Thursday, October 20, 2022

What fresh hell?

The other day we wrote about a very dark day at WXIA-TV 11Alive -- and there's reason to fear more storm clouds may be gathering. As previously noted, employees at 11Alive have rolled with some pretty heavy punches -- salary reductions and unpaid furloughs known as "Gannett Vacations" -- in the hopes of avoiding the kind of out-and-out bloodbath that has taken place in other newsrooms. Then, late last week, came word that the axe had fallen on a longtime newsroom manager beloved by just about one and all. (The details are here if you missed the post.) An isolated incident? Take a look at this article in Sunday's edition of the New York Times, headlined, "You're Gone, But You Can Reapply." Two weeks ago, at The Journal News in Westchester -- which, like 11Alive, is owned by Gannett -- the 288 news and advertising employees were told that jobs were being restructured "and that they all would need to reapply for the new positions and that by the time the re-org music stopped, 70 of them would be without jobs." NYT media writer David Carr sums it up quite nicely in his next paragraph: "What fresh hell is this?" How bad was it? One "survivor" is quoted as describing the experience this way, “It was an unreal day around here, with people being called up to the third floor and being told. We’d clap when someone came down and gave a thumbs up, but it became obvious that many of the people being called up later would not be sticking around." Carr goes on to speculate that although the plan was conceived locally, "it could portend things to come at Gannett." Happy Tuesday!


  1. Isn't that what Cox did at the AJC? Does the same fate await WSB-TV?

  2. If I understand correctly -- and I don't assure you that I do -- the difference is that the AJC thinned the ranks through "voluntary" buyouts and then reached its reduction quota by wiping out a few of the more tenacious life forms still hanging on. It was never a situation where "everyone" was fired but told they could reapply.

    There are some similarities, and I probably should have mentioned that thus far these kind of "mass" layoffs have been in print newsrooms. The hits in TV newsrooms have been more strategic and targeted, like trained snipers putting red dots on the foreheads of longtime, well paid employees and pulling the trigger... but spacing the killings out over a period of weeks.

    As far as I know, there is still something of a division between the print and television operations in most media companies -- and, in general, TV is not in quite as rapid a decline as newspapers...

    The NYT article really did not address television, just Gannett in general. So, who knows?

  3. I worked for a cable station years ago, when Adelphia went bankrupt. They called everyone in one day, and fired everyone except for four core staffers.

    Everyone else had to reapply for the "new" jobs that were basically combinations of the old jobs that had just been eliminated. So, instead of two production guys, they got to fight for the one remaining position. Ditto for the education and government beat reporters, who got to compete for the combined slot.

    Sad part was, we'd already cut staff to the bone, so they turned around and hired the rest of the people back, but they had to come back as contract employees, with no benefits.

  4. Okay, so I just listened to Brenda Wood take credit for the CIA geeks "breaking" the Taylor Bean and Whatsits story.

    Too bad Clark Howard has been on it for a long, long time.

    Sorry 11, I'm over it.