Top executives' greed vs. sensible cost-cutting
Note added April 11... Looks like David Carr at The New York Times agrees... 7 weeks later.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote in this space about my disgust with The New York Times for giving its top executives large raises and
especially the 35% raise to its President and CEO, Janet Robinson (putting her annual salary up from $4.1 million to $5.5 million). These moves were made just as the paper was forcing its newsroom and other employees to accept a 5% wage cut, in the face of a first-quarter 2009 operating loss of $61.6 million.
I said then that all the paper's problems certainly couldn't be laid at Mrs. Robinson's feet, but I wondered what sort of leadership, ethics and common public relations sense she and her Board must have to make such a move at that time.
Well, here we go again, except this time the greedy culprit is Gannett, which has been instituting some hefty layoffs at its papers over the past two years. Some of those layoff have been done in a brutal and demeaning way, as I noted when they began to take place in August, 2009.
MediaPost reported today about a story in Gannett Blog, which I'll admit has a biased viewpoint since it is written by a former USA Today editor and is populated by comments from disgruntled current and former Gannett employees. That caveat aside, Gannett Blog points out some real greed and questionable management judgment at the publishing giant.
Gannett's newspaper division has shed, the blog says, nearly 7,000 employees since 2008 -- a cut of more than 20%. No doubt, there was some fat that needed to be eliminated. And cutting personnel is often the fastest way to initiate cost-savings to help the bottom line.
But where is the sense -- or the morality -- in paying the CEO nearly $5 million, including a cash bonus of $1.45 million, even as 2,000 employees were laid off throughout that year? The Gannett Blog says the company's annual report will disclose next month how much the CEOs pay and bonus was in 2010, as nearly 10% of the newspaper division's staff was cut.
Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that something doesn't smell right here? Greed appears to trump common sense, morality, employee morale and public image. And perhaps it's impacting good news coverage and journalism, too.