Gannett lays off 700 newspaper division employees

Romenesko Misc.
That’s about 2 percent of the workforce, according to Gannett US Community Publishing division president Bob Dickey. “The economic recovery is not happening as quickly or favorably as we had hoped and continues to impact our U.S. community media organizations,” he says in a memo that’s posted below. “Publishers will notify people today and we will make every effort to reach everyone by end of day.” In March it was disclosed that Gannett CEO Craig Dubow received a $1.25 million cash bonus and had his salary doubled.


June 21, 2011
To: All US Community Publishing employees
From: Bob Dickey

As we reach the mid-point of the year, the economic recovery is not happening as quickly or favorably as we had hoped and continues to impact our U.S. community media organizations. We have made continued progress on the many initiatives underway to seek new sources of revenue, build a world class sales force and better serve our customers through watchdog reporting and stronger Sunday newspapers. While we are seeing improved circulation results and audience growth, weakness in the real estate sector, slow job creation and now softer auto ad demand continue to challenge revenue growth in the division.

National advertising remains soft and with many of our local advertisers reducing their overall budgets, we need to take further steps to align our costs with the current revenue trends. Each of our local media organizations faces its own market conditions, challenges and opportunities. Therefore, it has been up to each local publisher to determine his or her unique course of action.

While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs. Accordingly, approximately 700 employees within USCP, or about 2% of our company’s overall workforce, will be let go. Publishers will notify people today and we will make every effort to reach everyone by end of day. It is important to note that these decisions do not reflect individual performance and we thank and respect those employees for their work. We will do everything we can to help them and to minimize the impact on our other employees going forward. In an effort to reduce the number of people being let go, there will be furloughs in the coming months but they will be limited only to those on the USCP corporate payroll who make over a certain salary. You will be notified by your publisher if you are among this group.

These have been extremely difficult and painful decisions to make. I know the impact is felt by everyone within USCP and companywide.

I appreciate and thank you for all that you do to create and deliver award-winning journalism to our customers and communities every day. Even under these challenging circumstances, I know you will continue to do so and your efforts are greatly appreciated by our customers and colleagues within Gannett.

As always, please feel free to email me directly at rdickey@gannett.com with any questions you may have.

Regards,

Bob
………………….

> Gannett orders one-week furloughs (Jan. 5, 2011)
> “We’re all victims of corporate greed,” says Gannett editor (Feb. 4, 2011)
> Gannett’s new logo comes with 100 pages of guidelines (March 7, 2011) > Gannett first-quarter profit down 23 percent (April 18, 2011)

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  • Pingback: Citing Weak Economy, Gannett Turns To Job Cuts, Furloughs — paidContent

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Typical designer comment. Copied multiple times and not credited. Also, the person apparently did not read the context to pick up what came next.

    Like I said, designers need things spoon-fed and explained. This is yet another example.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Now you’re just taking a dump on the thread, with the goal of achieving deletion of the comments you don’t agree with. Common Internet tactic among the people who can’t argue a point.

    But I don’t have much confidence Poynter will see through it, so you might get what you want.

    Matthew Garton — clueless about how news works. Matthew Garton — unable to argue a point. Matthew Garton — resorting to gutter Internet tactics.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    In other words, you’re mad because I identified you as someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    BTW, your post is in violation of the commenting policy. But I doubt Poynter will do anything about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvehyanna Matthew Garton

    ———–
    Robert Knilands — variously known as Rknil, Wenalway, and as a bete-noire and pain in the ass to the point where he has been banned from a number of discussion boards — is too quick with ad hominem condemnations.

    He hijacks various topics and keeps beating them against the wall with what clearly are posted rants.
    ———–

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvehyanna Matthew Garton

    ——-
    Robert Knilands — variously known as Rknil, Wenalway, and as a bete-noire and pain in the ass to the point where he has been banned from a number of discussion boards — is too quick with ad hominem condemnations.

    He hijacks various topics and keeps beating them against the wall with what clearly are posted rants.
    ——-

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvehyanna Matthew Garton

    Posting this earlier in the convo..so people don’t waste their time. Found on a blog website:

    Robert Knilands — variously known as Rknil, Wenalway, and as a bete-noire and pain in the ass to the point where he has been banned from a number of discussion boards — is too quick with ad hominem condemnations.

