Gannett's evil 'Christmas present'

Dateline: Fri 23 Dec 2011

Gannett is playing childish and cruel party games at the Indianapolis Star, where contract negotiations are going on fast and furious. This game is called "Get the Guild" -- and it seems a deliberate "divide and conquer" strategy on management's part, with about as much finesse as a Mafia hit man could muster.

The corporation is giving $1,000 holiday bonuses to some selected staff members but of course not to everyone. To rub salt into the wounds, the company is making no effort whatsoever to keep the bonuses private so that other employees don't feel disenfranchised and/or unworthy.

Here's what an employee said: "It's like being back in high school." In some cases, the largesse was handed out to a couple employees as other employees sat at their work stations and were deliberately excluded.

Gannett is a lot of things, including evil, greedy and maniupulative. To quote Jimmy Breslin, "Beyond that (it) has a bad reputation."

Does it seem possible to anyone else out there that this strategy is designed to deliberately create ill will among the rank-and-file -- with (see letter) about 25 percent of Guild membership getting the big bucks and the rest getting squat? Hell yes.

But if Gannett is trying to foster dissension, it's FAIL since so far four recipents who are Guild activists have returned the money. Come the revolution, you mothers....

Read it here -- an email letter to Guild members sent by Guild leaders.

"Dear Friends,

"We want to take a moment to address something that’s been circulatingaround the newsroom this past week, yet perhaps hasn’t reached every corner. It has created quite a bit of mystery and, in some cases, anger.
"We’re talking about the notices that went out last week to a select group of Guild-covered staffers saying they would receive a $1,000 bonus in their Dec. 23 paychecks. We haven’t been given an official number of how many recipients, but it appears to be about 25% of the Guild's membership.

"Normally, this would be a cause to celebrate, and indeed we want to give the Star and publisher Karen Crotchfelt their due credit for the holiday largesse. After pay cuts and furloughs, it's a welcome change. The problem? To borrow from newspaper jargon, it's the who, what, when, where and why of it all that has raised a few questions.

"From what we’ve been able to gather, supervisors were asked to nominate people for the bonuses and a management committee chose the recipients. Crotchfelt and Editor Dennis Ryerson handed out the notices last week, and in some cases, made calls to staffers who were off. The envelopes were distributed somewhat conspicuously in the middle of the newsroom. In at least one instance, a staffer was handed an envelope and
told aloud -- within earshot of others who didn’t receive it -- that the envelope contained word about a $1,000 bonus.
"To date, we’ve seen no criteria for how these recipients were chosen. The notices refer to Star Media’s Core Value Awards. And most people who received them thought they had won a fourth quarter award. But there was no mention of the bonuses being attached to any specific award. A few people who asked were told they “had a good year” or that they did good work on a specific project. Besides, many good performers were left out. In some cases, certain corners of the newsroom were excluded almost entirely.

"Among the recipients of the bonus notices were your Guild president Bobby King, Guild vice president Adam Yates, Guild treasurer John Russell and bargaining team member CarlSygiel. After some consideration, we each have decided independently that we will not keep the bonuses. We intend to put our shares into a pool to benefit the same group of people who benefitted from the proceeds of last week’s bake sale, some of our staffers and their families who are struggling the most.

"Why are we doing this?

"As your leaders, we just don’t feel comfortable accepting this money when so many of our colleagues were excluded and the criteria so nebulous. As people negotiating your next contract, we don’t want to plant any seeds of doubt that we’re only working for some people, or for ourselves. Most of all, we want to preserve the incredible unity that the Guild has built up these past few months. That's one of the reasons we're sharing our decision.
We’ve all leafletted together, marched together and worn our red together. We want everyone to be rewarded together. We are greatly concerned that these selective rewards, so conspicuously given, could
create divisions and enmity. Could each of us use the cash? Absolutely. But $1,000 isn’t worth the unity of purpose we’ve worked so hard to build.

"One last thing. Our action isn't intended to try and suggest what members who received these bonuses should do. So many of you are hurting financially after the last three years that you no doubt could spend this money five times over. You've worked hard. You've earned it. Everyone has. That this could have been handled with more discretion and more equity is not your fault.

"As always, feel free to ask any questions.

"Carl Sygiel
John Russell
Adam Yates
Bobby King"


You can read more about this as well on Jim Hopkins' Gannettblog. I have more to say, but this is a busy day. Back in a bit....


hendy [Member] said:

The NLRB might be interested in these obvious union-busting bribes. Perhaps a complaint needs to be made.

2011-12-23 17:28:52

farmgirl [unverified] said:

Just when we thought they could not be more evil...guess there really are no limits..

