Clarion-Ledger Layoffs Coming Dec. 3? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Clarion-Ledger Layoffs Coming Dec. 3?

The Jackson Free Press has learned that the next round of Clarion-Ledger layoffs ordered by the Gannett home office in Virginia could come as early as Dec. 3. Bizarrely, even as the newspaper is shrinking staff and doing less substantive news coverage than ever, it has asked staffers to literally work overtime to help take pictures of people hanging out in bars (a photographer even showed up at our Election Night party at Hal & Mal's last night). On Election night, as the world watched Barack Obama become president-elect of the United States, the Ledger was busy launching its new Metromix Web site, which is part of a national chain of fluffy entertainment Web sites, now operated by many Gannett Corp. newspapers nationwide. The U.S.' largest newspaper chain is not known for local entertainment coverage—The Clarion-Ledger notoriously reported that nightlife is "non-existent" in Jackson at one point—but believes that its future profits may lie more in fluffier coverage. The local outlet of Metromix was set to launch in the summer, but was delayed likely due to The Clarion-Ledger's first round of layoffs.

On a Friday in July, Executive Editor Ronnie Agnew sent the following e-mail to staff:

All:
As you may have read on the weekly note, one of the biggest Information Center projects before us now is Metromix, an entertainment Web site scheduled to launch Aug. 18 on clarionledger.com. One of the biggest pieces of Metromix is the gathering of information on 1,000 venues, i.e., restaurants, bars, casinos. We are behind on this project and need your help. We will pay overtime for up to 10 people to help call these venues and take photos of them. Carey Miller will fill you in on the details but please email me if you are interested. We have hired freelance help for this project, but honestly we know we can get this done quicker with your help. You would have to do this on your own time and the calls and photos cannot interfere with your work duties.
Thanks and let me know. Ronnie

The bizarre part was that, the previous day, he and Managing Editor Don Hudson had announced hiring freezes (as well as a diversity recruitment effort):

To: All
From: DonH & RonnieA
Re: Weekly note
Good morning/afternoon/evening.
WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST. Because of the economy, we have a hiring freeze at the newspaper. Most likely, the open positions we had in the newsroom and bureaus are gone — for good. There's no way to sugarcoat any of this, folks. Simply, we are facing tough times as a newspaper and even tougher times as an industry. We also are looking at some possible newshole reductions and possibly more cuts.
We are meeting with department managers to reprioritize some things. We plan to cut back on some things and move some folks around internally to fill the holes. The first changes will involve our community publications and the day and night copy desks.
If you have suggestions about how we can restructure some things with existing resources, e-mail Don. More to come on this note next week.
OF NOTE. Ronnie, Don and Earnest will be working for Gannett Co. next week at the UNITY convention in Chicago. Don will lead a recruiting team for the company; Ronnie and Earnest will be running a "new media" panel. You may wonder why we're attending this convention if there are no positions to fill. Well, this will be for the future, and Gannett corporate is footing the bill. …

So there's money for drunk pictures, but not for news coverage. That says it all. Word is that morale is low at the paper, especially with staff fearing layoffs right before Christmas. Last year, staffers groused that the paper had ceased giving out the $50 gift certificates—"Christmas bonuses"—it traditionally gave, nor did it have a staff holiday party. The paper also started requiring staff members to pay for coffee, even as hardwood floors were being installed in the publisher's office.

Previous Comments

ID
140352
Comment

Donna, I hate to tell you this but t is the truth the correct name for that paper is the Clarion Liar!!! This paper and their editors will not report the truth or the news correctly. I ama frim believer that if you tell the report the true facts and not fabrications then you would have better job security. The bad thing about these layoffs is they are not getting rid of the right people, "The Editiors"!!!!

Author
Hot Sauce
Date
2008-11-05T19:45:46-06:00
ID
140353
Comment

I've heard that one before, Hot Sauce. ;-) It's true: It's hard to imagine a less-popular daily newspaper with everyone, regardless of political leaning. It's not because of that paper's politics; it's because it's so poorly produced. That's corporate's fault, of course; they don't believe Mississippians deserve a well-edited newspaper with hard-hitting reporting. I'm sure some of the people on the ground here would be much better if they had more motivation and training from the top. And I agree with you that they are retaining the wrong people, especially when you look at it from the top down. Any editor who refused to pursue the Ridgeway story, for instance, should be long gone.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-05T19:51:57-06:00
ID
140356
Comment

Who, I ask you, pays seventy-five cents for a print copy of the CL at a newsstand? There's just nothing to it anymore.

