed.

Fuck yourself, Gannett.

Fuck yourself.


169 thoughts on “Dear Gannett. Fuck yourself. Love Jeff”

    1. The larger problem for all journalists is that what we do, or did, has been devalued–if not made irrelevant–because of the Internet. During a journalists’ conference over the weekend, one well-known veteran journalist commented that very soon, someone will start training the citizen journalists already out there to do a better at what they’re already doing, and that may be one of the new models. Someone else, who works at a journalism grad school, told me that they’re already working on a project to train citizen journalists in foreign countries to supply the good, strong coverage of the foreign affairs that used to be provided by foreign correspondents. (I was among them, and I knew during my last years on the job that I was a dinosaur.) Journalists used to be the public’s messengers and translators–going to places, a city council meetings, a crime scene, a foreign country –that were inaccessible to the general public. But since communications technologies in all of their forms have made everything accessible, the public really doesn’t need topay messengers and translators anymore.

    1. I followed almost the same track. Quit Gannett in 2002, took Newhouse up on its “promise” and became involuntarily unemployed in 2012. It’s been a really tough two years since, but I wouldn’t go back to either for three times the money.

      1. In the past, freelanced on a long-term basis (about 12 yrs each) for a Gannett paper and for a Newhouse paper. Both were decent papers when I began writing for them in the early ’90s. Now, both of them are a disgrace

  1. Oh, Jeff, you still have a way with words. I said it the first time more than 16 years ago, and I’ll join you in saying it again. Fuck you, Gannett.

  2. I get that this all sucks, and I hate what Gannett is doing to what’s left of newspapers, but I quit a Gannett job back in ’95. I thought it was awful then. I feel bad for all these reporters, but I gotta ask why they stayed for so long if they hated Gannett so much? This list above sounds soul-sucking. And also, how can anyone be surprised by layoffs at newspapers nowadays?

    1. They stayed for the same reason that today’s “journalists” bitch and moan whenever anyone suggests anything other than the lazy, cowardly “rat to Romenesko,” “stick up for unpaid internships because THAT’S THE WAY IT’S ALWAYS BEEN,” “rip at anything and everything” mentality that has pervaded newsrooms for far too long. I am not sure how this mentality would be diagnosed psychologically, but it’s a pretty sad way to do things.

      The Gannetts of the world know they can do anything because there will always be more lemmings to take unpaid internships and to shout down anyone who might have suggested some of the examples listed in this piece weren’t going to work. Think about it. Why would corporate journalism ever change as long as there are literally thousands of journalists who take glee in proclaiming how they will work for low pay or even for free?

      1. I don’t think anyone takes glee in taking a low-paying job. You do what you have to do to feed your family. There’s a HUGE difference.

      2. Karen, I have seen all sorts of people who do proclaim how “great” they are because they are doing “what they love” for little pay. You might not be aware of those, but don’t let that ignorance guide your post into absolutes that simply aren’t true.

      3. Nothing is an absolute, Robert, you are correct.
        In my personal experience, I have yet to see a journalist who has been gleeful about getting a low-paying job — especially among those of us who are over 40. None of the journalists I know — and I am acquainted with more than one or two — ever has said they’re excited to have a low-paying job where they’re expected to report and write articles, shoot video, take photos and oh, yeah, work extra unpaid hours for salaries that have been cut more and more. None of the journalists I know has jumped for joy and beat their chests with pride, saying, “I get to do this for nothing!” I have yet to meet a journalist — even the younger ones — who has said, “Oh, boy, isn’t this great! I get to work weekends and holidays and all for a measly $15 an hour!”
        That doesn’t mean they no longer have pride in their work — and perhaps that is what you see when someone’s saying they’re great. You can still love what you do. That doesn’t make the low pay any less painful. And you can and should have pride in the work you do regardless of what you’re paid. I cleaned bathrooms and dealt with drunks at a convenience store for $10 an hour. Was I happy about making a pittance? No. I have pride, however, in doing the best job I am able to do because that’s a reflection on me, and the fact is, if you’re a crappy worker, it can haunt you regardless of the industry you’re in.
        That’s not ignorance. That is reality.

      4. I could send you a URL (if it’s still active online) from a columnist who wrote precisely what I have described.

        I also don’t know too many journalists who are “haunted” by their crappy work. This comes from years of fixing the same dumb mistakes, again and again and again, and then seeing the same writers still making them.

        If you had followed the “unpaid internship” debate on the Internet, you also would have discovered many people clamoring that absolutely nothing should change because, after all, that’s the way it always had been.

      5. Well, there are a lot of us who do not subscribe to that belief about internships. That said, I was on the board of an organization that arranged internships for journalism students and we refused to work with any organization that wouldn’t pay them.
        I didn’t follow that discussion because I don’t spend hours debating the state of journalism. It’s a horrible place we are in and it breaks my heart. This is an exception because this article caught my eye.
        I have my share of years (nearly 30, to be exact) of fixing crappy work, and yes, there are some who don’t care and don’t learn. But there are plenty who do care and who try every day to do the job well. There are no absolutes, as you pointed out to me.

      6. Stop going on about how newspaper employees could have turned around the failing newspaper industry! Nobody WANTS to be an unpaid intern; it’s required!

        And i’ve never met a single journalist who said they wanted to work for low pay or for free. Everybody I know has bills to pay.