    He hijacks various topics and keeps beating them against the wall with what clearly are posted rants.

    I’m giving up on him. He doesn’t have a heart, or a non-biased opinion, and isn’t worth the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvehyanna Matthew Garton

    It comes down to this Robert. Your claims are no more or less valid than mine. It is simply that.

    I think it’s very hard for a visual journalist to not sit in their cubicle when meetings often not only happen when visual journalist aren’t around (we often work later shifts) – but these meetings are planned in emails with no way of us to know about it without EVERY SINGLE DAY asking EVERY SINGLE editor and reporter if there is a meeting I should be at. It’s a failing of management. I push hard to to include myself and others to be at meetings were packages are planned (and yes, long after the reporter has written a budget line and contacted sources), but in the end – it’s the culture. We are still an after thought and I have thousands of visual people behind me to back it up.

    My ex, who was a reporter, would seek out the section designer the same day she started working on a story and talk to them about presentation ideas. She was, and still is, a brilliant writer. The editor of that newspaper (the 300K one I worked for) even got up in front of the whole newsroom and said he wished he had more people like her on staff. She realized, having been married to me, that we are your friends – we can help a writer’s story be better in many many ways I won’t go into here – without changing the meaning, or taking away from the written word.

    Now, go head and make some cruel joke about her being my ex. Your habit of belittling people you disagree with to make them seem small and yourself big, is really all you have going for you here.

    But lets get away from this. Because in reality – nobody can win against you. I’ve seen your kind hundreds of times on dozens of forums. You are so confident in your opinions that you can not recognize them as anything but fact to yourself. Something any journalist should be able to identify – bias. Your comments are so “all inclusive” of what designers are, that any editor worth their salt would toss it back with a half-dozen questions of validity.

    I will not argue with you anymore. Your comments are insulting and down right idiotic in their attempts to paint visual journalist as non-journalists. You really have a chip on your shoulder and I suggest you check it at the door before you try to convince anybody other than the feeble minded that you have a point.

    But I’ll leave you with this.

    I have a degree from the University of Oregon in print journalism. I’ve had to do research, interviews and have had hundreds of discussions about how to best tell a story visually that was complex and not easily understood with just words. I’ve gone to the site of school shootings they day they happened as well as bank robberies. I’ve done informational graphics, charts, diagrams, photography, and even written many pieces myself.

    To say that what I do, isn’t journalism, shows your lack of open-mindedness to telling a story beyond words – and that is why I think you have no case. You dismiss credible journalism, because you can’t see it’s value.

    By the way, before you belittle the efforts of people like myself. Stabbing in the back the people who work just as hard as any reporter or editor – why don’t use use that smart brain of yours to think about two much bigger reasons newspapers have failed to grow and latch themselves onto communities as the public watchdogs and public servants we are:

    1) Newspapers and companies with journalistic endeavors never should of been “for profit” companies. Our leaders and managers were tainted the second we had to be ‘profitable’ and answer to shareholders. I think about how much stronger we would be if we didn’t have shareholders to answer to. We would still need advertising for funding – but we wouldn’t have to answer to stockholders and would have the ability to infuse newsrooms with the staffing it needs to do great work without them having to write off hours and hours of OT to get the job done right.

    2) Newspapers are one of the only businesses, that when challenged by the “free internet” and the loss of advertising, have slimmed down their products and staff and cheapened the quality and focus of their pages. A few newspapers have started to experiment with investing money in their pages with good early results. But other business have been doing that for a decade with great results. Why did it take a decade to figure it out. sadly none of the major chains have signed on to this.

    But what do I know? I’m a….designer….. who clearly knows nothing about journalism or its values. I should go back to my cubicle and stop pretending and just draw pretty pictures that ruin stories.

    I wish you the best. But next time, try not to be so imflammatory. It got you alot of attention, and maybe that was all you wanted instead of having a real discussion.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I’m not really even talking about firing them. How about, though, if we (1) stop giving titles to people who haven’t earned them; (2) stop claiming that things which don’t attract readers will; and (3) most importantly, stop wrecking college journos by brainwashing them with the same “design attracts readers” mantra that has yet to succeed? I don’t have much sympathy for established journalists who willingly allowed themselves to fall for nonsense, but at least let the college kids find out how things work. I cringe every time I see a “visual journalism” professor indoctrinating the students with that garbage.

