A source at the Republic relates the following internal scuttlebutt on Monday's massacre, which laid waste to 31 Rep jobs, at least 7-to-8 of which were in editorial: It's supposedly a 1% cut locally and is part of Gannett getting its house in order so as to make a bid on Tribune Co. papers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Gannett's interest in Tribune Co. is no big secret. Yesterday, the AP reported that Gannett was "kicking the tires," and looking to buy. The bad news, according to the Rep source, is that there will be more cuts to come. This was just the first go-around.
Of course, the intense fear Rep staffers now feel may have spawned some of this speculation. They may have reason to be afraid. Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell told me in a phone interview today that the 1% story is not true, though she would not deny that more heads might end up on the chopping block. Nor would she deny that other Gannett papers might be cutting staff.
"It's a local decision," she insisted. "It has nothing to do with the company at large, or anything to do with Tribune. We haven't commented on Tribune. We haven't said a word about Tribune. This is a local decision based on local economic situations. That's all this is."
Local economic situations?
"Meaning the local economy in Phoenix," she specified. When I informed her that the PHX's economy is buzzin' along like a chain saw through a vat of butter, she broke it down further:
"Meaning the advertising revenues coming in Phoenix to the newspaper. It's not making the ad revenue it needs to. There are auto dealers, traditional retail [advertisers lost] -- it's a problem that's happening throughout our industry. And Phoenix is responding to the economic conditions in Phoenix by making these changes. As you know, Gannett runs a very tight ship."
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It probably doesn't hurt Gannett to have a story out there about its "tight ship" and its layoffs as it's looking to make a big purchase. Let's be real, investors love a bloodthirsty executive team willing to slice off its own limbs if need be to turn a profit.
Still the timing is embarrassing. This is the week of the 23rd annual Walter Cronkite luncheon in PHX, with Tom Brokaw in attendance to pick up the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. It's arguably the biggest journalism event of the year here in AZ. Couldn't the Cap'n Crunches at Gannett wait a week or two? Apparently, not.
For the record, AZ Republic publisher John Zidich took a break from firing people to call me back and say he couldn't comment on personnel matters. He did laugh a lot as I asked him questions, though. What a tool. Rumor has it his name is pronounced, "ZeeDick" around the Rep water cooler.
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