Hopkins -- 'On the case, that's for sure' (RIP, Hunter Thompson)

Dateline: Mon 18 Aug 2008

Former USA Today biz/investigative reporter Jim Hopkins is "live-blogging a layoff" from his base in Spain.

Keep your eye peeled on his site today:

http://www.gannettblog.blogspot.com/

If I hear anything about the situation at the Star in Indianapolis, where 23 will lose their jobs -- nobody is sure how many will be from the newsroom and/or other departments -- I will post as well.

In the meantime, Hopkins helped Blog Indiana 08 Saturday by answering (in email) questions about what it is he/we are trying to do in blogging about Gannett. I used to get -- a lot -- that I am "bitter" and I need to "let it go." Somehow those therapeutic band-ages, while they sound "good," and "helpful," are totally meaningless. Who is watching Gannett? We are. Why? We care.

I asked Hopkins to answer some questions about his role. Here's the drill, which I shared with those who attended my Blog Indiana session on "ticking the dragon."

1. You mention you know Gannett corporate knows about your blog and watches it. Can you give me any evidence of this? Have you ever received direct feedback from anyone in corporate?

"All of my official, on-the-record correspondence with Gannett corporate has been through the company's chief spokeswoman, Tara Connell. You can see our last exchange (at gannettblog.)

"The most direct feedback I've received from Connell was in the form of her objections to the to the first of a series of posts about the Gannett Foundation."

2. Why did you decide to write a blog exclusively about Gannett (well, with asides for wonderful tidbits about Spain and Sparky).

"I have been a business reporter for most of the 22 years I've been a

journalist -- 20 of them with Gannett. In October 2006, I noticed two things. One, very few news outlets covered Gannett, even though it is the

biggest newspaper publisher, and one of the nation's largest private

employers (approximately 46,000 workers.) Second, there wasn't a single blog about Gannett, even though it was about to undergo big changes as it dealt with more competition from the Internet and other venues.

"I outlined my principal motivation for starting Gannett Blog on Jan. 11,

2008 -- my first day as a former employee, and the date I added my name and photo to the blog for the first time. (Until then, I'd been anonymous.) In that lengthy post....I wrote about my experience as business news editor at the now-shuttered Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, Ark. Gannett owned the newspaper from 1986-91. From that post:

"'Rumors flew that Gannett was planning to sell us to the competition, or dump us into a joint-operating agreement. More than 700 employee families were desperate for information.

"'As the paper's business news editor, I managed some of the newsroom staffers reporting on the *Gazette*'s demise. We called Gannett's Corporate office, pleading for information, over and over. And again and again, we got this: No comment.'

"Today, much of Gannett is experiencing the uncertainty we saw in Arkansas in the summer of 1991. But now, technology empowers the company's nearly 50,000 employees to communicate in ways not possible 16 years ago. Start more blogs: I'd like to build a companywide network!"

"Bottom line: I started Gannett Blog so employees would have a safe place to share information about the company, without fear of reprisal from management, as they prepared themselves for a vastly changed industry."

3. Do you see your blog as having a shelf life with an expiration date, or

do you see it going on as long as there are news corporations? To put it

another way, if Gannett breaks up, will you still write about the biz?

"I've written that I only plan to keep Gannett Blog about two or three

years, as long as the company remains substantially in its current form. That said, year No. three would start this coming October. If Gannett is

dramatically re-shaped, I will stop blogging about the company."

4. How do you address the issue of disloyalty -- or do you? You took their check, and I am sure were a great employee. Now you're a fill-in-the-blank backstabber (I get "bitter" a lot). Or does any of this apply? Are YOU bitter? Or is this just fun?

"I've never addressed the notion of disloyalty because it's never been an

issue for me. I neither hate nor love Gannett. I do, however, care deeply

for its front-line, hourly employees, many of whom are also small

stockholders."

5. What is your readership/impact?

"In July, the most recent period for which I've reported traffic

statistics, I had about 17,500 unique visitors; approximately 75,000 visits, and about 144,000 pageviews. That is according to Google Analytics, an online software program that measures such figures."

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