        Future journalists pay princely sums to sit in a classroom and be taught by instructors who haven’t darkened the door of a newsroom in thirty years, if ever. They are not told about Vertical Integration and how it’s the Number One Killer of journalism jobs. There are no “New Media” labs where the next generation of journalists can develop new ways to tell important stories (they’ve got to make a name for themselves and then go to work for a blog to learn that). Instead they are trained how to report on the current legislative session so that a third grader can understand it, and “be sure to get a minority quote!” All the while, the professors say nothing about the upheavals in the industry over the past 30 years.

      7. So a bunch of people didn’t just sue and get some of the unpaid internship policy changed? Wow. That’s funny. I guess I imagined that whole thing and the subsequent screaming from the people who wanted that to stay the same way “because it always had been required.”

        Again, your idea that “no one” plays up the low pay concept is based in ignorance. There are a number of people who run around patting themselves on the back for doing what they wanted to do “regardless of the pay.”

        I agree with some of the rest of your post, except for the part about “working for a blog.” It’s really not that tough to set up a blog and post to it.

      8. I’m sure MANAGEMENT didn’t want to change the way they exploited interns, and if anybody on the front line objected it’s because they rely on interns to do more than they’re supposed to be doing. That’s hardly a management decision made by the peons.

      9. Interesting. I don’t see anywhere that it says the peons made a management decision. So your rejection of that idea might mean something to you, but not to the discussion.

        The person above me already hit the nail on the head. There are WAY too many people in journalism — management and peons, lest we go down that road again — who think the process consists only of “getting the work out there.” Monetizing the process is where many have failed, and again, that includes the people who kept insisting unpaid internships just had to continue because that’s the way it always had been done.

      10. It’s not required you work for free. Your bosses would laugh in your face if you asked them to do their job gratis.

        You and a legion of ham-and-eggers cheapened the craft of writing to the point where you actually believe giving your work away for free is part of the process. I can’t blame employers for wanting to take advantage of this. Why pay for writing when you can offer experience or a byline?

        As a writer, I get paid for every piece of work I produce. I have never compromised on this.

    2. People stay, Melanie, because if you’re 40 or 50 you still need a job, and the job market sucks. Not just for staying in journalism, but for anything. I left Gannett before the 2008 slaughter and watched friends struggle to find work doing anything that would keep the bills paid. I had friends who went into bankruptcy. I left the magazine I was working for — because it, too, had become soul-sucking and life-destroying — and let me tell you, it’s damn hard to make a mortgage payment on a minimum-wage job and freelance.
      And as cynical as we tend to be, I think we all hoped it would get better.

      1. And yet did nothing to make it better. That was my point — the corporate suits know there are tons of people who will take unpaid internships and low-paying writing jobs. Why would they ever change what they do?

      2. What, exactly, did you expect people to do, Robert? Fight the system? Tell the managers, “No, I won’t follow First Five Grafs?” The people who were the most antagonistic to management were the first ones kicked to the curb. Did you expect those left behind to walk out the door, arm in arm, like hippies protesting the war in Vietnam? It’s easy to go on an idealistic binge when you don’t have other people relying on your paycheck.

      3. Ah, it’s the old “We didn’t know what to do! We COULDN’T do ANYTHING!” response.

        How about something other than what I described above: ratting to Romenesko, bitching about every possible thing to the point where no complaint is heard, giving in to the really stupid stuff that was destined to fail, etc.

      4. Hmm … Ratting to Romenesko. Never done that. Bitching about every possible thing? Nope. Was too busy trying to do the work — and do work that did matter, regardless of what other constraints Gannett put on me (until I left, that is).

        You didn’t answer the question. What concrete actions do you honestly believe would have changed the direction that Gannett chose?

      5. Someone above me already mentioned leaving. You claim that was unpossible.

        A daring ploy would have been to go to the advertisers. Would they have cared? Probably not. But that might have opened the eyes of a few people.

        Byline strikes are always useless, but some seem to try that.

        Complaints also can serve a purpose. OSHA is weak, but at least it can mandate a reply from an organization.

        I could continue this list, but I already know you have decided that NOTHING would work.

      6. Unpossible? Making up words from someone who spent all his time cleaning up others’ crappy copy?
        And if you’ve taken up mind-reading, is it paying well? Because you certainly cannot presume to know what I have decided on anything.

      7. Um, it’s a joke.

        About the rest of it — it’s a discussion I’ve had before. People insist they COULDN’T have done anything other than unpaid internships, etc. We go back and forth in a merry festival.

        Really the most effective tactic would have been a mass walkout. But merely suggesting that usually sparks the “We COULDN’T have …” response mentioned previously.

        When people bring up mind reading, I sometimes make a joke about an empty slate. Wanna hear it?

      8. Don’t bother debating Robert Knilands. He’s a crackpot with nothing better to do, and despite being a failure as a journalist thinks he has all the answers. Treat him like any troll.

      9. I realize he’s a narcissist who is nothing but the soul of negativity, Big. I just needed someone to tell off. Who better to tell of than a smarmy troll?

      10. Bigyaz is the standard Internet coward who throws out insults from the shelter of anonymity. Interesting that the very definition of a troll would toss out that response.

        At this point, I’m not too concerned about who thinks who was a failure. I did work that included writing, editing, and photography and earned promotions and mangerial spots. I’d say that’s a lot more successful than the people who can’t write 4 grafs without messing up or who rely on subjective standards to keep grinding out a bunch of pages that most readers don’t have much interest in.

        I left on my own terms and went on to other things. I don’t lose much sleep about not being one of the current journos who stresses constantly about the next layoff, rats to Romenesko, and spends most of every work day griping about how journalism was so much better in the good, old days.