    I guess I agree with the rest of what you say — just not the context of how you say it. It’s yet another attempt to avoid addressing the issue and to recite every other reason under the sun why it cannot possibly be a problem that people claimed something would work, and then it didn’t. That’s a weak way to address an issue. Also, as I said before, you might not have some of the other problems if newspapers had bothered to focus on things that actually mattered to readers. Spending two years on a redesign or rolling one out every 18 months is not focusing on the readers, despite what the people involved in those processes want to claim. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I’m not really even talking about firing them. How about, though, if we (1) stop giving titles to people who haven’t earned them; (2) stop claiming that things which don’t attract readers will; and (3) most importantly, stop wrecking college journos by brainwashing them with the same “design attracts readers” mantra that has yet to succeed? I don’t have much sympathy for established journalists who willingly allowed themselves to fall for nonsense, but at least let the college kids find out how things work. I cringe every time I see a “visual journalism” professor indoctrinating the students with that garbage.

    I guess I agree with the rest of what you say — just not the context of how you say it. It’s yet another attempt to avoid addressing the issue and to recite every other reason under the sun why it cannot possibly be a problem that people claimed something would work, and then it didn’t. That’s a weak way to address an issue. Also, as I said before, you might not have some of the other problems if newspapers had bothered to focus on things that actually mattered to readers. Spending two years on a redesign or rolling one out every 18 months is not focusing on the readers, despite what the people involved in those processes want to claim. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Matthew, I wanted to expand on your comment about “getting the budget one day before the work is to be done” because I think it’s a great example of two of the problems with designers in the newsroom.

    (1) Designers don’t really understand how news works, and they make no effort to find out. Just what information do you think you are going to get before a reporter contacts any sources? Also, if you are just sitting in a cubicle waiting to have the story details spoon-fed to you, then YOU are the problem, my friend.

    (2) Designers are not focused on what readers want, only what designers want. That is reflected in your comment. Maybe you should get some details earlier in the process — although, as I imply, you should be seeking those out — but no sane newsroom is going to hold articles for long in an Internet age. The fact that  you and many others seem ignorant of this concept is an indication why Gannett is having a problem with relevancy.

    Clearly you have never written an article or been part of the process of managing the writing of these articles. There can be quite a few things happening at the same time, and many of these are dependent on sources outside the newsroom. Those people could not care less about your visual demands, to be quite honest. At one paper, we had a pretty weak photo editor (VERY tempting to name the paper, but I won’t) who kept making the same types of complaints. He would often blame the reporters, who were trying to get the information from the sources. Instead of the paper trying to sort this out, it would play the blame game, as you try to do here. (As I mentioned before, many of the people playing the “design first” game really have no journalism or leadership skills, so they don’t have good solutions — only the clout of their title, which is based on the faulty premise that “design attracts readers.”)

    Lots of problems. Lots of them based on your group. Maybe your group should improve and stop blaming others. After all, YOU are the one making the unsubstantiated claim that what you do attracts readers. Few readers seem to have been attracted, though.

    Finally, why would anyone on the writing side want to work with people who run around the newsroom talking about how NO ONE will read the articles? I know I wouldn’t.

    It’s very simple when you break it down. Looking at the claims, the circulation figures, the credibility assessments, and the knowledge and skill sets of the different groups, it’s clear where the problems lie. Those need to be addressed. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    But the simple bottom line is, if you fired all the designers tomorrow, you wouldn’t slow down the decline in newspaper readership, much less reverse it – too many other problems with the business.

    In the Gannett case, the problem isn’t design or even circulation decreases – it’s an unwillingness to accept that the market has changed and the old profit margins no longer are possible. Instead of adapting to profits that would make most businesses gleeful, the industry response almost universally is to cut content production in a quest to reduce expenses.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Matthew, the simple fact is that you are incorrect. Starting out with some claim that “this only happens at a few papers” is weak. In my previous comment, I cited a couple of examples. There are many more.

