Editor's Note: Robert Annis now freelances for NUVO among other publications.
An open letter to Gannett CEO Gracia Martore:
You probably don't remember me; I was one of 62 employees who were laid off at The Indianapolis Star last June. Of course, 700 other employees across the country also were let go around the same time, so I forgive you for not being able to put a face to a name.
I wish I could say I was shocked when I heard you had asked many of the remaining employees to take yet another one-week unpaid furlough less than two months after your predecessor, Craig Dubow, walked away with a $37 million retirement package. But then again, this is Gannett we're talking about.
It's not like Craig didn't deserve that money, just like he deserved the more than $16 million he made in salary and bonuses the previous two years, as thousands of employees were let go or forced to take unpaid time off; he did some special things during his tenure as Gannett's fearless leader. Look at the stock price, which went from about $10 a share to more than $75. Oh, wait a second, that's backward — Gannett stock actually dropped by $65 a share. Just the same, not many CEOs can say they managed to do that.
I felt for Craig as he left the company. Physical ailments are tough, just ask the pressroom guys or the reporters who can't afford their health insurance premiums after you cut Star newsroom employees' salaries by 10 percent a few years ago. I don't think the cause of his back pain was ever made public, but I'm guessing it had something to do with that enormous golden parachute weighing him down and not the crushing guilt that he was raking in so much cash at the expense of hard-working employees across the company.
I apologize for any glaring mistakes; it's 3 a.m. as I write this and like any good journalist, I'm nothing without a great copy editor. Of course, the current reporters are going to be finding that out soon enough, after you outsource the copy desk jobs to a hub in Kentucky. But why stop there? Why not ship the jobs to India or China or somewhere they don't even speak English at all? After all, it's not like a copy editor based in Louisville is going to automatically catch when, let's say, Pennsylvania Street is mistakenly referred to as Pennsylvania Avenue. That might embarrass the old guard — Pennsylvania is the street the Star is located on, in case you're wondering — but I don't think you or the rest of the executive crew at Gannett's headquarters in McLean, Va., are capable of shame.
I'm proud of the decade I spent working at the Star. I was never going to win a Pulitzer, but I was dedicated, hard-working and genuinely loved my job ... mostly. I used to tell friends and co-workers I loved being a Star reporter, but hated working for Gannett. Everyone knew what I was talking about. You've taken a once-respected, but still extremely profitable, newspaper and wrung every last cent you can from its withered husk.
The media landscape is constantly changing, but you and the others at Gannett HQ seem content to remain on a sinking ship, looting the fine silver and tossing random crewmembers overboard. I would consider you and the rest of Gannett's leadership (term used loosely and with a bit of a smirk) common whores, setting aside any concept of morality and ethics for money, but that's an affront to prostitutes everywhere. At least when one of their clients gets screwed, he's walking away with a smile on his face. Parasite might be more appropriate, as company executives continue to suck workers dry.
But it's no longer my problem. I've moved on — bitter, late-night screeds not withstanding — to new challenges, with my head held high. I don't think you or Craig can say that.
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