  3. “Never the executives, mind you. Always the writers. Editors. Designers.” I never could comprehend the mandate of all those layers of management. Behaving as it they were unclear on where the paper’s value was coming from.

  4. Jeff, You may not recall that I was an old guy (covering the courthouse) when you were at the Tennessean. I escaped during the first buyout, in 2002. Praise the Lord! Thanks for reminding me of nut grafs, focus groups, containers, charts and graphs, etc. It’s amazing to see the Tennessean keep finding ways to get worse.

  5. Your future is just getting started. Years of feeling like there was way more in you as a writer have come to this. Straight from the soul and beautiful stuff. Something really great is gonna happen to you and I can’t wait to see what it is.

  6. I worked for Gannett for 10 years before being laid off from The Greenville News in the June 2011 1,000-employee purge. Everything you write here rings true. Focus groups were a pet peeve of mine; the idea that people with no training or experience could or should guide the direction of a newsroom clearly demonstrated Gannett management’s lack of understanding of what journalists do. Centers of excellence. First five graphs. Circles of life. But to some degree, we journalists brought it on ourselves by going along. At some point, i feel like i traded my journalistic integrity for a paycheck. And despite that show off loyalty, they laid me of anyway.

  7. Layers of executives and making people reapply for their jobs is one thing, but nut graphs? You’re really going to pin that on Gannett?

    There’s a much much bigger story having to do with the Internet completely changing the economic proposition of creating and distributing news. (Just as it has changed the premise behind travel agents). When we have a device in our hands, we don’t need to have someone bundle all the news they think we want and drop it in our driveway daily.

    So be angry, continue to write well and find your own audience. That’s great. You’ve found the upside of Internet disruption. But learn the context in which the jerks make their decisions.

    By the way, charts and graphs are smart things.

    1. Don’t blame the Internet. News executives make decisions. They could have been craigslist. They could have been They could have done a lot of positive things, and they chose not to.

      1. Exactly, Mindy. I remember sitting in a meeting in 2003 where a Gannett executive told a room full of reporters, copy editors and photographers that “the internet is just a fad. People will never take their computers into the bathroom.” And we as reporters, copy editors and photographers looked at each other and knew we were in trouble. Deep trouble.

      2. You assume too much Robert, especially when you do not know me personally or know anything about the work I have done or continue to do. Your negativity has done nothing to improve the business either.

      3. Too bad. My goal (if there can be one) is to present examples of how newspapers have continued to pursue the same failing goals, decades later.

        I know that in my time, I screened out a lot of horrible shit created by lazy writers, non-editors, and other people who were simply occupying space in a newsroom. During that time, those things were not what the places wanted. They wanted flash and subjective, visual trash that did nothing to attract readers. But they had convinced themselves it would, and today they still cling to that belief.

        But as I said, there are many who claim they knew the whole thing would fail. And yet they did nothing.

      4. This bitch Karen wall worked for hat corrupt Patch. Her fat ugly ass should be in jail. She’s a misinformed and uneducated sociopath

      5. But what could they do? Fire people faster? The ad dollars disappeared and, try as I might, I can’t imagine a single move they could make. Except fire Jeff Pearlman earlier so he could find another career when he was still in his 20s.

      6. Here’s a couple of things they could have done:
        – Not give news away for free on the Internet. Now the horses have left that barn, and it’s hard to get them back in, even though some are trying.
        – Focus more resources on stories that matter, the stories ONLY newspapers could do well, like investigative stories and stop worrying about covering every mundane council meeting.
        – Not sure why the criticism of charts and graphs. Visual journalists – including the graphics editor – can contribute a great deal to the telling of a story. The best reporters and editors know how to engage the graphics editor to make a story better.

      7. Oooh. And those paywall companies did so well. The NYT only found some traction recently and it wasn’t preordained.

        And I’ve heard some say that covering every council meeting IS what newspapers do well. The long, thumb-sucking, Pulitzer-chasing pieces are usually blipped over. People nod and move on. Covering the council meetings is service journalism.

      8. Paywalls would have done better if we hadn’t given the news away for free. Why would anyone pay for something after years of getting it for free?

      9. Method worked well for TV and radio both news and entertainment. Cable started with value added with clear picture and sound then got greedy stacking unwanted content
        And price . What’s going on cord cutters
        Whey your product becomes overpriced and less quality people leave.newspapers when I was in school had weekly colums on science,.history, and even books week to week for 5 to 10 1960s coins most real silver
        Ads paid most cost

      10. I think the criticism of charts and graphs comes from their misuse. Once you’ve worked at a paper that mandates them for every article, you can see why.

        Gotta disagree on the claim about visual journalists. While they add some value at times, a lot of their additions are zeros or even subtractions. Giant, space-sucking images for the sake of design don’t add to story-telling. Same with other designer tricks, including but not limited to: covering the flag needlessly, cutouts, overuse of reverse type, unnecessary illustrations, etc. If designers worked for the reader, you might have a valid claim.

      11. Don’t blame the designers, blame the executives telling the designers what to do. Most designers I worked for over decades were decent people, and really wanted their work to help readers.

      12. Well, not really. Mainly because magazine covers and newspaper front pages are significantly different in many ways. But I’m not surprised that some newspaper designers don’t realize that concept.