    Again, you are creating fake arguments to bolster your own case. “To say I do anything to alter the meaning of a story or to sacrifice the telling of said story to make a ‘visual statement’ shows that you either don’t know any real designers – or have only worked with bad ones.” Um, where did that claim come from?

    You can throw out all sorts of statements about being misinformed, but those are mere insults to conceal the fact that you have no idea yourself what you are talking about. Like many who proclaim themselves to be visual journalists, your head is buried firmly in the sand. And that’s a dangerous position for people who claim to be story-tellers. In fact, I think we could take that reality and extend to the next conclusion:

    “Visual journalists” = non-journalists. And from there, we can say: Designers = non-journalists. Real journalists don’t run around newsrooms saying NO ONE will read articles. They try to address where they can be made better. I rarely, if ever, saw anyone on the design side doing that.

    Real journalists don’t obsess about details readers don’t care about. Real journalists don’t create things like SND manuals and try to gauge the “power” of dollar-sized pages. And that could go on and on, too.

    It’s all simple when you break it down. You and your group don’t get it. Never have, and never will. The circulation numbers bear this out. Credibility studies bear this out. Finally, the context of this article — Gannett layoffs — bear this out. You can bury your head in the sand, as you and many others, including Poynter, have done. Or you can open your eyes. Try opening your eyes. Until then, don’t be calling anyone misinformed. I’m quite certain I’m way more informed than you. In fact, I’ll cite a specific:

    “Now, even at 75K+ papers, planning involves handing a designer a budget the day before the work is to be done – nevermind there have been meetings and reporting going on without any input what-so-ever from the visually minded.”

    This is a common complaint from the non-journalists in your group who don’t really understand how news works. Are there articles started in advance that could use some input from the “visually minded?” Sure. Are there anywhere as close to as many as you claim? No. And that’s because you and other non-journalists don’t understand how news works, especially in the Internet age. Any outlet that gets a story and then sits on it for days so the design camp can ruminate about it is not going to be giving people “news.” 

    In the design world, the ideal newsroom would have about a 2-week news cycle. Sorry, but things don’t work that way, and you and the other non-journalists need to figure that out. Soon.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Rod, there’s a big difference, though, between saying what I said and saying what you claim. Nowhere do I say “design drove away readers.” I do say the approach led to things that, at the very least, hurt the credibility of the publications.

    I’ll just cite one recent example. The Virginian-Pilot has made no secret of its visual approach. It botched the Super Bowl score two years ago. Other visually focused paper, the Orlando Sentinel, has frequent corrections to similar types of mistakes. The design people will screech: “Those happen everywhere!” But not at the same frequency.

    Pretending there is not a correlation is akin to burying one’s head in the sand. I just have to wonder how much longer people will choose to ignore this correlation.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    As my kid’s shirt says, “I can explain it to you, but I cannot understand it for you.”

    I agreed up front that design did not attract readers, and that people making such claims have nothing to back them up. Pay attention.

    As for your denial that you blame design for the loss of readership, allow me to quote your opening statement:

    “This may have brightened the days for some (generally those without journalism skills) in the newsrooms, but it hurt the product badly. In addition, it diverted the focus from critical, bedrock tasks like developing information gatherers. Designers, as much as they insist otherwise, do not gather raw information. “Removing these skills from the newsrooms also hurt the chances of competing with the Internet news providers.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    As my kid’s shirt says, “I can explain it to you, but I cannot understand it for you.”

    I agreed up front that design did not attract readers, and that people making such claims have nothing to back them up. Pay attention.

    As for your denial that you blame design for the loss of readership, allow me to quote your opening statement:

    “This may have brightened the days for some (generally those without journalism skills) in the newsrooms, but it hurt the product badly. In addition, it diverted the focus from critical, bedrock tasks like developing information gatherers. Designers, as much as they insist otherwise, do not gather raw information. “Removing these skills from the newsrooms also hurt the chances of competing with the Internet news providers.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvehyanna Matthew Garton

    The simple fact is that your assertions Robert are only valid at the smallest fraction of newspapers. I’m a visual journalist who has worked at papers from 50K to 300K circulation. I can say with all honestly at those papers; design was never given the front seat to proper consideration of traditional elements such as headlines, decks and photos.

