Per The Alexandria Town Talk and The Independently Weekly, on Tuesday, Gannett Company, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher and the owner of several major newspapers in Louisiana, including The Shreveport Times and The Town Talk, cut 632 jobs across the country, including 31 jobs in Louisiana.
According to a spreadsheet produced by the watchdog site Gannett Blog, two jobs were cut at The Shreveport Times, two at The Town Talk, and 27 jobs eliminated were at the Monroe News-Star, effectively gutting the newspaper and following through on its word to consolidate the Monroe paper with the Shreveport paper. The cuts at the Monroe News-Star were expected; The Shreveport Times and The Monroe News-Star reported the consolidation last week. Quoting:
Press consolidation, which has become more and more common in the last few years, will reduce expenses. In Monroe, 12 full-time and 15 part-time positions will be eliminated with the move. New positions will be added in Shreveport with the consolidation and Monroe employees will be given first option for those positions.
Despite the insistence that this consolidation will not affect delivery or the quality of the paper, Gannett Blog calls attention to Gannett’s announcement that, in preparing for the consolidation, it purchased a “Berliner.” From the official news release:
The Monroe newspaper will be printed at The Times, which recently installed a Berliner press that produces a newspaper with an 18-inch depth. In addition, the Berliner press allows advertisers to place color advertising on every page, which is important in today’s changing media environment.
Berliners are more commonly used in Europe, but Gannett has been slowly rolling out the equipment in the United States.
In simple terms, Berliners fundamentally change the aesthetics and formatting of a newspaper.
Gannett Blog wonders: Is this what The Monroe News-Star will look like now?
Examples of newspapers published on a Berliner press
Either way, change is gonna’ come.
But as Heather Miller of The Independent Weekly points out, there’s another story here, a story you probably won’t read in any Gannett-owned paper.
While Gannett guts newspapers all across the country, consolidates its printing operations, and continues to lay off hundreds of employees, including journalists and editors who have have served their local communities for decades, the wealthy corporate executives at Gannett are only getting wealthier.
In queue with the corporate American dream, Gannett, which owns five newspapers in the state, didn’t just distribute the dreaded employee memo, it also shelled out $3 million in bonuses to its top two execs last year. That’s on top of the combined $17.6 million it paid for salaries alone on its two top dogs, according to a March 25 Poynter Institute blog:
Craig Dubow‘s pay included a $1.75 million all-cash bonus, reports Jim Hopkins. Chief Operating Officer Gracia Martore was paid $8.2 million, with a cash bonus of $1.25 million. The bonuses were awarded partly on the basis of cost-cutting that included layoffs, unpaid furloughs and other austerity measures, according to a shareholders proxy report filed on Thursday. Dubow would get $22.5 million if he quit right now.
It reminds me of the fantastic report published last weekend on The Washington Post. Titled “With Executive Pay, the Rich Pull Away from the Rest of America,” the story, which relies heavily on “landmark analysis” conducted by three renowned economists, documents the ways in which executive pay has dramatically exacerbated the income disparity in America.
Gannett, in many ways, appears to be a model example of the trends documented by The Washington Post. In March of this year, the Associated Press reported:
USA Today owner Gannett Co. increased CEO Craig Dubow’s pay package by 80 percent to $7.9 million last year to reward him for boosting the newspaper publisher’s earnings and reducing debt as revenue fell for the fourth consecutive year.
The largest part of Dubow’s 2010 compensation consisted of stock incentives with a total value when granted of $5 million, according an Associated Press analysis of regulatory documents filed Thursday.
But here’s the irony:
Gannett shares have plunged by nearly 80 percent since Dubow became CEO in July 2005, reflecting a steep downturn in newspaper advertising that has sapped publishers’ main source of revenue.
Gannett has been laying off workers and imposing unpaid leaves to save money. Dubow, 56, is trying to do his part by agreeing to lower his $1.2 million salary by least 17 percent through 2011. His salary last year totaled $980,769.
The company eased the pain of last year’s salary reduction by awarding Dubow a cash bonus of $1.75 million, a 21 percent increase from $1.45 million in 2009. He also received other perks totaling $159,465.
Got that? He lowered his salary as an austerity measure, or something like that, but it didn’t matter much. He was awarded with a $1.75 million cash bonus.
Meanwhile, according to some sources, Gannett’s insistence on furloughs only saved the company $10 million, and it remains to be seen whether or not the most recent layoffs and consolidations will increase efficiences and increase profitability or if they’ll simply destroy the very newspapers Gannett apparently hopes to save. After all, it’s almost impossible to run a newspaper without a properly-staffed news room, qualified editors, and an experienced and knowledgeable editorial board.