#OccupyTheNewsroom October 24, 2011

David Carr of The New York Times has a lovely rant about the unlovely Craig Dubow, the incompetent enemy of the public who, in the course of helping to destroy American journalism and undermine American democracy, also laid off me and 20,000 other people while collecting millions in “performance” bonuses:

Craig A. Dubow resigned as Gannett’s chief executive. His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster. Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns.

Never a standout in journalism performance, the company strip-mined its newspapers in search of earnings, leaving many communities with far less original, serious reporting.

Given that legacy, it was about time Mr. Dubow was shown the door, right? Not in the current world we live in. Not only did Mr. Dubow retire under his own power because of health reasons, he got a mash note from Marjorie Magner, a member of Gannett’s board, who said without irony that “Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.”

But the board gave him far more than undeserved plaudits. Mr. Dubow walked out the door with just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years.

And in case you thought they were paying up just to get rid of a certain way of doing business — slicing and dicing their way to quarterly profits — Mr. Dubow was replaced by Gracia C. Martore, the company’s president and chief operating officer. She was Mr. Dubow’s steady accomplice in working the cost side of the business, without finding much in the way of new revenue. She has already pocketed millions in bonuses and will now be in line for even more.

… Maybe it’s time to start occupying Main Street, a place Gannett has bled dry by offering less and less news while dumping and furloughing journalists in seemingly every quarter.

Carr links to another fine rant from journalist Peter Lewis, who also writes to bury Dubow and not to praise him:

When Gannett bought The Des Moines Register I asked a Gannett executive: How do you pronounce the name of your company? Is it GAN-nett, or gan-NETT?

“It’s gan-NET,” he said. “The emphasis is always on the net.”

He was, of course, referring to the amount of money that is left over after expenses and taxes and accounting tricks … otherwise known as profits. (He was not referring to the Internet, of which Gannett still has barely a clue.) …

When Dubow took over as CEO, Gannett employed some 52,000 people in its publishing, broadcast, digital and mobile divisions. When he resigned last week, it employed 32,000 people. Among the 20,000 jobs that were cut were thousands of talented journalists. Mr. Dubow also required many employees to take unpaid leaves of absence, and instituted pay freezes. He referred to this as “increasing workplace efficiencies.”

When Dubow took over as CEO, Gannett’s stock price was $72-something a share. At his departure last week it was $10-something, down 85 percent in his tenure.

Last year, while laying off more journalists, Gannett increased Mr. Dubow’s 2010 pay package to $7.9 million. Including the estimated future value of stock awards and options, his 2010 pay package could increase to $9.4 million. Gannett said the raise was meant to reward Mr. Dubow for boosting the publisher’s earnings — remember, the emphasis is always on the net — for the fourth consecutive year.

Mr. Dubow managed to keep earnings high, according to analysts, by cutting costs (i.e. people) more aggressively than any other company in the media industry. Gannett refers to this as “workplace restructuring.”

Mr. Dubow is now eligible to collect a retirement and disability pay package of $37.1 million, according to Gannett.

Bob Dickey, the head of Gannett’s U.S. newspapers division, also got a hefty pay raise in 2010 to $3.4 million, up from $1.9 million the year before. In a memo this summer announcing that 700 more newspaper jobs would be eliminated, Mr. Dickey wrote: “While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs.”

Hey, cool, I remember that memo — it was the last one I ever got as a Gan-NET employee.

… The Gannett board insisted that serving the consumer — not, of course, to maximize corporate profits and executive compensation — was the corporate goal.

“Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information,” said Marjorie Magner, non-executive chairman of Gannett’s board of directors.

Gracia Martore, who replaces Dubow as CEO, said: “We will continue our relentless quest to provide trusted news and information and will actively support the people and businesses in the communities we serve.”

These people are lying. The corporate goal is not to serve the consumer; it’s to maximize profits and pay packages for top executives. Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today, and that news consumers are better served?

How did Mr. Dubow and Gannett serve the consumer? They laid off journalists. They cut the pay of those who remained, while demanding that they work longer hours. They closed news bureaus. They slashed newsroom budgets. As revenue fell, and stock prices tanked, and product quality deteriorated, they rewarded themselves huge pay raises and bonuses.

This is the sort of stuff that causes people to occupy Wall Street and main streets in cities across the country.

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