    I can’t even imagine the world you describe where design drives content. It really feels like a foreign concept to me – though I don’t doubt it happens in a sliver of locations – it certainly would be the exception to the rule and not the majority.

    Never mind, even 20 years ago, papers sub-75K have never been able to properly plan visual content by and large and a ton of weight is put on the designer to find a design the salvages poor planning into functional visual journalism.

    Now, even at 75K+ papers, planning involves handing a designer a budget the day before the work is to be done – nevermind there have been meetings and reporting going on without any input what-so-ever from the visually minded.

    In short. I want to say the world you are talking about is a minority (at best) and has not been the experience of mine or my peers at a large variety of locations. So to say “this” is why papers have failed – simply borders on the misinformed and biased of a person who doesn’t understand how words and visuals are, and have been planned in the majority of newspapers for the last several decades.

    While you will likely say I’m dodging the question, I want to assure you I am not. I’m am stating that the question is filled with assumptions and radicalization that aren’t a fair and accurate picture of the industry, or the profession of ‘design’.

    I agree with many of you points. But the picture of designers as people that hang “doodads” we think are great is insulting and disrespectful.

    I’m a career visual journalist. My job is to take the elements I’m given and to tell in a visual manner, the story I’m given by the reporter. To say I do anything to alter the meaning of a story or to sacrifice the telling of said story to make a ‘visual statement’ shows that you either don’t know any real designers – or have only worked with bad ones.

    Matt Garton,
    career visual journalist and story teller.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Nope, you are still avoiding the point with poor logic. Nowhere do I say design drove away readers. We’ve covered this already.

    The point has been explained to you very clearly. But let’s cover it again:

    Designers claim design attract readers. It hasn’t. How can this be explained, and how is this claim still being made? Also, why don’t organizations like Poynter look at how those promises, made over decades, have not delivered?

    Answer only this point. Do not bring up other issues. Do not claim everything was pre-destined in the stars. Answer only the validity of that claim, and how it has been allowed to go on and on despite the promises never delivering results.

    To answer your last question: No. But in my time, I did see and hear a lot of things that would not pass muster at professionally run organizations. No organization can claim it does things well when it waits until a product is complete and then issues vague assessments like: “That doesn’t work for me.” Usually the people making these proclamations had extremely limited skill sets and leadership abilities. The clout of their position manufactured under the unproved mantra of “Design attracts readers!” was the only thing that bolstered their statements. Many of these people never amounted to much at their papers, yet they were allowed to make proclamations and to further erode the importance of editing and content. In at least one case, editing was even discouraged. All that mattered was slapping unread copy into boxes and then applying doodads and other gimmicks that designers think are fabulous.

    Hope that answered your question. Now, enough with the deflection tactics. Address the point I have presented. You have had multiple opportunities.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    As for typos – that’s why, in my world, multiple sets of eyeballs check everything before it goes to print.

    Unlike blog comments.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Blow your “agenda” out sideways. I agreed at the start that design hasn’t worked to attract readers, and offered my own criticisms of designers – both things you continue to ignore.

    Instead, you start with that claim and turn it on its head into “design drove readers away” – and THAT is the point I have been addressing: There is more than ample evidence that the readership decline was and is the result of many factors.

    And so far, you haven’t presented any evidence that design was even one of them.

    An obsessive fixation on “design” as the boogyman of print is the real distraction; it ignores all the other problems facing newspapers.

    You’re not seeking solutions, you’re just ranting.

    May we assume you lost your job to some designer? Seems a likely explanation for your level of irrationality.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    It’s you’re, not your.

    Also, you keep avoiding the same point by trying to bring up other issues unrelated to what I mentioned or the context of Gannett — which has pushed for shorter stories and more doodads, contrary to what you seem to believe.

    Back to the point: Designers claim design attract readers. It hasn’t. How can this be explained, and how is this claim still being made? Also, why don’t organizations like Poynter look at how those promises, made over decades, have not delivered? If any other industry were making the same unproved claims year after year about what would work, the media would have a field day.

    Either respond to that point, and only that point, or stop. Bringing up every other possible cause to distract from the point is not an answer, and I think that tactic alone speaks volumes about the point, the issue, and the agenda.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Your certainly not living in the same media world I’ve been in the last couple decades; even during my tenure as a Gannettoid, I never heard or saw such expansive claims about design.