        Also, one thing you may not realize — some of us needed to look at the big picture from time to time. So when someone is using the whole 2-plus hours after deadline to design, for example, a cannon blasting a cannonball across the top of a single page, and meanwhile there is a stack of other pages that has to be done before anyone can leave that night, my primary concern isn’t whether the page (a Section F cover at best, buried well inside the Sunday paper) “looks good” or is “simple and clean” or whatever other jargon designers would spew repetitively. It’s getting the damn thing done in a logical amount of time and moving the F on to the rest of the job.

        Fortunately, these days I worry less about those types of things. BTW, the last project I spent time creating was presented as an example of how to provide information without relying on pointless gimmicks. I present this not to mention my own work, but as a much-needed example of how there are some people out there who actually get it. It’s a pity more newspaper people didn’t get it.

        P.S.: The cannonball page turned out well. That designer should have thanked the people who dove in to the pile of other work and allowed that page to be taken to completion.

      13. Try making a constructive suggestion next time, Robert. Mr. Pearlman’s departure from The Tennesean 10 years ago, or earlier as you suggest, would have had no impact on the demise of print media. You should have just posted “I HATE Jeff Pearlman” and gone on to hating others.

      14. Except I don’t hate Jeff Pearlman. I agree with a good portion of what he says here.

        I also didn’t say Jeff Pearlman should have left earlier. I think you are mixing up some posts.

      15. By 2003 I had already taken a laptop into the bathroom to read at least a thousand times. I never stop being amazed at how stupid people can be — they prefer to compete on cost and timing against a free, instantaneous source rather than competing on quality.

    2. Instead of spending time worrying about whether or not a story met Real Life Real News criteria, the executives should have been taking the time to figure out how the papers should not only survive, but thrive in the Internet era. Instead they chose to waste everyone’s time keeping track of how many stories had minority sources, no matter the relevance, and nagging everyone into following the latest initiative upon penalty of firing even though everyone knew how useless it was.

    3. When Debbie Galant talks about what shapes the local news biz, it’s worth listening! Everybody always thought local was a gold mine because it was cheap to do. That’s not just in print — it’s what Patch thought, and Gannett had been chipping away at “cost” for decades as it perfected profit extraction. But good local coverage on the web if anything calls for more resources (at least in terms of reporters and editors, if not in truck drivers), not less. It’s only cheap in the sense that the people doing it well are doing it more as a labor of love than for profits, and that their ties to their towns may bring the community into the process with them.

  8. Gannett….the worst thing to ever enter this world. They destroyed our local paper. KARMA.
    After hearing the news about Maurice and others I will never spend another dollar on Ganett

  9. First, let me say that my experience at Gannett lasted a little over two years, from 1997-1999 at The Greenville News.

    Much of what is written here, I get. But I do take issue with a couple of things.

    The nut graf? It wasn’t invented by Gannett and was not only in use by Gannett. It was invented by the Wall Street Journal and has been taught at many j schools for many years, including the one I attended. But maybe you have a problem with j schools, too. Not sure.

    Quoting a minority in the first five grafs even if the story had nothing whatsoever to do with race? I get it, now, particularly after having been a journalism instructor for a few years. My students would never ever go outside people they knew (read people of their own race or ethnicity) had I not pushed them, too. In order for media to be more for everyone, it has to include everyone. One way to battle stereotypes is to have more voices of color in news stories or features that aren’t sports, entertainment and crime. It wasn’t easy but it was important.

    Good luck to you.

      1. Asking me if I favor source quotas is like when I left the Anderson Independent for the Greenville News and my then-colleague/former friend telling me I was only hired as a “token.” Forget the fact that I was sought out and qualified. It had to be because I was black. No. There are people of color who are imminently qualified to be sources on all kinds of topics that we reported about and still do. The community in which I lived was roughly 18 percent black, but very rarely were people of color in the pages of the newspaper unless it was a mugshot or a football player. How many times have you actuall thought to think about how you search for story sources and what stereotypes you may be transmitting? I think it’s important to consider.

      2. A non-answer. People who favor source quotas often give non-answers. It’s yet another reason not to respect the opinions of people who want source quotas.

      3. Please explain to me how this is a non answer? I don’t believe that this question merits a yes or no answer and explained why I thought it was important to use voices of people of color. Just because I object to your binary doesn’t mean it’s a non answer. And you don’t have to respect my opinion-just as I don’t have to respect the boundaries of your question.

      4. It’s just funny how the people who favor source quotas will never admit to it.

        Saying it’s important to have diverse sources is one thing. Requiring it in every article is quite another.

      5. Let me ask you a question or few: how many times would have found a source who was a person of color without being required to do so? There are other requirements that journalists have to follow. Were there others that you had such major problems with during your time at Gannett?

      6. Why should it matter? Let’s say you’re doing a “man on the street” interview. You are told to find five people. Do you find the five people who have interesting things to say about the subject, or do you deliberately pass over some people, who may have interesting things to say themselves, in the search for a person of color?

      7. As a non-journalist I guess I would ask if would really be that hard to find a person of color that also has something interesting to say ? I don’t get Jeff’s rant on this particular issue (minority sources)and the venom it seems to inspire. Is it that big of a deal ?
        Look I read newspapers all my life and their decline bothers me a lot but this is not the first industry that could not adjust to changing times. Jeff’s list may have lead to some cookie cutter journalism but I don’t think it has lead to the demise of newspapers in general.

      8. It wouldn’t be a big deal if Gannett hadn’t threatened journalists with firings because they didn’t meet their quota, or punished them by not giving them their skimpy raises. It also is somewhat representative of the demise of newspapers in that Gannett spent time worrying about minority sources instead of worrying about the Internet. Now, thousands of people have been laid off, and I would think many of them dutifully did Gannett’s bidding in terms of finding minority sources, only to find that their performance did not matter.

