Occupy Newsrooms

David Carr looks at Gannett where now-departed chief executive Craig A.Dubow presided over declining stock, declining employees, and declining quality:


The week before the editorial ran, 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...

Peter Lewis, a former employee of both The Times and The Des Moines Register, which was bought and diminished by Gannett after he left the paper, ripped the Gannett bonuses on his blog "Words and Ideas" in summarizing an approach in which getting rid of jobs passes for a strategy. "Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today, and that news consumers are better served?" he wrote. 

 "How did Mr. Dubow and Gannett serve the consumer?" Mr. Lewis continued. "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 with huge pay raises and bonuses."

In terms of media executive malfeasance, I refer you to Carr's piece outlining how one of America's great newspapers --The Chicago Tribune -- fell victim to corporate highwaymen.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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