Author
JLY
Date
2008-11-05T20:12:49-06:00
ID
140367
Comment

I would gladly pay $1 every day for a decent statewide newspaper. I reading the actual newspaper every day. What's worse is that the Ledger's website is so frustrating that I'm either not finding everything on it or there's only enough news I care about to occupy 15 minutes of my time at most. I have a friend who worked for one of their papers (Rankin) and she was totally demoralized by the corporate ideas for news coverage. Being told to focus on more puff and less real news was the final straw. I only buy the Ledger now on Sundays because I can't imagine Sunday mornings without a paper.

Author
kudzuking
Date
2008-11-06T11:18:03-06:00
ID
140368
Comment

The Gannett Blog is on fire about layoffs and other corporate shenanigans at the company. Such as this: When Gannett announced its big August layoff of 600 newspaper workers, some employees accused management of taking too long -- a full week -- to notify those getting axed. "The decision to announce the layoffs last week, and then drop the hammer this week, borders on inhumane,'" one employee said at the time. "It's definitely cruel and unusual." Fast forward to today, and Corporate's doing it again. Only, this time it's taking even longer to decide which employees to let go -- five full weeks. That's five weeks of 30,000 newspaper division workers worrying they may be jobless in one of the worst economies in years. Productivity take a hit? Count on that. And, and FOX is in trouble, too.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-06T11:24:22-06:00
ID
140369
Comment

OK, this is hilarious. In a very dubious beginning, the MetroDrunk site featured photos of the JFP's election night party on its first day in existence. Since I pointed out above that a photographer was at our party from there (did she really think we didn't know, or maybe she didn't see all the "JFP: Smart Alternative" banners!?!), the gallery seems to have vanished from the archives. LOL. They are so goofy. Meantime, y'all, remember that http://www.loungelist.com launched months ago while the Ledger was paying reporters to take drunk pics overtime. Head on over and join the (local) party.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-06T11:29:27-06:00
ID
140377
Comment

notice the BIG push of The CL's Weekender section today is all about MetroMix. Drunk pics are the centerfold!!!!

Author
2599
Date
2008-11-06T14:01:27-06:00
ID
140378
Comment

Right, they do stick the Weekend rag in the paper, right? I've about forgotten about it since they quietly dropped their white-box strategy of competing with us. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-06T14:39:45-06:00
ID
140396
Comment

I think the drunk pix thing is Gannett's attempt to understand how small weekly publications that are relevant to the communities they serve are thriving while big dailes are suffering. They just don't get it.

Author
kudzuking
Date
2008-11-07T08:36:00-06:00
ID
140402
Comment

No, they don't get it. You're right there. Mainstream media continually think that young people under 30 are shallow and stupid. There's nothing wrong with party pix (our readers post them at loungelist.com), but to hand the future of the newspaper company on such a thing, as they cut back on investigative reporting and fill the paper with nonsensical, passive-ridden reporting is absurd.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-07T09:36:36-06:00
ID
140405
Comment

OK, here an example of a really crappy Clarion-Ledger story today: Left finds landslide to be elusive Ana Radelat - Clarion-Ledger Washington Bureau - November 7, 2008 WASHINGTON -- Although there were cracks in the GOP stronghold of Dixie, Southern voters did not follow a national trend that saw white voters support a Democratic presidential candidate. According to exit polls, President-elect Barack Obama received 43 percent of the white vote nationwide. That's more white votes than were cast for previous Democratic presidential candidates Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and former Vice President Al Gore. It was about the same that then-President Clinton received in 1996. But most white voters in the South remained staunchly Republican in their presidential choice. They voted overwhelmingly for Republican Sen. John McCain while few African Americans did. "It's baffling sometimes," said Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Spearman of racially divided voting patterns in the South. In Alabama, which has a 26 percent black voting population, Obama won 39 percent of the total presidential vote, 2 percent more than Kerry in 2004. Spearman said it was an improvement for his party. 1. What's up with the headline? The story doesn't explain why the "left" finds a "landslide elusive." It's a non sequiter. The story is about white people in the South not voting for Obama. That doesn't mean that the left doesn't see it as a landslide; nobody in the left probably expected him to take the Deep South. A more salient point to explore is that now, it seems, a president can win big without taking any Deep South states. 2. On the topic of her story, she selectively leaves out the most important statistics: How many white southerners, and the percentage, actually did vote for Obama? How many white Mississippians? She talks about Alabama numbers, but quotes some Mississippians. We're different than Alabama with a high proportion of African Americans. She baits and switches by telling readers how many white Americans voted for Obama (43 percent, which is landslide territory, considering his race), but then doesn't complete the thought by comparing that to the South's numbers. She also tells us buried deep: "And Mississippi, which gave Kerry 40 percent of the vote, gave Obama 43 percent." So Obama did better among all voters in Mississippi than Kerry? Let's talk about that more and what it means. How about the fact that younger voters under 30 went big for Obama? Including whites? 3. How does she define the South? Without Florida, North Carolina and Virginia? She writes those populous states off as "cracks" without giving us any numbers. 4. Here's another massive non-sequiter statement with disturbing implications when you think about it: "Pinsonat also said Obama's win in Virginia is not an indication of weakening GOP strength in the South but of changing demographics." Huh? If demographics are changing, then that alone is weakening GOP strength. And if you don't think so, then you're assuming that certain voters (white), even if they are a shrinking pool matter more when it comes to "strength." What, as their numbers shink, they somehow maintain the same strength? That's absurd logic. This is a pitiful, under-reported story with a headline that makes no sense for the story that follows; never should have seen print. Oh, and note that Radalet nows works for the Ledger again. Remember that when the MBN agents were suing the Ledger, she suddenly was "Gannett News Service" and not a Clarion-Ledger bureau reporter. Now she has her old title back. What corporate schmoes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-07T09:52:19-06:00
ID
140408
Comment