      9. I’ve never had that happen to me; but again my experience was just over two years. But I can also see how some reporters just wouldn’t give a crap or think that including “minority” voices was a big deal, so why follow this policy?

      10. I get what you both are saying. Trust me, I have seen clueless new mgmt come in an destroy a profitable business in a very profitable industry. I wasn’t slamming the people out of work. Feel bad for them.

      11. I don’t agree with his entire list, but you should realize that Gannett’s brand of cookie-cutter journalism has been a disaster. The best example is the Indy Star. Before it was Gannett-owned, it was a solid paper. There might have been a little decline before Gannett bought it, but the change in ownership destroyed that paper. The same thing likely happened with many of the other metros that Gannett bought, sucked the life out of, and destroyed.

      12. Are you kidding me? What do you mean “pass up?” Are you telling me that in none I these mos interviews that not one single “minority” voice had something interesting to say and that all the non-minority voices did? I doubt it. If you have to interview 10 people to get one interesting minority voice, why not do it in order to be inclusive?

      13. Because you should be doing it to write the best story possible, not to have an agenda of being inclusive. I was taught in my basic journalism classes that a reporter should never go into a story with an agenda, although of course, we know that’s not always true in the media. This is so that readers couldn’t question their impartiality and hurt the reporters’ credibility, which, ironically enough, is something that Gannett takes very seriously. Your goal should be to find voices who have something interesting to say. Period. Regardless of their color or ethnicity.

        What I meant by “pass up” is, say you find four white voices who have something interesting to say. You see a fifth white person, but down the street, you see a person of color. Remember, your assignment is to interview five people, not six. Do you interview both the white person and the person of color, in the hopes that one of them has something to say, or, due to an agenda, you walk by the white person. Or, you interview the white person with the thought that they may say something better than one of the other four?

      14. I will give one more example on how Gannett’s diversity agenda hurt its product, that has stuck we me. About 15 years or so ago, right when News 2000 was in effect, I took a vacation trip to Vermont, not exactly the most diverse area. On the front page of the Gannett paper, The Burlington free Press was this blaring headline story about how people of color were not proportionately represented in the state legislature. Something like only 3 percent, as opposed to the 5 percent of the population.

        They had charts, and, as I remember, the story even tjumped to another page, which we all know meant it was a really important story. I also think they wrote an editorial railing against the unequal representation, if I remember right.

        However, if the reader did some math and some critical thinking, they would have seen that the story was actually pretty weak. Now, the percentages might be a big story if it is in a big enough, with a large population. Vermont is neither. Applying the current numbers, there are 180 members of the Vermont House and Senate. That big 2 percent difference, assuming the same number of people were serving 15 years ago, would be 3.6 people. In a very small state. There could be any number of reasons for that little discrepancy, from a few less people of color running for election, or running and not winning. Yet, there were the big headlines, the charts, the editorial, making it out to be a huge deal.

        Of course, a discerning reader could see that, and if they knew of News 2000, question the paper’s agenda and credibility for running that story.

      15. You are also counting on the fact that you live in a diverse area. Not every paper is/was located in a diverse area. Yet the requirements were the same because Gannett took a one size fits all approach.

        You are also counting on the diverse group of people having a diverse set of opinions. That also doesn’t always happen with a story. The compelling report comes from the information you are given, not necessarily their backgrounds.

        Plus, as you point out, you didn’t need to be told to do it because you felt you would have a better story. Gannett made it a requirement, not a choice, and never offered any metrics or numbers that indicated that News 2000 or any other initiatives actually gained any readers.

      16. Never worked for Gannett.

        I talked to the sources who seemed to have the best information. That’s the best way.

        Your way is to have source quotas, even if you still can’t bring yourself to admit it. Your way is to look at who the person is, rather than the person’s skills and credibility. Your way always has been and always will be the worst way to conduct journalism.

      17. “You talked to the sources that had the best information”? What does that mean, exactly? What types of stories were you writing? How do you gauge the “best”? And there’s an underlying assumption here that any “minority” source doesn’t have the “best” information.

        I was a general assignment reporter who had to write everything from cops to higher ed trends.
        Face it, your way most likely resulting in few “minority” sources getting into your articles. And you probably didn’t care.

        That’s fine for you. If you believe that the only stories that need minority sources are the ones that have to do with race.

      18. Nope. You’re the one making assumptions here.
        The situation here is you favor source quotas, but you won’t admit it. And then to defend that approach, you consistently assume the worst about anyone who questions your support of source quotas.

        To answer one part of your question: I mainly covered stories about a community that was trying to replace a military base with businesses. So I talked with the govt. and business officials involved in those transactions. It would have been silly during those discussions to then say at the end: “Now, is there a person of color or different ethnicity who can tell me the same thing as what you just said?”

        We also did an article about the anticipated effect of the transition. I believe we had a good cross-section of response for that article. I couldn’t tell you the exact racial/ethnic breakdown, though, because we didn’t use the source quotas that you support.

      19. I apologize for my incorrect word use. Yes, I meant eminently qualified. I’ve not had to defend my hiring for a while and haven’t had to use that word much.

      20. There wouldn’t have been a question about your qualifications had Gannett not been so eager to promote how diverse they were. An honest company does not need to promote their diversity. They just do it.

