(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2:18 p.m.)

Myriad and assorted changes are under way at  One Great Newspaper, or coming to Sixth and Broadway over the coming days and weeks, according to multiple sources.

Gannett Blog and other journalism sites have been reporting Gannett Co. Inc. executives will announce wide-ranging buyouts this afternoon. And so they have.

Here’s the internal email:

CONFIDENTIAL

TO: U.S.C.P. Employees

FR: U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey

RE: Voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program

 Dear colleagues:

 Today we are offering a voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program to 665 eligible U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories. Eligibility by department or job category varies by each operating unit depending on its needs.

 This offer was designed to be as attractive as or better than others in the industry. The Early Retirement Opportunity Program also is the first offered by Gannett since 2008. The offer provides for salary continuation of two weeks’ pay for each complete year of service, capped at 52 weeks, and ongoing health, dental and vision coverage during this period.

 Employees who are eligible will have 45 days to accept. At the close of the offer period, Gannett will review acceptances and make final decisions based on the terms of the offer.

 As mentioned – the program is completely voluntary for these valued, long-term employees. They have helped steer a strong and steady course for the company for many years, including through recent challenging economic times, and their work is deeply appreciated.

 t’s worth noting that while 785 employees meet the criteria, the offer is being offered to 665 employees due to ongoing operational needs at the company. The offer is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only.

 The Early Retirement Opportunity Program is one part of our ongoing strategy to transform the company with a focus on remaining the top news and information provider in your market. To accomplish this, it entails a ground-up assessment of our overall structure and resources. At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future.

 Please look for a separate letter today from your publisher, who will provide more details about this program and your location.

 If you have any questions feel free to contact me or your publisher.

 Bob Dickey President/U.S. Community Publishing

Earlier today, Gannett Blog creator Jim Hopkins, a former CJ reporter who himself took a buyout years ago, reported Gannett would announce the first nationwide buyout offer for hundreds of employees, a shift in the company’s payroll reduction strategy of mass, quarterly layoffs.

Insiders at the Courier-Journal tell Insider Louisville there are wagering pools on who will exit among veteran employees. “Friendly bets,” said one source. “Not real money.”

Prime candidates include Bennie Ivory, vice president of news, Opinion Page Editor Keith Runyon, Editor of Editorials Steve Ford, Harry Bryan, the sports editor and Sheldon Shafer, the veteran reporter. Publisher Arnold Garson is scheduled to retire March 2, according to a relatively brief story last week.

In the buyouts, employees wouldn’t get a lump sum, but rather enhanced severance benefits. Since 2008, Gannett, based in McLean, Va. outside Washington, D.C., has cut about 10,000 employees from a U.S. workforce that once numbered more than 40,000. The company has had at least eight straight quarters of declining revenue and net income as advertisers have switched to digital.

Gannett cut 50 staffers last June at the CJ, part of a 2 percent workforce reduction that eliminated 700 jobs nationwide. The chain, with 82 U.S. newspapers, also instituted quarterly furloughs, with the fifth round since 2008 in effect now.

The parent company, Gannett Co. Inc. is imposing on the local papers radical changes in newsroom functions, according to CJ sources, with a new emphasis on digital and social media … a push to have remaining reporters and editors do more with less.

(Full disclosure: I, like a growing number of Louisvillians, never see the print edition. So I have no idea what goes into it now.)

Sources at the CJ told us back in December about a pending newsroom reorganization.

As part of that transition, CJ reporters were issued iPhone 4S smart phones last week, according to sources. The idea is, hand-held devices will become a reporter’s camera and his/her connection to the Internet and social media before the reporter ever writes a story that will go into “the paper.”

This is from Gannett Blog about the roll-out in P0ughkeepsie, NY.

“Here’s how the news will couple with the technology,” writes Digital EditorIrwin Goldberg. “Say a major accident closes the Mid-Hudson Bridge at 4:30 p.m. We’ll tweet a quick news bulletin on our @PokJournal Twitter account, post it on our Facebook page and send a text alert to those who have signed up to receive them. That will be followed by more updates as a story is developed. You’ll be able to read it all on your smartphone, tablet or desktop/laptop computer.” 

Meanwhile, he says, “a photographer/videographer will post photos and video from the scene; that will help you gauge traffic conditions and provide other need-to-know information. Once the scene is cleared, the story will be updated and a text alert sent. In the following day’s print edition, you’ll likely read a story that’s more analytical, with fresh information as appropriate.” 

When Garson announced his retirement last week, he said the the biggest challenge the CJ faces “is the speed of the digital transition.” He added, “But we at Gannett and The Courier-Journal have a good, strong, strategic plan.”

Garson may be most famous for a “newspapers are much better off than you think” editorial set to run in the 2010 Sunday-After-Derby edition of the CJ, just completely debunking the myth that newspapers are dead, a version of a speech he’s been giving for years.

Except it never got delivered because a press failure (or something) killed the issue, the paper’s most profitable of the year. Subscribers did get it the following day.

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

Leave a Reply