    Content was still the editorial priority – it was sacrificed by bean counters, not designers.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Your certainly not living in the same media world I’ve been in the last couple decades; even during my tenure as a Gannettoid, I never heard or saw such expansive claims about design.

    Content was still the editorial priority – it was sacrificed by bean counters, not designers.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I prefer banishment to execution, Rod.

    Nice try with your market penetration theory, but that has nothing to do with the point I mentioned.

    Back to that point: Designers claim design attract readers. It hasn’t. How can this be explained, and how is this claim still being made? Also, why don’t organizations like Poynter look at how those promises, made over decades, have not delivered? After all, the ads claim a designer will make a reader drop the morning cereal bowl. Yet this has not happened.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    What a case of tunnel vision, Knilands – in your world, newspapers would be saved if only we lined up all the design gurus and shot them.

    If content alone is the answer, explain, then, why market penetration continued to decline in the post-Watergate explosion of investigative reporting?

    have you even looked at the only realistic measure of newspaper readership – market penetration, or the percentage of households that receive a daily paper? Urban population increases and consolidations made the decline less obvious for years, because they led to increased circulation numbers as fewer papers served growing populations… but the percentage of households reading papers steadily declined, a decline that preceded attempts to fix it with “design.”

    No “design” is not the solution – but it’s also far from the major cause.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luther-Jackson/589701224 Luther Jackson

    Very sad news. In the SF Bay Area we’ve launched the Journalist Repositioning Initiative to help journalists find work in traditional media, new media and in other industries that value our skills and attributes. Our study of Bay Area layoffs shows that journalists have in-demand skills but need help to transfer them to new jobs and careers. 

    Here’s our report: http://bit.ly/iLxDTj

    Please contact me to find out how you can help dislocated journalists in your region. 

    Luther Jackson (ljackson@novaworks.org)

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Another comment meant to obscure the point.

    For those who have forgotten the point: Designers claim design attracts readers. Yet circulation continues to fall. A chain that believed deeply in the design approach has made at least its third set of deep cuts since November 2008.

    Maybe some people like Dean Lockwood still enjoy the lie, as long as they still have jobs. I, for one, would like to know when the lie ends. Does it ever, or will people keep insisting that something not only unsupported by facts, but also largely disproved by facts, is somehow true? 

    While we’re joking around here, I can only imagine Dean’s take on the circulation declines. “That paper only lost 4 percent of its readers this time!” “Gannett only cut 700 jobs because of its approach this time! Someday it will work!”

    On a serious note:

    “Express-News circulation was down 26.5 percent daily and 15.1 percent on Sundays.”
    Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/local/article/Texas-newspapers-report-circulation-declines-846487.php#ixzz1Q3DXBxCP

     Down 26.5 percent? Ow! “Someday it will work!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dean-Lockwood/1358060906 Dean Lockwood

    In the Robert Knilands version of the game of Clue:

    * “It was the DESIGNER, with a chart, in the Sports section.”
    * “It was the DESIGNER, with italic type, in the Features section.”
    * “It was the DESIGNER, (fill in the blank).”

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    No, taking the focus away from content is what destroyed the newspapers. Tell me, is there any other industry that declared openly: “We are going to focus on the appearance on our product. No one cares about its functionality or reads it, so we are going to remove most of the compelling features. Besides, now you can get those somewhere else.” You’d be hard-pressed to find one.

    Also, those “other factors” you keep mentioning to obscure the point include things that could have been addressed if newspapers had bothered to focus on their content. Instead, they obsessed about tiny details in the print edition, and they still believe even today they can just “flip the switch” on the Internet or design hubs, and everything will fall into place.

    Again, we’re talking in the context of Gannett, which had its own approach. It failed; time to admit it. A good start would be canning the pseudoeditors of presentation. After that, it’d be good to stop poisoning the college wells with the same arsenic that has wrecked these waters. Don’t keep convincing the twentysomethings the newsrooms need even more people crying about how “NO ONE” will read the articles.

