May the force be with Susan Guyett

Dateline: Thu 29 Apr 2010

Thanks to the blog reader who pointed out the short on today's biz page in the Indianapolis Star: Susan J. Guyett, who wrote the social columns for the Star -- "Cityscape" and later "Talk of the Town" -- is suing the newspaper and Gannett for age discrimination.

The Star says Guyett, now 61, started writing her column in 1999 as a freelancer. She eventually was offered fulltime employment and continued to write until she was informed by the newspaper on Dec. 8, 2008, that "her position was being eliminated as a cost-cutting measure." She learned the next day that her column had been given to Cathy Kightlinger, "who was more than 20 years younger."

She is seeking back pay and unspecified damages.

God knows, I wish her the best.

More on this later...


Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Too bad she can't sue them for idiocy. Cathy Kightlinger wouldn't know a newsy bit of social info if it bit her.

Susan Guyett was a worthy successor to Donna Mullinix (who did know where all the bodies were buried...wonder what she'd be saying about the Simon will brouhaha!).

2010-04-29 15:34:05

ruthholl [Member] said:

In general, I think that column should be spicier and more fun. Cathy understandably has struggled with it.
Susan really worked it. Donna had a lot of contacts. The acts are hard to follow...
But leave it to Gannett to pull a bone-headed move like this one: call someone in (probably done in and by HR) and tell them your position is being eliminated, then, oops, give it to a much younger colleague THE NEXT DAY.
What dopes. What a christless mess...
Really, I hope Susan takes them to the cleaners...

2010-04-29 15:47:53

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

If you'd exhausted normal channels to reach an influential source or person for a quote, you'd go to Donna.

2010-04-29 16:17:26

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

Sorry to read that Gannett treated Guyett so shabbily, but not surprised.

2010-04-29 23:50:59

Nicolas Martin [unverified] said:

Gannett should be able to hire anyone it wants to work for it. It should be able to replace more expensive employees with cheaper ones. The practical effect of discrimination laws is that they make employers less prone to hiring people from protected groups, as the disabled have discovered.

2010-04-30 09:04:49

Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

nicholas, if you are lucky, you will be in your 60s some day.

and if you are unlucky, your employer will dump you because of that, despite your skills.

and because you are "too old," other companies won't hire you, but you'll probably be too young to collect social security.

then come back and talk to us about how awful laws against age discrimination are.

2010-04-30 09:43:55

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Nicolas, a few things:

1. Ellen is right.
2. You are not. Thankfully.
3. Your parents need to learn how to spell.

Anyone who quotes Cato on subjects like this needs to open up more than their mind. If Gannett did as reported, they will lose this suit. As they should. We mere mortals are not privy to all the facts, but it sounds as if Susan is likely to bring them out.

Good on her.

Really, Nicholas...who brung you up?

2010-04-30 12:40:09

Seneca [unverified] said:

Anybody ever hear of Nicolas Cage?

Or Nicolas II, Tsar (Czar) of All the Russias?

Just askin'.

2010-04-30 14:09:21

Seneca [unverified] said:

Or Nicolas Sarkozy?

Nicolas von Below?

Nicolas I?

2010-04-30 14:19:19

formerwriter [unverified] said:

Hope she wins.

2010-04-30 16:39:40

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I don't know Susan personally, go girl!

Age discrimination is running rampant in this country. Especially in regard to women.

Along with journalists, experienced teachers are under the gun because they have the "audacity" to be over age 40.

If you're over age 40, you have to be incompetent. Right?

When I was young, we had the "Grey Panthers" advocating to get out of Vietnam, social justice and racial equality.

May be time to resurrect that movement.

Please keep us posted, Ruth. Your blog is the greatest.

2010-04-30 20:26:46

Terry [unverified] said:

Susan Guyett extended a hand to me when I was free-lancing for the new Taste food section. She was kind and generous in helping me make contact with local celebrity sources for my stories. I remain grateful.

2010-05-01 02:20:23

ruthholl [Member] said:

Re: Whitebeard: I think the Boomers won't take ageism sitting down, in the rocking chairs. Gray Panthers are a happy memory, and maybe it's time to put that concept back in play.
Terry, you make an important point: Susan was (in my mind) an excellent team player -- NOT a prima donna like some columnists are wont to be. She understood that putting out a paper is a group effort, and I agree with your assessment: she was always helpful. It sucks that she'd get the shaft even she formerly worked for a Gannett paper, as I recall -- she knew the drill, and she always wanted the paper to succeed. She really cared about that beat.
This should serve as a Code Red for those loyalists still at the does not matter how good or true or faithful you are...when you earn too much, and they want to dump you, they'll do it. Not right. And no way to run a sound company, even if, as Nicolas says, it is their prerogative. Indiana is a "fire at will" state...and that's not right, either.
Once again, most of us hope Susan prevails. We know what the stakes are...

2010-05-01 17:14:18

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

This may be a long standing pattern.
Punch Harris was fired so a younger Donna S. could take over.
Donna S. was fired so a younger Susan G. could take over.
Susan G. was fired....
And so it goes.

That soc assignment is dangerous to long term expectations.

2010-05-02 11:41:31

DK [unverified] said:

I understand what Susan is going through. Lost my job as an editor and a few short months later a younger man was hired. For those who think that finding a job at age 60 or older (or for that matter over 40)is easy, just wait. I thought I had the world by the a-- when I was in my 30s during the last major recession. It will happen again and those newbies will be in our shoes.