Yeah, hmmm. Let's take this just a bit further, shall we? ;-) Reading Ana's surface report brought to mind two different things that I've read since the election that are extremely interesting looks (and considerably more in-depth) at how Obama won. First, this from MSNBC: *** Obama's four-legged chair: Our final NBC/WSJ poll before the election showed that Obama had a three-legged stool of support that contributed to his lead over McCain -- African Americans, Hispanics, and 18-29 year olds. And that poll (and others like it) proved to be right. Obama won African Americans, 95%-4%; Hispanics, 66%-32%; and 18-29 year olds, 66%-32%. But Obama had one extra bit of support that turned a three-legged stool into a four-legged chair: college-educated whites. McCain narrowly beat him here, 51%-47%, which helped reverse a 17-point deficit Kerry had with all whites in 2004 to the 12-point deficit Obama had last night. And it's what helped Obama do so well in suburban counties like the ones above in Pennsylvania or the ones in the I-4 corridor of Florida or the ones in Northern Virginia. That's the difference, folks, between losing an election and winning one. OK, so young voters, overwhelming minority support AND *college-educated* whites. What does that tell us about the South? Just that is ISN'T a MONOLITH. That should be clear from the wins in Florida, Virginia and now North Carolina for Obama. What do they have in common? They're Southern states that have been building post-industrial knowledge-worker centers (and some awesome places to live) for well over a decade. And second, this DailyKos diary: What is that showing us? Blue represents counties that went More Democratic in this election; Red is counties that went More Republican in this election. In other words, the GOP's main gains are almost exclusively in Appalachia. Not "The South" as a whole or even in "Mississippi" or "Alabama", which are false constructs in this argument. (At least, assuming you want to understand the argument instead of just placate certain constituencies. The C-L should be doing the best work on this issue, not the worst, because we've got an extremely interesting state demographic to work with.) This not only suggests that the GOP is at serious risk of becoming a marginal, regional party, but that the region will continue to be chipped as urban and technological centers grow -- leading to higher concentrations of educated workers ala North Carolina. Of course, the Dems could completely screw that up, too, so it's certainly in their best interest to get it right. But as of now, the GOP has a core message that only resonates in a largely rural sliver of the South.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2008-11-07T11:23:23-06:00
ID
140409
Comment

All, the Newspaper Deathwatch site picked up this thread. Other interesting stuff there, too. Cheers to them.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-11-07T11:27:35-06:00
ID
140410
Comment

"So there's money for drunk pictures....." LOL, Ladd. Those folks over at the CL have an interesting way of making the news but not making sense. It's a lot like the GOP and until they find out what is really wrong with the PARTY, they won't have a clue to what is wrong with their paper.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-11-07T11:56:11-06:00
ID
140412
Comment

iTodd wrote: [the GOP's main gains are almost exclusively in Appalachia]. It looks like they reddened up in the Ozarks also. It is a mountain thing :-).

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-11-07T12:06:09-06:00

COVID-19 has closed down the main sources of the JFP's revenue -- concerts, festivals, fundraisers, restaurants and bars. If everyone reading this article gives $5 or more, we should be able to continue publishing through the crisis. Please pay what you can to keep us reporting and publishing.

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