    Back to the main point yet again: Design people claim design attracts readers. The circulation numbers say otherwise. How can this continue? An answer some decade would be great.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Concede what? I never once disputed your statement that a design focus failed to increase readership – I pointed out that neither has anything else that’s been tried.

    You have a hard-on for designers? Fine. As I stated, I’ve fought more than a few battles on that front myself (and won more than I lost). But simplistically saying “design killed the newspapers” is contrary to actual evidence at hand, which indicates that many factors have been involved in the decline of readership – which began before “design” was even a factor, with things like the slow death of evening papers and consolidations that led to effective monopolies in many cities.

    Market penetration had been steadily eroding since the end of WW II – and dropped below 100 percent in the early ’70s.

    “Design” was more of a failed response than a cause.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Except the design agenda was entrenched well before 2000.

    Charts and graphics are great — if accurate and well edited. Often those criteria are omitted under the design-based approach. A few years ago, USA Today located the University of Illinois’ main campus in Chicago in one of its graphics. At one paper where I worked, last-minute fixes of awful mistakes in graphics were common.

    Sorry, but you can’t claim tiny attention span one minute and then turn around and say a chart repairs the problem. That’s what is known as a paradox.

    Back to the main point, which is never addressed — Design people claim design attracts readers. The circulation numbers say otherwise. Either address that point in relation to the designers’ claim, or concede. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    But Gannett’s problems were much more than just design or visuals – ultra-short stories under Gannett 2000 were not design-driven – they were the ideological, a belief that no one would read longer stories. From that came the design idea to replace detail with graphic.

    I’m not an academic with piles of research data. But I can state that readers have many times pointed out that they only started reading a data-heavy long piece because the chart or other graphic got their attention – and they went on to read the underlying information.

    Graphics, photos and other visuals are a tool; same as a nut graf or a hammer hed – used appropriately, they improve the presentation.

    The real problem newspapers face is that they are based on the premise people will read them – and people increasingly are grasping alternatives to actually reading, especially reading anything that takes more than 30 seconds of their attetnion.

  • Anonymous

    The commenter never said design and layout are harmful. And no has suggested going back to gray rows filled with text.

  • Anonymous

    You’ve nailed it. The concept of edited for design over content has never gotten its share of blame for the demise of print media. I shudder now when I pick up the paper and find the absolutely asinine errors and obvious omissions of necessary fact that have resulted from getting rid of the copy-editing function. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lynna-LaiFans/100001246957086 Lynna LaiFans

    Nothing last forever not even blogs!  http://www.lynnaluvers.com

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Doesn’t seem like design is doing much to entice readers these days, though. Nor has it ever seemed to do so. Check the circulation figures.

    I’d like to have a fact-based discussion about this issue for once. Don’t just tell me “design entices readers.” If you can’t offer proof, then I have no reason to believe you.

    And before we get back into the “walls of gray text” straw man, this is not an argument for that approach. But an obsession about design at the expense of editing and fact-checking has occurred, and it has at the very least led to unfortunate approaches.

    Finally, we are addressing this in the context of Gannett layoffs. The approaches at those newspapers have been different, and they have featured a focus on visuals.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

     But lack of design didn’t bring in readers, either. Plenty of papers were much slower to follow Gannett – and most saw readership decline as well.

    Emphasizing design as the cause ignores the many other factors involved in the decline of print readership, from the increasing options for television/cable news to the overall decline in reading – period – over the last couple generations.

    In high school in the 1960s, the social studies teachers required that we read the daily paper – some of the test questions were on current events. You’d be hard pressed to find any school doing that today.

    As a long-time print guy, I’ve certainly gone to war against bad design trumping content on many occasions. But I’ve also seen how good, appropriate design can entice the reader into the story in the first place.

    And as a former Gannettoid, I’ll state their problems go a lot deeper than simple design issues.

  • Anonymous

    Hear, hear!, Robert. I absolutely agree.

  • Anonymous

    Hear, hear!, Robert. I absolutely agree.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Yeah, your comment is about what I expected — the usual jump in “logic” to somehow implying I say design and layout are harmful. They can be if other staff functions are sacrificed in favor of those, and then we get error-filled editions. But concluding with the usual straw-man argument of “We can’t have only gray text!” is the textbook example of why newspapers are mired in an irreversible demise. They simply refuse to think outside of the tiny box they have created for themselves.

