Calling Foul: Laid-Off Sports Editor Rips Gannett's Greed


The troubles of the newspaper industry have been amply covered over the last few years, and it's no secret that anger, frustration and resentment toward upper management are widespread among rank-and-file newspaper employees. But it's rare that this dissent bubbles up onto the pages of the publications themselves. When it does happen, it's safe to assume that newspaper employees are reaching their breaking point.

This week brought a startling attack on Gannett Co., the country's largest newspaper publisher, in a farewell column by Frank DiLeo, the longtime sports editor at The Daily Record of Morris County, NJ. He was recently laid off after 35 years with the Parsippany-area publication. DiLeo lost his job as part of cuts affecting 99 positions at three of Gannett's New Jersey publications.



The column, which is not available on the newspaper's Web site, appeared in the print edition of the newspaper and was reproduced online by Gannett Blog, an independent (and often critical) journal about the publisher maintained by former editor Jim Hopkins.

Appearing under the headline "In the Game of Life, There Are Few Winners," it delivers a scathing rebuke to Gannett's management for "corporate greed," lamenting: "I worked hard to build my career, only to be left with a few weeks of severance and reminders of what used to be."

Recounting his decades with Gannett, including numerous awards and instances of self-sacrifice, DiLeo remarks: "Things like truth, honor, work ethic and integrity mean nothing on an Excel spreadsheet. It's all about profit margins."

In the fiery peroration, he accuses Gannett of "treating customers like an annoyance and employees like dogs who should be happy with whatever scraps are leftover."

Beyond highlighting the grievances of one disgruntled employees, it's remarkable that DiLeo's column savaging Gannett management was able to make it into print -- indicating that dissent is widespread enough to produce a substantial number of co-conspirators in The Daily Record's newsroom, and possibly on the business side as well.

There's no question that Gannett has implemented deep cuts in its workforce. At the end of 2009, the company had about 35,000 employees -- down 33.5% from 52,600 employees in 2005.

3 comments about "Calling Foul: Laid-Off Sports Editor Rips Gannett's Greed".
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  1. William Czander, February 7, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.

    The Gannett newspaper chain saw its revenue and income tumble 35 percent in 2007 but its CEO Craig Dubow got a $1.8 million bonus on top of his $1.2 million in base salary. Stock options and other perks boosted his pay even higher, to an estimated $5.8 million. In August 2008, 1,000 employees were terminated and in November, Gannett announced that 10 percent of 3,000 workers would be terminated before Christmas, as its stock dropped 71 percent. Dubow has responded by reducing his pay 3 percent (Krangel, 2008). In January of 2009, Dubow announced that thousands of workers would take a week off without pay (Perez-Pena, 2009). In July 2009 another 4,500 employees were terminated, So what will Dubow do? He will give up a weeks pay or $18,960 which is one week of his base salary. What a CEO. But even though Dubow proudly announced giving up a weeks pay in 2009 he actually received an overall 41 percent increase in compensation. Since early 2008 Dubow has terminated 11,000 employees.
    In 2007 Dubow’s compensation included a $1,750,000 bonus, $1,067,980 in stock awards, $3,351,000 in option awards, $57,101 in nonqualified deferred compensation earnings, and $120,629 in "all other compensation." As part of his employment agreement received the following:

    -Paid life insurance
    -Supplemental medical benefits
    -A security system allowance
    -Company provided lunch during working hours
    -Unspecified legal and financial services
    -Tickets to sporting events
    -Use of company automobile
    -Use of company aircraft

    The proxy statement indicates Gannett will no longer pay activity and membership fees for its CEO. If Dubow were to be fired today, based on his most recent annual compensation, since he just turned 54 in October, his severance package would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million (Turner, 2008).

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 8, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.

    Gannett always has been know to be greedy and stingy with their employees and sales staff. None of the article or comment by W. Czander is surprising. Poor management with a total CYA attitude at newspapers is the real cause of the downfall. The horrid adaptations to on line experiences are included in the last sentence. Remember, too, newspapers have been used to 65+% profit structures. Now they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. A dependable sports writer cannot be replaced on the whims of upper management and depend upon the same readership.

  3. Joe Jacobs, February 8, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.

    I worked for over 8 years at an ABC-TV affiliate in Great Falls, MT, and they would not re-sign news staffers at the end of their contracts after they'd been there for 4-6 years... so they could hire newbies out of broadcast journalism schools at $1,000/month salary.

    Of course, the news ratings that station dominated 2:1 in the 18-54 demo when I got there began to go in the tank. The new kids coming on board had not a clue what values Montanans held nor did they know how to pronounce towns with Native American names - which made them (and the station) look stupid.

    When you cut loose your institutional memory in the budget cutting process, you do more than save on labor overhead. Sometimes you 'save' on the very thing that was allowing you to be profitable in the first place.

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