Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Gannett Cuts 700 but Doubles CEO’s Pay? Newspaper Readers, Wake Up!

Posted at 8:24 pm, June 26th, 2011
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper owner, lopped off another 700 employees from its payroll recently. My former paper, the Des Moines Register, lost 13, among them a Pulitzer Prize winner. The Register’s once brilliant Washington bureau lost its last remaining member. At the same time, the Gannett corporation doubled the pay of its CEO, Craig Dubow, to nearly $5 million, in addition to handing him a hefty bonus. Dubow had taken a financial hit a year or so earlier; even so a big payday for the boss while handing out a blizzard of pink slips suggests that Gannett’s corporate management is egregiously tone deaf.

Gannett employees cannot do anything about it, but readers can. They have been virtually silent as their hometown papers have taken one hit after another. The Register has not only lost staff but content. In recent years it dropped both the New York Times news service and the LA Times Washington Post service as cost-cutting measures. A former Register editor told me she had heard no protests from readers about the losses.

It’s time that readers made their voices heard about the shredding of their papers. They can start by demanding that corporate bigwigs rescind the fat pay package for CEO Dubow if he is unwilling to volunteer a give-back. The loss of staff, including long-time veterans, is bound to take its toll on the accuracy of news coverage. Libel lawyers should let it be known that they are prepared to hold management accountable when shoddy news coverage damages client reputations.

Even in the aggregate, these these are not measures that can save newspapers from the bad numbers that beset them. But the press is too valuable an institution to be allowed to waste away. Readers need to pay attention to what happens in corporate newspaper board rooms. Inevitably the repercussions will be felt in local newsrooms. Readers will continue to be shortchanged until they take matters into their own hands and shout from the rooftops about it.

Note: See Michael Gartner on these cuts, also on Nieman Watchdog.

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