A Fuller Tale on Gannett’s Furloughs

I’m not a Gannett Inc. employee: Never have been, never will be.

But I have lots of friends, colleagues and former students who work for (or worked for) America’s Biggest Newspaper Company. And while times are tough in the newspaper industry — and there’s no one who gets into or stays in the newspaper business not knowing that — the new headline at Gannett Blog is out-and-out galling.

How furloughs helped spur $4M in exec bonuses

Jim Hopkins, the former USA Today reporter and editor who’s trying to make a go of covering his former employer online, reports that the Gannett executive compensation committee is basing bonus decisions partly on how much the company cuts its expenses by furloughing its employees.

One of those executives, Bob Dickey, head of the Gannett U.S. newspaper division who yesterday claimed that he “quite frankly” had hoped to avoid furloughs, nonetheless was paid $410,000 for 2009 partly as a resulting of cutting employee expenses.

And, Hopkins writes, Dickey and other top executives will likely earn millions in bonuses later in the year as a result of the new round of furloughs.

Wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to see a corporate executive in journalism or any industry turn down a bonus for cutting workers or their pay? Gannett makes clear that its executives will also take the furloughs, but their bonuses will repay those furloughs many times over. No such love will be granted to reporters, copy editors or other journalists.

Understandably, the comments section of Hopkins’ post is flooded with anger:

Any executive who takes a penny of a bonus in exchange for shredding jobs and adding on furloughs for the rest of the rank/file is morally bankrupt, plain and simple.

Here’s more:

The fact that these people are rewarded for inflicting hardship on their employees is all the proof you need of what a horrible company this is to work for.

Employees will complain about employers as long as both exist. But Gannett is doing its best to show that it really is a horrible company to work for. I feel badly for all Gannett workers, including those mid-level publishers and editors who are tasked with implementing these inhumane policies.

When I trained as a journalist, I learned the SPJ Code of Ethics command that journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Now that I teach future journalists, I keep that focus.

Board rooms clearly don’t live by that standard. There seem to be only two: The market. And greed.

1 Comment

  1. But Brian, those aren’t TWO standards boards observe. They are one and the same. Publicly held companies will always choose in favor of the market/greed.

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