2011-12-23 17:56:48

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy took the words right out of my keyboard.

Does the Guild have a valid Collective Barganing Agreement in place? I can't imagine any CBA (even a 1980s Reagan-style CBA) which would permit selective payments without solid, printed criteria in place.

Regardless of the answer to the above question, even IF there were a clause in the CBA which covered it, Gannett behaved badly, and hoo-rah to the Guild officers for pooling their money.

Samuel Gompers would be proud.

Mr. Milz: shame on your bosses. This kind of goon activity needs to be called out whenever it happens as a bold-faced shitcan idea.

And we're about to become a Right-to-Work state. Because God knows the unions have too much power, and management too little.


2011-12-23 18:37:54

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Glad to see you're back Ruthie. I was dusting off the milk cartons.

2011-12-24 03:57:59

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thanks TTT. Next year, I hope, will be more about writing. Lots on the old plate. Got to make room.
I miss you guys.

2011-12-24 10:24:11

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Gannett's corporate psychologists must have come up with this one: give the guild leaders (and selected others) a big bonus which they (Gannett people) theorize will cause conflict and disruption among the union ranks.

It's the old divide and conquer tactic.

War against its workers.

To their credit, sounds like the Guild leaders are not taking the bait.

2011-12-24 13:08:03

hendy [Member] said:

IANAL, but it's illegal as can be, IMHO. Bribery of union officers? Achhhhhhhh.

What amazing dufusi (is dufusi the plural of dufus, as i dufeses?)....

2011-12-24 17:23:03

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I think the correct plural od Dufus is "Gannett".

2011-12-25 09:39:53

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The Star was coopted years ago when it invested in Circle Centre Mall, thus contributing to assured retail advertising revenue from Mall tenants. It hasn't worked out as well as Pulliam management hoped...but to the point, corporate deviousness didn't newly come to town with Gannett. How could anyone expect objectivity from the Star after they became investors in the Mall and bedpartners with the Simon organization?

2011-12-26 06:04:15

hendy [Member] said:

You don't need objectivity when you're a monopoly. The track record is: conquer the competition, then rule. Buy the bully pulpit and the only voice left is yours. And we're surprised?

In one of my other lives, I track the monopoly telephone/cellular companies. They're completely surprised when their mergers are shot down by governmental agencies. It would almost be hilarious if it weren't so real.

You can be the protagonist of the people *and* business, I suppose, but it's a tough role to play. I don't get the feeling that the star is much of a protagonist of the common man.

2011-12-26 08:37:46

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I'm with you on ATT et al, Hendy. And in Indiana, thanks to massive deregulation, we have almost mno recourse when they misbehave. Which is hourly.

Tom: If you count the ad column inches from Day One of Circle Centre opening, it wouldn't line a birdcage. They never advertised.

I am a huge critic of ESP, but to be fair, I think the newspaper's investment in the mall was altrustic. In their minds. The family had money to burn, and they chose to put money in the mall. Along with many others.

2011-12-26 09:19:51

formerrevenuegenerator [unverified] said:

There's always been a bonus pool at The Star. Typically the checks are handed out in late January or early February. Some folks in management have bonuses tied to their compensation packages, and there's a formula for determining how much is paid out based on company and personal performance. That said, every year I received the exact same bonus amount - regardless of company or personal revenue performance. I NEVER saw the formula utilized, but it was there in case anyone questioned the policy. Each VP also had an additional pool of bonus money to dole out to staff as he/she chose. The allocations were to be based on performance, but were left up to the department head to determine. It's interesting that they took a different approach this year and handed bonuses out earlier (unless there's another round coming). You could guess that it's the new policy of the new publisher, but it's a little fishy with negotiations going on. The thing I never understood was if they had all that money for bonuses, why did they keep forcing furloughs and layoffs. The Glass Castle's money management is bizarre and it filters down through their publishers/GMs. I commend the Guild for calling them on it. Funny that management would think they could sucker the Guild into playing the game. Of course the publisher is cutting her teeth in Indy. I'm guessing she feels like a toddler learning to walk, all bumped and bruised and continuing to stumble.

2011-12-26 09:28:05

escapedbeforebeinggannettized [unverified] said:

Doling out bonuses to the top representatives in the Guild (all of whom have rightly been hammering away at the big "G") is a pitiful way to extend an olive branch. If in some small, quirky way Gannett thought this would give them some ground on negotiations, and make the four mentioned not be so committed to their goals and the rest of their objectives, then they are dumber & uglier than any faux window dressing I have ever seen! Ryerson needs to grow some gonads and should have stopped it all before being implemented. This sounds like something that would have happened back in the 60's or 70's in the "good ole boy" days. Gannett doesn't even know how to be nice right. I wonder what kind of bonus Ryerson, Crotchfelt, etc. received.