    Maybe you should think about the point a little harder. I’ll help you. Many organizations, including Poynter, have claimed repeatedly and breathlessly that design would bring readers. It hasn’t. The numbers across the board prove this.

    But I’ve mentioned this before, and it never seems to sink in for some. An inability to comprehend facts might be another big reason why newspapers are failing. If you still think design will somehow “lead the way” after decades of not leading the way wherever it has been tried, then I’m not sure that you have much positive flexibility in your thinking.

    You’re going to have to do way better than that post. I have facts. You have the same empty statement we’ve heard during the decades of decline. Making up something I never said just so you can call it “silly” is not a strong tactic. But then, we’re talking about newspapers that have decided the editing copy editor is expendable. It doesn’t get much crazier than that.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your comment about the importance of copy editors, but if the printed version of newspapers are going to have any future in our 24-7 web-based news environment, design has to lead the way with eye-catching visuals, presenting the hard work and stories reporters bust their butts producing in the best possible, most thought-provoking way. Look at newspapers in South America and Europe. They’re visually daring and performing much better than their American counterparts.

    It seems like you’re making the point that design and layout is somehow harmful, which seems silly to me. Would newspapers sell better if they went back to being a bunch of gray rows filled with text?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pemberton/1574358295 John Pemberton

    Ross Perot once said about GM, and it is relevant here. “the first people to suffer are the people that had the least to do with the (downslide) of the business.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pemberton/1574358295 John Pemberton

    It seems kinda funny that Ross Perot said, about 25 years ago, when talking about GM, and it could be said now about media. “The first people to go are the people with the least to do with what happened”..

  • http://twitter.com/ArthurHinty Arthur Hinty

    More walking dead as a result of the failures of millionaires.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    This is another tough day for Gannett employees. But as soon as newsrooms adopted the approach of allowing design to dictate content, these seeds were sown. The roots of this can be traced back possibly to the 1970s, when a bunch of people in the newsrooms decided they wanted their jobs to be “fun.” So they replaced a focus on writing and editing — tasks that are not easy to do well — with a focus on subjective things like visuals.

    This may have brightened the days for some (generally those without journalism skills) in the newsrooms, but it hurt the product badly. In addition, it diverted the focus from critical, bedrock tasks like developing information gatherers. Designers, as much as they insist otherwise, do not gather raw information. 

    Removing these skills from the newsrooms also hurt the chances of competing with the Internet news providers.

    I’m sure Poynter, which has never passed up a chance to promote the design-based agenda, will disagree, and I’m sure the visual converts and self-defeatists of the newsrooms will be quick to criticize this assessment. But the facts and numbers are not on their side.

    In conclusion, the visual focus at chains like Gannett has been a huge failure, and now it’s probably too late for these newsrooms to save themselves. Just the idea that the copy editor (a real copy editor, not a designer with a copy editor title) has become the target of these cuts is sufficient evidence the newsrooms and the people who “lead” them have lost their way.

  • Anonymous

    That 2% figure is taken from overall Gannett employment (including their TV division). As these layoffs are in the daily newspaper division, the actual percentage of layoffs has been calculated to 3.1%.

  • http://www.gizmotastic.com Jeff Manes

    Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/HostileNegress TheHostileNegress

    Things being said to employees imply that there’s more to come by summer’s end.

  • http://twitter.com/HostileNegress TheHostileNegress

    I heard cryptic mention of “staff getting shorter” as we approach Labor Day aka this ain’t all.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P5IE5ZDXCHFV3TZXS6QVOFOIKE Nick

    leeches

  • Anonymous

    My favorite part: In March it was disclosed that Gannett CEO Craig Dubow received a $1.25 million cash bonus and had his salary doubled.

  • allison.lippert

    It never ceases to amaze me that corporate doesn’t see the wrongness in doubling someone’s salary and giving them a $1 million bonus, then telling employees that the economy isn’t doing well so people are going to have to lose their jobs. How many employees could have kept their jobs with Dubow’s raise/bonus money?

  • Anonymous

    Gannett should put its corporate print entity out of its misery and sell off the papers to private holders – to people who want to run newspapers.