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Activist investor Carl Icahn is seeking two seats on Gannett’s board and wants to prevent the company – he owns about 6.6% of it – from installing defenses against potential takeover bids. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore sent this letter to employees after the news came out Thursday morning:

From: A message from Gracia Martore
Date: January 22, 2015 at 8:54:17 AM EST
To: Gannett Communications
Subject: Gannett Responds to Icahn Actions

Dear Colleagues,

Today, investor Carl Icahn, who with affiliates owns approximately 6.6% of Gannett shares, disclosed that he has nominated two candidates for election to Gannett’s Board of Directors at our 2015 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.gan Mr. Icahn also proposed certain non-binding corporate governance provisions at both Gannett and at our Publishing company following its upcoming spin off.

While we welcome constructive input from our shareholders, our Board strongly opposes Icahn’s overreaching agenda and will not be deterred from continuing to serve the best interests of our employees, our customers, and all of our shareholders. The press release Gannett has issued in response to Icahn’s actions is attached for your reference.

While we don’t know how Mr. Icahn will conduct himself, there is likely to be press coverage of his comments about Gannett in the weeks and months ahead. I urge you not to be distracted by whatever he chooses to say about our company. Gannett is in a very strong position, and the best thing we can all do is to stay focused on our business and our day-to-day responsibilities. As always, any media inquiries should be directed to Jeremy Gaines at (703) 854-6049.

Thanks to your hard work and unflagging dedication, we have successfully reshaped and revitalized our company to better compete in today’s multi-platform media landscape. We look forward to further enhancing the competitive positioning of our Publishing company and our Broadcasting/Digital company following completion of the separation later this year.

We deeply appreciate the great work you do every day for Gannett.

Sincerely,
Gracia Martore

* Activist investor Carl Icahn wants two seats on Gannett’s board.(nytimes.com) | Icahn’s letter to Gannett CEO Gracia Martore (gannett.com)




My memories of Gannett in 2014: Layoffs, the “Newsroom of the Future,” and reporters on the coffee, wine and beer beat.

The CEO’s memories of Gannett in 2014: Going on a “transformative journey and uncovering new ways to engage our audiences in today’s multi-media landscape.”

From: A message from [CEO] Gracia Martore
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2014 1:20 PM
To: Gannett Communications
Subject: Happy Holidays!

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare to turn the calendar to 2015 and spend time with our loved ones, I want to thank you and express my deep appreciation for what you have accomplished in 2014. I am truly inspired by your efforts and what you have achieved this year.gan Because of your hard work, we have a positive impact every day on the people, businesses and communities that rely on our trusted products and services.

Your knowledge, experience and commitment to this company enable us to serve our markets exceptionally well as we fulfill our First Amendment responsibilities and support a free and vital press./CONTINUES Read More

- From Sunday's White Plains (NY) Journal News

– From Sunday’s White Plains (NY) Journal News

“Would you want this graphics person giving you a ‘tatoo?'” writes the tipster who sent this image from Gannett’s Journal News in White Plains, NY. “I think endangered copy editors caught it before it went online.”

* Best tatoo tattoo studios (lohud.com) | See a larger view of “Top Tatoos”
* Earlier: Gannett newsletter spells the company name “Gannet” (jimromenesko.com)




The journalists at Gannett’s Montgomery (AL) Advertiser were interviewed for new positions last week and are waiting to hear if they can continue to work at the paper. (They know that some staffers will be let go.)
give
“Here is the real kicker,” an Advertiser employee tells Romenesko readers. “We just had three straight days of meetings – you had to attend one (roughly 15 minutes) – to hear about the United Way. Our publisher strongly encouraged us to donate money, using the guidelines of 1% of salary if salaried or 1 hour per pay period if hourly, to the charity.”

Employees were told they had to fill out a United Way donation form – even if they aren’t giving money. “Nobody’s upset about being charitable, but we’re less than a week removed from interviewing for our jobs and some from the newsroom are going to be fired … and we’re having a required meeting in which we’re encouraged to donate money.

“Several employees noted the incredible irony of the timing of this.”

Same situation in your newsroom? Let me know.

Update: Read the comments about this from my Facebook friends and subscribers.




There are many congratulations for Amy Haneline in the replies – but there’s at least one raised eyebrow, too: “So IndyStar cuts back education coverage and adds a reporter to the beer, wine and coffee beat? Congrats!”

* Excited to announce my new job at @indystar…” (@AmyBHaneline)

Some of the other new Indy Star beats include: Indiana Pop Culture; Wellness Culture; Fighting for You (consumer advocate); Going Places; and Law & Order.

Read the 10-page “internal use only” Indianapolis Newsroom Beats memo.




Update: It’s been recovered “as a result of witnesses spotting the very distinctive car.”

To celebrate the launch of its Juice youth-aimed magazine, the Des Moines Register in 2005 gave away a new Scion tC. “We figured that whoever won this free car would paint over this so they weren’t stuck driving around in an advertisement for our fine publication,” writes Juice staffer Joe Lawler. “But we were wrong.”

The car was recently stolen and “for someone who is trying not to get caught, this [failure to paint it over] could be a negative,” notes Lawler. But the Webster County Crime Stoppers told me this afternoon that the colorful vehicle is still missing.

* Someone stole Juice’s car (dmjuice.com)




A reader who forwarded this Gannett document emails: “Below are some details about Gannett’s paywall. Our publisher told us we’ll be rolling one out in the coming months.”

