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.