        I say this as somebody who worked for a Gannett paper that 1. placed people of color in prominent roles out of proportion to the rest of the newsroom population and 2. Didn’t fire a person of color for many months even though that person of color repeatedly violated company policies and also did a poor job with their work. The people in the first group were very qualified to be in their prominent roles. But with the way Gannett has acted through the years, it crosses everyone’s mind that they are in that role for their race, instead of their qualifications. And that doesn’t do them any favors.

      21. How do you know there never would have a been a question about my qualifications? You don’t. So please save that overstatement.

        As for your other assertions about this particular “minority” in you newsroom, I can only take your word and also ask if other people in “prominent” positions stayed there despite violations of policy, etc. I’m sure that was the case–of not during your time, probably before or after. It’s not new in a newsroom. It all depends on how it is framed.

      22. How do I know? You said it yourself in your post about your colleague/ex-friend. They questioned it. If the Greenville News had these huge announcements about how much they love diversity, anyone would question your hire, no matter your qualifications. They weren’t doing you any favors.

        As far as the “minority” in the newsroom, our supervisor flat-out told us, because we were constantly having issues with him, both work-related and personality-wise, that he couldn’t have him fired because management didn’t want to fire a minority. Eventually, they did fire him, but only after they caught him in the act of doing some, let’s just say, very dishonest things.

      1. First of all, I don’t call anyone a “minority.” As a “minority” myself, I believe calling someone that to be pretty offensive. Even as an African American, I didn’t know every person of color in the community, so I had to expand my circle of knowledge and sources. I found people who didn’t often get quoted and then I quotes them and asked them for other people and so on. When I wrote stories and had to interview people over the phone I asked them their racial or ethnic background, told them what we were trying to do and that was that. If they weren’t a person of color, I would ask if they knew any who were involved in that particular story and got their contact information.

      2. I’m not the one who would use “minority”. That was Gannett, who used the term, which is why I used it in my post. In other words, the company would use the term that you find pretty offensive. When you asked them their racial and ethnic background, that’s the exact same thing as asking them if they are a “minority”. By letting them know the reasons why you were asking them (politically correctly, I assume, instead of “my boss is keeping track”), you were patronizing their voice by giving their voice more weight than your other sources.

        It shouldn’t matter if the voice is another race or ethnicity. What matters is getting the story, getting it right, and trying to make sure all sides are represented as best as possible under deadline. If a copy editor had to cut one quote from a story to fit a hole, they should be able to use their professional news judgment in cutting the least germane quote, and not have to worry about meeting quotas or possibly affecting the reporter’s job because a mainstreamed source had their quote cut.

      3. Of course Gannett used the word minority, as that is how the “majority” views people of color. What I’m saying is that I didn’t use that term because I knew better than to do that.

        It also wasn’t a matter of patronizing them; as I said, many people were grateful that the newspaper was at least making an attempt to be inclusive. And if your “minority” sources’ quotes weren’t relevant, perhaps that was a product of the questions. I admit that this was not easy, as it was difficult to step outside of the source box that journalists create for ourselves. I’m also not saying the effort on the part of Gannett was perfect. On the contrary, it was flawed. I’m saying that having more inclusive and relevant voices on the pages of the newspaper is a good thing.

      4. Except you’re not gauging their relevancy with that approach.

        Also, you don’t know anything about what questions the other people asked, and you shouldn’t pretend that you do, especially when you favor source quotas but refuse to admit that you do so.

      5. Again, source quotas? I’ve already gone over this. But let me write I again: I erect your binary. I don’t know the questions the other reporters asked. But in my experience as an editor and professor, when there’s a quote that isn’t relevant it’s because the writer didn’t ask either a) the right questions b) didn’t ask enough questions in the right way or c) doesn’t have the right source– “minority” or otherwise.

        And that “approach” can be relevant if done in the way that adds to the story, rather than take away from it.

      6. It’s funny that you fall back on having “the right source” when you reject the idea in an earlier discussion.
        Your argument is a continually shifting one, mostly based on negative assumptions about what the other person did or didn’t do, but in the end, you favor source quotas. You just won’t admit it.

  10. Jeff, I just read your bio: “I contribute regularly to a whole bunch of places, ranging from Bleacher Report to the Wall Street Journal to Sports Illustrated to I’m a habitual blogger, an addicted Tweeter and a guy who knows how lucky and fortunate he is to make his career as a writer/author/Tom Cruise lookalike. … I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I do what I love.”

    You will do just fine!

  11. The Sheriff of Cochise

    As someone who worked for a Pulitzer Prize-winning publisher from 1963 to 1983, I saw this happen also. Once our paper was sold by Cowles Communications to Scripps Howard we had to purchase our copy paper, typewriter ribbons, even copy pencils from their other corporate providers. We lost all personality and soon after I left, they sold out to a man who had been in cahoots with Ivan Boesky and he ran the paper into the ground and closed it. Idiots at the top will hire other idiots who will tell them to do idiotic things such as Jeff Pearlman has pointed out. I also saw this happen at a big metropolitan daily where circulation was 700,000 when I started in 1987 and has sunk to barely 350,000 since being sold to the New York Times for $1.2 billion. It was recently sold for a reported $400 million but that includes another paper and some TV interest and a small percent of a MLB team.

  12. Oh Jeff, so high and mighty with your disgust with the realities of daily journalism in the 21st century. There are many of us still working for gannett – and still making a difference with a daily that had done groundbreaking nvestigative journalism in your hometown. So glad to hear you are so above it all.