2011-12-27 15:05:55

howard smulevitz [unverified] said:,
Sorry,had to crop, unable to link from tuesday's times.
NEW YORK -- New York Times staffers unhappy with management are letting publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. know it. In recent days, more than 270 current and former Times employees have signed an open letter expressing their "profound dismay" with recent company decisions.
Bill O'Meara, president of the New York Newspaper Guild, said some staffers had considered even "more dramatic" actions.
"There were people who wanted to storm Arthur Sulzberger's office," O'Meara told The Huffington Post. "There were people who wanted to stage a walkout."
For now, Times staffers opted for the letter, which was composed in the newsroom and posted online by the guild at Since last week, hundreds of current staffers -- from metro reporters to foreign correspondents, arts critics to web producers -- and several Times alumni have continued adding their names.
The letter calls attention to several grievances. Last week, Times brass notified foreign citizens employed in the paper's overseas bureaus that their pensions would be frozen. In the letter, Times staffers dismayed by this decision point out to Sulzberger that some of these foreign employees, working alongside Times reporters in war zones, have "risked their lives so that we can do our jobs."
The open letter may have been prompted by this and other recent decisions, but it brought to the surface long-simmering tensions. In the past several years, staffers have faced temporary pay cuts, layoffs, and buyouts. They have worked since March without a new contract. Regarding ongoing negotiations, the letter notes that Sulzberger's "negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance." O'Meara said staffers did not receive a raise this year.
Such compensation and benefit issues are playing out while the Times faces a problem with retention.
The letter also mentions that a member of "senior management" is now leaving with "a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits." Indeed, outgoing CEO Janet Robinson -- the unnamed executive-- will reportedly take home a $15 million exit package, according to Reuters. Times staffers with stock options have seen the share price drop from over $35 at the beginning of Robinson's tenure in 2003 to less than $8 at opening on Tuesday.
A Times spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the paper is "not commenting on the negotiations while they are ongoing but we continue to look forward to reaching agreement with the guild."
The guild also plans to post comments from some of the Times staffers who signed the letter, after he obtains their permission. One such comment, O'Meara said, included pictures of Sultan M. Munadi and Khalid Hassan, two Times foreign employees killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.

2011-12-28 00:06:29

howard smulevitz [unverified] said:

Whoops, the article was from Huffington Post, not the Times. (No wonder it kept mentioning Huff...

2011-12-28 00:10:21

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The Gray Lady's problems are one more sign of the end times for newspapers, and for literacy in America, kicked to death by tweets and twaddle.

Gone spelling and complete sentences; gone reflective thinking; gone reading, paper replaced by screens like the one I am looking at; gone the practice and understanding of cursive writing (historians and biographers are going to be plum out of luck without letters and diaries); gone libraries with books, becoming places where DVDs can be borrowed and computers used for an hour; gone the institutional memory of newspapers and the long-employed reporters and editors who work there and know where the skeletons are buried ("Conseco Arena, built by Mel and Herb Simon...."). Ugh.

2011-12-28 07:11:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

So right, Tom. Headline in today's Star used "preventative." Holly Arpan, Gretchen Kemp and Mary Benedict roll over. A classic Hoosierism now creeps into copy editing.

I'm just waiting for a "fried feeesh sandwich" that "we was going to eat."

Good Lord.

2011-12-28 09:08:01

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

T3, I'm still grousing about "hypothetical" becoming a noun by default.

You gotta love "preventative," as in "preventative birth control."

2011-12-28 16:43:46

hendy [Member] said:

You guys get board easy <sic>.

2011-12-28 20:48:41

LesaMUELLER [unverified] said:

The <a href="">personal loans</a> seem to be very useful for people, which are willing to start their own company. By the way, that's very easy to get a college loan.

2011-12-29 01:18:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Nah, Hendy, just tired of seeing the language misused. In newspaper headlines for Christ's sake.

Typos are one thing--I'm very guilty of that. Words like "preventative" stick around long enough, then they're absorbed into our vocabulary.

I depend on a few institutionms to police the language. Until recently, newspapers held that lofty spot.

Not any more. (sigh) I guess my priority's are out of sink.

2011-12-29 04:25:27

varangianguard [unverified] said:


You are cracking me up.

2011-12-29 08:02:58

hendy [Member] said:

I saw this on Facebook yesterday:

Every time you
you make a typo, the
errorists win.

2011-12-29 08:46:51

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

LMAO Hendy.


2011-12-30 12:26:27

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:


Happy New Year, Ruth and all here.

2011-12-30 14:23:05

Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog