I did this cartoon last week for Editor & Publisher in response to the news that Gannett Co., the owner of USA Today and 85 daily newspapers in the United States, will be forcing employees to take an unpaid week-long furlough by the end of March.
Full disclosure: I am a former Gannett employee, having worked at the Daily Record in Morristown, NJ.
This announcement comes after a recent salary freeze and a 10% workforce cut in late 2008 that cost an estimated 2,000 employees their jobs.
Back in November, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow told employees he would take a voluntary 17 percent cut from his annual pay in a show of solidarity with other workers at the newspaper chain. He also told a Wall Street media conference that he’s prepared to cut even more newspaper jobs in 2009.
Dubow’s 2008 base salary was $1.2 million, according Reuters. His total compensation, including bonus, stock awards, options and deferred compensation, is about $7.5 million.
Gannett and other U.S. newspaper chains are facing hard times in 2009 as ad revenue declines accelerate because of advertising cutbacks brought on by the world financial crisis. In addition, many large national newspaper chains like Gannett, Tribune Company, Lee Enterprises, McClatchy, Gatehouse Media and Journal Register accumulated excessive amounts of debt which they are now struggling to either payback or restructure amid the current recession.
Gannett said in December that it expects its 2008 revenue to be $6.8 billion, down about 8 percent from last year.
In a spoof of the man-on-the-street interviews, the satirical newspaper The Onion posted an interview with made-up product controls consultant Rex Kelley, who reacted to Gannett’s furloughs with this quote:
“Let’s just tell all the world leaders, terrorists, scientists, executives, artists, athletes, celebrities, and people of local interest to take the week off, too, so we don’t have to worry about missing any news. Although, that would kind of be a news story in itself. This is turning into quite a pickle.”
One Gannett employee, posting anonymously on Jim Hopkin’s Gannett Blog, commented, “I love The Onion! Can I just work there instead of Gannett?”