    1. David, it’s only a matter of time before they come for you too. The Journal News can get a 20-something to go over the tax rolls and see who makes how much of the taxpayers money. Or exploit the death of a little boy by an emotionally disturbed mother. Groundbreaking my ass. You may not want to be so smug. You’ve survived the last round of cuts. Congrats, They have their eyes on your salary and benefits. Just ask the legions of my friends who gave 30 years to the J-N only to be kicked out the door with shitty severance packages.

  13. As a former stringer for a Gannett rag, I must say that this is a most raw yet eloquent rant. I deeply mourn the death of great journalism.

  14. Kathleen Wittig Passineau

    I was in Retail and then Classified Advertising with Gannett from 1992-2001. We were doing great guns in revenue and then the Internet started to choke us. Real Estate and Employment advertising dried up…Gannett tried with Careerbuilder , etc, but they never knew how to react and did not have a plan to make up millions of dollars in our newspaper alone . I worked for 2 others, Ottaway and Journal Register and they were worse. When revenues are down they cut newshole {a reason they try to please the remaining advertisers or at least not piss them off}. Cutting newshole certainly made the newspaper less desirable a read and so people stop subscriptions…and we all know the rest. It is sad, use to love newspapers. Have my own business now…and really feel sorry for the few remaining ad reps who come around to sell print…would not want to be in that business today.Newspapers are not the only victim..retail stores, Post Office, Real estate etc.

  15. Such whining. You certainly didn’t mind taking their money and paychecks for 20 years, even though you supposedly despised it. TWENTY YEARS. Gannett doesn’t owe you a job. They don’t owe you anything. And they certainly don’t need to change the way they publish a newspaper TO SUIT YOU. Go start your own company if you have all the answers and know so much. And grow a pair while you’re at it.

    1. More people would be able to start their own companies had their current companies not been so greedy and cut their salaries and made them take furloughs while giving executives million-dollar bonuses.

      1. Actually no, many people who had their salaries cut and were on furlough were people who had been there 20 and 30 years.

    2. A pair of what? Equating guts, bravery, courage, assertiveness etc. with male genitalia is anachronistic, inappropriate, offensive and as women of courage and strength are well aware, downright inaccurate.

  16. This is an extremely serious discussion, having to do not only with journalists and news gatherers, but those who consume and interpret or apply the news to our lives, and how that affects our decision making as a society.

    I am not a journalist, but mourn the progressing death of print journalism and the current dearth of excellent and responsible feature and news writing and scholarly editorial analysis. I am a seeker and an admirer of top class news writing when I find it. Hats off to the veterans of this mighty and embattled field who are struggling to survive and still write well. However, good work will not be done for free.

    I used to visit the news hall of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in their old downtown location. It was a huge excitement when in the early 90s they moved into a new and greatly expanded, modern facility right off the highway, with printing facilities that enabled them to print in COLOR! They tried to absorb many of the journalists who had flooded the market when the Cleveland Press evening daily (Scripps Howard) folded. Neighboring papers like the Akron Beacon Journal and Toledo Blade did their best to absorb others. Now where are all these? Meanwhile the PD was the last one standing. How much longer can it go on? It feels like a short while ago, but I can imagine that their new real estate is now underutilized, and one day may be up for sale. It is tragic! Many once outstanding and reliable newspapers, that are still strong, have sold out to special interests and the golden eggs that feed them in order to stay alive. For example, I no longer enjoy reading the NYT.

    My bottom line as a consumer of news is that I want to read articles that are balanced and intelligently written by a journalist who is well informed at source. The articles should be well thought out and constructed and provide a reliable, unbiased reflection of truth; what is actually happening. What I find online is a lot of cut and paste junk, often reworded from somewhere else, postings that wouldn’t have been permitted in Journalism 101 class.

    Question: What is going to keep standards high, what is going to inform the public, in an era when standards have slipped and top quality thinkers, investigators and writers are ‘wisely’ (they want to make a living after all) not choosing to enter into this endeavor.

    Next question: What can be done to protect all of us, the public? We, as thinking, voting individuals in a free society, must have reliable information so that we can make sound decisions in our lives. Collective ignorance is the friend of Totalitarians and despotic regimes. I believe that the future of our country, our Western society, and that of global society, is at stake.

  17. It will get worst especially since they split the Digital and Newsprint. After most of the Gannett employees took big pay cuts and more lay offs they then paid 1.5 billion in cash to buy Belo Corp and assume $ 715 million in debt, giving television company Belo an enterprise value of $ 2.2 billion.

  18. The point is not whether “source quotas” are good or bad. They are inherently neither, or either, and the key is what actual, positive contribution they might make. I think Jeff addresses the reason why they were and are useless window-dressing in his “Fourth sign . . . Relating to No. 3 — no real interest in issues of diversity Talking a good game, but doing shit about it.” Without doing more than reflexively requiring and including source quotes as a matter of policy, the publisher is a perpetrator of tokenism of the most cynical kind. Real reporting and journalism on perspectives of “non-mainstream” ethnic and racial groups is something to be valued and encouraged, but this paint-by-numbers tokenism is an abomination.

  19. My good friend Edna Gundersen unceremoniously laid off after 30 as one of the most respected pop/rock music critics in the biz! Fuck Gannett indeed!

  20. HR… Never touched. Those annual review reports they dream up are ever so important to the survival of the company. You can’t get rid of the people who are in meetings all day talking about what the rest of us do… After all you will fire us every couple of years if they don’t have jobs?

  21. Not having time to read through all the prior comments, I hope mine isn’t a repeat. Saint Lenny of Bruce used to say”Un*&^%” you, which makes sense if you think about it. So, un^%$# Gannett.

