By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Top managers over at the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette must be feeling a little underappreciated right now. And no one could blame them. They have surveyed their own staff, and the results--well, they're nearly unbelievable.
After all the improvements management has made over the last few years--including the addition of respected columnist and statesman Dan Quayle to the R&G team--only 12 percent of Gazette employees say they feel free to voice their opinions openly.
As if anyone at the R&G were ever punished for speaking his mind. Or hers, for that matter.
Just 14 percent of Gazetters say Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., does a good job of involving employees in decisions that affect them. Only 19 percent think the newspaper treats employees as "its number one strategic asset."
And a mere 19 percent think information flows properly, either up or down the newspaper's chain of command. (A survey of Republic staffers, which New Times has yet to see [fax number: 340-8806], reportedly shows only marginally better results.)
The dismal survey responses, of course, follow a series of equally depressing public relations problems.
The misunderstandings began with the proposal to build a baseball stadium downtown. By now, everybody knows R&G management begged Jerry Colangelo to locate the stadium anywhere but directly on top of the newspapers' unused warehouse.
But Colangelo wouldn't budge; no warehouse, no baseball. So R&G management sacrificed the warehouse, even though it meant suffering a rash of public abuse.
Then came the supposed sex party at Cedric Ceballos' house.
The only evidence that Phoenix Suns players had engineered a wild porno party immediately after losing in the NBA playoffs was a 65-page police report. That was all.
Editors at the Republic and Gazette separately arrived at the same honorable decision: PNI reporters had never before used police reports as the basis of news stories. They would not start now.
And for that simple--and absolutely ethical--decision, management stood accused of fomenting some kind of cover-up.
And now. Now, publisher Chip Weil and his management team must be beside themselves with indignation.
Public misperception is one thing. That is part of playing in the major leagues of journalism. But unwarranted hostility from your own employees has to be galling.
And hostility there was.
Because the survey results obviously were incorrect, R&G execs initially planned to describe them only in a general fashion to employees. The less said about false data the better.
But--and can you believe this?--reporters at both newspapers demanded to see the actual results of the survey. The writers even claimed to be insulted when management noted, quite properly, that journalists simply are not equipped to interpret opinion polls.
In the end, as a show of good faith, R&G managers released the survey numbers to their staffs. Discussion groups were held. Disagreements were hashed out.
But clearly, something else needs to be done; ungrateful employees are spreading false perceptions and undermining management's program for R&G excellence.
Viewed from an impartial perspective, the solution seems obvious. At least some of the most embittered employees will have to go. Exactly how many will be asked to move on is, of course, a decision that only R&G management can make. Dismissing longtime employees is never easy.
If the R&G does add new blood to its staff, though, New Times can help. We have developed a screening test that should provide the Republic and Gazette management with exactly the type of writers and editors it has always wanted.
Because of the current morale emergency, New Times is offering the Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., Personality Test (PNI-PET) to R&G management free of charge. We'll send along an answer key any day now.
@hed:PNI Personality Test
@deck:So you want to work for the Republic and Gazette? Send your answers to executive editor John Oppedahl, Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., 120 East Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004. He'll get right back to you.
@sub:Style and Content
@body:1. Respected columnist and statesman Dan Quayle is often a subject of news stories at the Republic and Gazette. How should his name appear in the paper?
a) Dan Quaylee
b) Dan Quayleee
c) Dan Quayleeee
d) President Quayle
2. Because of its close relationship with readers, the Arizona Republic has acquired many fond nicknames through the years. Which of the following is not a proper substitute for the Arizona Republic?
3. Which of the following is not a major news story worthy of extensive coverage?
a) Schoolchildren sometimes smell bad after recess.
b) An ostrich has gotten loose.
c) A bear has gotten loose.
d) The Republic will make millions from a controversial public-works project.
4. Montini is:
a) A cocktail made with gin.
b) A bland, nonalcoholic cocktail.
c) An endangered species.
d) A freshwater fish found in the Dead Sea.
5. If an R&G reporter turns in a story that is not published for several months, he or she should:
a) Politely ask an editor for a conference to discuss the story.
b) Politely ask whether additional research on the story is needed.