Friday, October 28, 2011

Nice work if you can get it

Originally published in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.

So, you suffer a little from paycheck envy, don’t you, Mr. Private Sector?

You’re envious of that teacher down the street who you think is making too much money. He has a nice benefit package and a terrific pension plan, too.

You? Your company has eliminated its pension plan and is making you pay more money toward the cost of your health insurance. In addition, your company is forcing you to take a pay cut, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll lose your job.

I know what you’re thinking.

Darn teacher.

Redirect your anger, Mr. Private Sector.

Meet Craig A. Dubow, who retired earlier this month after six years as Gannett Corp.’s chief executive officer. Gannett owns WKYC-TV, Channel 3, in Cleveland as well as other media outlets, including USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

According to the New York Times, Gannett’s stock price declined from $75 to $10 a share during his stint. When he took over the company, Gannett had 52,000 employees. Now it has 32,000.

Many of those discharged employees were reporters and editors – the people who cover hundreds of communities across the country for Gannett newspapers. They’re in towns such as Coshocton, Newark and Zanesville.

Dubow, like so many others who direct media companies today, apparently believed that the way to profitability was to eliminate the guts from the product. Just before he announced his resignation, Gannett said it was cutting another 700 jobs.

The Times reported that Marjorie Magner, a member of Gannett’s board, said in tribute following Dubow’s retirement announcement: “Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.”

Magner should have kept to herself.

Maybe she should have said this: “During Craig’s tenure, our company’s finances tanked. People quit reading our papers, and advertisers left in droves. Then the economy blew up in 2008 and things got even worse. We couldn’t sell TV ads. We tried to attract younger readers and viewers, but we didn’t have a clue how to reach them.

“Thank goodness Craig finally saw that it was time for him to leave the company. We gave him a 12-week severance package.”

But Magner didn’t say that, and she and other board members ultimately signed off on a $37.1 million golden parachute for Dubow. And that, the Times said, was on top of $16 million paid to him over the last two years.

Wikipedia’s entry on Dubow noted that the severance package amounts to $50,000 for each of those 700 recently discharged employees.

As the Times’ David Carr points out, Gannett’s Dubow is not the only media chieftain to leave the party with plenty of cash and prizes. There are many other examples of media companies gutting their properties while handing off huge bonuses and golden parachutes to the guys in charge.

That’s the real strategy for a lot of the folks in control. It’s not about making anything, as Carr points out, it’s about lining their own pockets.

Craig Dubow and his ilk deserve your scorn, Mr. Private Sector, not the teacher, or the cop, or the firefighter who live down the street.


Last week I reported that a source told me that all members of Dover City Council actually support a ballot initiative that if passed would clear the way for construction of a new high school. Dover City Council, as a governmental body, apparently does not intend to endorse the project.

I was told that during routine canvassing by supporters it was learned that at least one council member is not in favor.

On Facebook, I posted an invitation to all Dover City Council members to go on the record with their views on the proposed project. And as I expected, I received no responses.


Most Tasteless Commercial of the Campaign Season Award goes to U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Cleveland, a Democrat, who champions clean air and fights those nasty energy companies. Her commercial features a child in a classroom wearing an oxygen mask and who apparently suffers from asthma. The rest of the class is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with politicians using afflicted children in political commercials. Talk about air pollution.

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