2010-05-02 14:07:01

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Ah, Tom Greenacres! Not so!
Punch "retired" and Betsy Halliday (now Harris -- no relation) took over. The franchise deteriorated under her reign until Donna S (now M) made it a relevant read again. There'll never be the likes of her (and her deep-throat sources) again, although Susan G made a vailant try.

Cathy K (cf today's column) reads like the news items that used to run on the women's pages. Hmmmm. Maybe that's the problem -- The Star deep-sixed the women's pages and the readers still miss 'em!

2010-05-02 15:13:59

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Ms. C,
I forgot about Mrs. Art.

Local society news now relies on tiny photos and tiny mentions. You'd think the Star would give this local stuff more play, over canned features from USAT overset.

2010-05-02 18:29:15

Nicolas Martin [unverified] said:

If reporters and editors were nearly as interested in reporting as they are in keeping seats warm and drawing paychecks, newspapers might be worth reading. As it is, papers exhibit the bland and useless character of craftsmen who view their jobs as entitlements. The best reporting is by bloggers, and rarely are good bloggers the products of journalism schools. Circle the wagons because very few people outside of the tribe give a damn if newspapers perish.

2010-05-03 00:58:45

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"The best reporting is by bloggers,"

The best blogging is by bloggers. And until bloggers have the financial resources to spend days pursuing paper trails in dusty records archives, interviewing sources, working against deadlines, and being scrutinized by hardnosed editors, they will remain bloggers and not journalists.

There is no economic model to sustain bloggers. No editorial standard. Sure bloggers occasionally report a worthwhile story, but even a blind squirrel can find the occasional nut.

What, Nicolas, is the definition of a "good blogger?"

(Ruthie, you paid yer dues and my ire over young Nic's remarks do not apply locally.)

2010-05-03 06:31:51

Rita [unverified] said:

Tom Greenacres:

Far as I know, Donna left on her own and was not "fired." Unless someone put pressure on her to "retire" that we don't know about. Susan had big shoes to fill and did a great job. Cathy seems to be doing her best with what she was blindsidedly handed, and maybe the column's direction is being dictated by her editors. Who knows?

2010-05-03 07:48:13

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

It was well known that Donna M felt cheated out of the Lifestyle editorship, twice, actually, so..."fired" may just be in the definition.

2010-05-03 15:43:21

Nicolas Martin [unverified] said:

I learn a great deal more about the inside dealings of local politicians from, say, Ogden, than I do from the Star. Newspapers are pillars of their local establishments, and they rarely do anything to disturb the status quo. Another example of a valuable blog is Carlos Miller's "Photography Is Not A Crime." We learn more about police misconduct from Miller and YouTube than from all of the country's newspapers. We learn more about the state of economic affairs from economic blogs than from reporters. We learn about science from good science blogs; about the devious machinations of Iraqi and Afghan politicians from blogs and podcasts. One would be hard-pressed to think of any category of information which is well covered by newspapers, and this is not a new phenomenon. Reporters have long been in the pockets of their government sources, so they report establishment news with sympathy and insurgents with skepticism and derision. Or, more commonly, they ignore the outsiders.

Newspapers are bland and averse to ideological diversity, while blogs reflect every color of the opinion rainbow. Who now seeks out the stuporous opinions of newspaper editorialists rather than the lively eructations of the blog world? The editorial pages of daily papers are as predictable as McDonald's fries, but the mind asks more than does the tongue.

Just this week we learn that a Boston cop who assaulted a bicycle rider was convicted of lying about his violence. His case gained national attention due to citizen video placed on YouTube and blogs, not because newspapers brought it to light. The Duke non-rapists were saved and a prosecutor disbarred due to the efforts of bloggers, not the dishonest and biased coverage of most newspapers.

Schools of journalism have been churning out People Components (PCs) designed to perform efficiently in the corporate news assembly lines. If one PC falters she can easily be replaced. (It isn't the public who raises a stink a PC being replaced, but the other PCs.)

Conformity is the rule in journalism. Corporate mass product is always geared to serving up a dish that is inoffensive to most palates, but the Internet botched this up for newspapers by exposing their torpor, and allowing Americans to read opinions not approved by the corporate news commissars. The Internet hit radio and TV equally hard, but they have partly adjusted by opening up to outsiders, not by circling the wagons as newspapers have. (Granted, the local TV-radio news departments dish out the same old crap.)

Newspapers have been bad for a long time, but the Internet exposed just how bad -- and worse yet, useless -- they are, and because they refuse to change, they are doomed.

The PCs, concerned more about their jobs than about the value of an informed public, will continue fighting some rear-guard skirmishes, but, like flight attendants who worked for TWA, their efforts are for naught, and their jobs will soon be historical relics.

2010-05-04 08:58:28

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"their jobs will soon be historical relics"

Do bloggers consider blogging a job? Do bloggers typically have resources that enable them to spend the time and energy to gather facts, which then are checked with other sources?

Or do they blog within their comfort zone, knowing that virtually all their readers will be folks in agreement with the blog?

It is the convention of the young to dismiss as irrelevant all that preceeded them. Thus it is with bloggers. But blogging will not replace newspapers, even if the latter morph into an electronic state and "paper" becomes superfluous.

Whatever news reporting institution survives to provide the daily reporting of events via the written word, it will not be something produced by otherwise-employed opinionaters wanting to be bona fide journos.

2010-05-05 09:45:33

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