———-

From: Kane, Michael S (Wilmington)
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:10 AM
To: [Multiple email addresses]
Subject: Consumer FAQ

Attached is the Consumer FAQ. This should be used to address questions you receive from the marketplace regarding the new subscription model. Please let me know if there are questions that come up that are not addressed in this document.

Thanks for your patience.

Mike

New Subscription Model
FAQ for Consumers

Beginning February 1, we will implement a new subscription model. Subscribers will have access to all of our content. That means you will be able to access our content where and how you want it — through all platforms, including web, mobile, smart phone, tablet and delivery of the print on the days you select.

If you choose not to subscribe, digital access will be limited to a small number of articles a month.

Why are you making this change?
Today, readers access our unique, high quality local content in a number of ways. This full access subscription model creates a structure to allow readers to choose how to read our news and information.

In conjunction with this effort, we are also investing in the unique local content we deliver across all platforms including tablet, mobile, and new technologies as they come to market.

What are the benefits of this new full access model?
Subscribers can access content anywhere and anytime using digital platforms. The content accessed through the Web, mobile, and tablet will be frequently updated and will provide coverage of breaking news and events through articles and photos as well as provide content that cannot be included in print, such as databases, streaming video, blogs and chats. The subscription pricing is aligned with content value. Unlike in the past, subscriptions remain active during vacation periods. You will be able to continue accessing the content while traveling, including viewing a digital replica of the print edition. If the subscription also includes home delivery of the newspaper, you will be credited a portion of the subscription which relates to the delivery expense for the print edition./CONTINUES Read More

NEW: USA Today uses a blue ball for its new logo.

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They were dubbed “The Blue Ball Three.”

USA Today sports department staffers Karen Allen; Denise Tom, and Cheryl Phillips were fired 10 years ago this week after scrawling “Kilroy was here” with their fingers on a Lita Albuquerque sculpture near the offices of then-Gannett CEO Douglas McCorkindale.

“Everyone is horrified,” a USA Today staffer told Howard Kurtz for his Dec. 5, 2001 Washington Post story. “Everyone is thinking this is an insane, ego-related firing.”

Even the artist was stunned by the dismissals: “Oh my God! Are you kidding?” Albuquerque told Kurtz. “This is crazy! I think it’s a terrible thing, firing people from a lifetime job for what is essentially graffiti.” A legal defense fund (“The Blue Journalists Fund”) was started, and USA Today staffers pledged to boycott the newspaper’s Christmas party.

My letters page was filled with protests from journalists.

Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News wrote:

The USA Today firings are simply flabbergasting. I’ve spent years boring people with rants about the toxic decline of fun in the newsroom, and how much more delightful work used to be in the days of yore when there were colorful fistfights over women, banter that would now be considered harassment and delirious watergun battles on deadline, but this is taking the insurance-office ethos to a whole new level. Somebody wrote “Kilroy Was Here” with their fingertip in DUST? Was there even a sign saying keep off the dust? What’s the penalty for magic-markering clever limericks about the publisher in the toilets? Execution?

Gail Gedan Spencer wrote in her letter:

Re: the firing of the USA Today staffers: Good thing they haven’t fired anyone who had ever stuck pennies in the eyes of the Al Neuharth bust — there’d be no one left. (Is that still at the HQ? I haven’t been there since the late ’80s — when I stuck pennies in the eyes.)

Daryl Lease, then with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, sent me his “Top 10 back-up protests at USA Today, just in case the Christmas party boycott doesn’t work” for posting on the Romenesko MediaNews letters page:

10. Begin answering the phones with a chipper “USA YESTERDAY”!
9. Connect all the paper clips on management’s desks.
8. File stories six, maybe even seven, paragraphs long.
7. Start a rumor that the paper is really owned by Moonies.
6. Refuse to write a lead or headline in the first person plural, except in extreme polling emergencies.
5. Switch the office decaf to caffeine, and the caffeine to decaf.
4. Start a rumor that the paper is really owned by Tony Ridder.
3. Three words: Black and white graphics.
2. Stage a marathon reading of Al Neuharth columns in the lobby.

And the No. 1 back-up protest, in case the Christmas party boycott doesn’t work…

1. Add ellipses to the sculpture and blame the whole thing on a disgruntled Larry King.

Gannett CEO McCorkindale never discussed the Blue Ball firings, but his spokeswoman told American Journalism Review that there had been “an act of vandalism involving a piece of artwork at Gannett headquarters…it was investigated, there were security tapes. Criminal charges were considered, [but] we’re not going to do that.”

In that same AJR piece, Linda Mathews — then USA Today’s cover story editor — said that what the women did to the sculpture “was stupid and thoughtless, but it wasn’t malevolent.” The three dismissed staffers, she said, were “not troublemakers, and they’re very conscientious.”

Mathews added:

“I would have thought that everything we knew about their character would’ve been taken into account before they were fired.”

What the Blue Ball Three are doing now: Denise Tom is Program Associate at California Community Foundation, according to LinkedIn, and Cheryl Phillips is Seattle Times Data Enterprise Editor. I couldn’t locate Karen Allen. (Anyone know? Contact me at jim@jimromenesko.com)

UPDATE: Lisa Hoffman tells me — “Happy to say Karen Allen is alive and well and living in a house she’s building in Colorado. After her firing, Scripps Howard News Service was lucky enough to hire her. She was the features editor with us for about five years, then left to bag it all and move to the mountains. She now is a freelance editor for SHNS, working virtually, and, again, we’re thrilled to have her.”

* Read more Blue Ball Three-related letters (Note: The Wayback Machine pauses a few seconds before going to the letters page)