  22. You nailed it, Jeff. The trend away from any kind of depth journalism in favor of 6-inch stories that could be contained to one page and info-graphics that replaced story-telling was Gannett’s lasting contribution to what used to be called journalism. Give them less so you can charge them more and make them think that’s an improvement.

  23. There’s only one thing in this long list of abhorrent policies with which I actually agree: the jumps. Jumps were initially put in place for average consumers who were looking at newspapers in newspaper boxes. It enticed the reader to plug in his quarter (or dime or whatever) to buy a paper to read more.

    That’s no longer the case. There are fewer people bothering with the corner paperbox anymore. If they’re not getting their paper delivered, they’re reading them online. This aged tradition still exists in online publications. The notion that the reader should have to “work” to read the full story is ridiculous.

    Other than that one point – I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff.

      1. no, just someone who once had the unfortunate job of editing you jeff. you acted like an arrogant horse’s ass then. Nice to see you haven’t changed. When’s yer book about the Ray Rice saga going on sale by the way? I’m sure you’ve already made yer query.

  24. This problem started when local newpapers all over the country let themselves be bought up by a giant behemoth that was interested in nothing but the bottom line. What a shame, all fueled by greed.

  25. Louise Hoffman Broach

    I was so fortunate to get out of the business before anything terrible happened. Now I write freelance and work mostly full time elsewhere. It does suck how journalism has changed so much — that every story almost, leaves me wanting more. And you’re right, it’s never the editors who are let go.

    1. I guess I never understood the burning desire for the axing of editors. Some of them do little and make too much, but the idea of canning them all seems excessive and silly.

      I will cite one example, knowing that many won’t get it. A few years ago, a longtime reporter resigned because she knew she could never move up to a line editor position. Every time one of those positions became vacant, the paper simply cut the position. So she quit.

      I understand that some people just want job security, but any position without at least the opportunity for upward mobility would seem to be prime for the chopping block in any round of cuts.

  26. Don’t get mad, Jeff, get even. The greatest revenge is success. If you think the things you cite matter, then take this as an opportunity to create a publication the way YOU think it should be done. This just might be that message from the Universe to you that it’s time to strike out on your own. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to start up. One of my best friends is doing that. I might do it myself.

  27. “I came to you an excited kid anxious to make something of myself. I worked hard, climbed up the ladder, pretended you and I were great friends.”

    You were eager, not anxious. Now I’m guessing you’re anxious.

  28. This is fascinating. It’s the universal journalism gripe-fest. A quick glance suggests that the women participating are at least trying to keep the discussion productive. And we journalists often exhibit an inordinate level of entitlement to our jobs, fairness, equity, salary increases, respect, appreciation, even as we report on those commodities disappearing everywhere else.
    Gannett has long been slapped around by its workforce not only because of its practices (which are not unique), but also I believe because it is so large…HUGE…big enough to wear the badge Bully, whether that is an accurate label or not. I worked for Gannett in the mid-late 1980’s when it was seen as innovative, creative, and ranked by Fortune 500 as one of the BEST corporate employers in America…especially for women, minorities, families with children. The company was criticized by cheapening newspapers by putting color photographs on the front page. Hmmm. The company changed the Sports section forever.
    I worked for the television arm of its wire service, and participated in collaboration between broadcast and print…two completely different populations…dogs and cats, if you will. But we came to understand and respect one another because those executives thought the newspaper would be a hell of a lot more productive if we worked together.
    Gannett did a lot that I disagree with, but all newspapers and broadcast news organizations were trying to chart their own courses through a changing landscape, where the changes came more rapidly each decade. I worked for Gannett from 1986-1999. Before that, I worked for Hearst from 1977-1986, and you know what I would say about them? Don’t get me started.
    We despise most that which we know best. It’s better to keep your eyes open, your head down, while looking for opportunities to succeed, to win, to thrive either where you are, or someplace else you can get to. They don’t owe you anything…that’s not the way it’s done anymore…and if they tell you otherwise, and you believe them…and you get burned, that’s on you.

  29. In Utica, we had one black businessman. Seriously. And he got his name in the paper more than the mayor. They didn’t care. They never do. My nut graf: Go fuck yourself.

  30. The most lunkheaded decision of them all was to start charging for online content only after destroying the quality of that content through wave after wave of layoffs. In any other online enterprise, you establish the value of your content before you start charging a price. You don’t degrade the quality and then demand payment. This move, to me, is the true symbol of Gannett’s overweening arrogance and its contempt for readers.

  31. I worked for Gannett (The Journal-News) in Rockland County, NY, for six years (with all of its rules outlined by Jeff Pearlman before i left in 1996 for Daytona Beach, Fla, where I went to work for a family-owned metro (The News-Journal) for nearly a decade. Six years ago I launched Florida’s first true internet-only newspaper, Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper accessed via serving the Daytona-Orlando metro area. My office is wherever there is WiFi. I write the stories, upload and maintain the site and even sell ads to support it. I’m not much of a graphics artist, but I do that, too. I haven’t struck gold, but I’m a lot happier. I won lots of journalism awards as a print reporter, but have done even better in that regard since working for myself online. There are no filters, no corporate rules, no advertising dictates. There are those who say I am biased, and in a way, they are right. I am biased to the truth. Print media, as my former newspaper under new ownership in Daytona has shown — and certainly no longer of metro status — caters to business and political insiders, especially those in municipal & county governments who curry favor by providing ad revenue that has replaced depleted line ads…

Leave a Reply