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A Monday morning memo to USA Today staffers:

Date: June 8, 2015 at 10:46:56 AM EDT
To: A message from Bob Dickey
Subject: Announcement

I want to share with you all that Larry Kramer will be joining the board of the new Gannett and will be stepping down as president and publisher — effective at the time of the corporate split.

As most of you know, Larry passionately took on the challenge of making USA TODAY a digital first news organization in May of 2012. During his three years at the helm, he has helped USA TODAY and its related brands reimagine the iconic “newspaper.” This 40-year veteran newsman and online pioneer came out of retirement to help us forge a path in a rapidly changing landscape — while keeping a keen focus on quality journalism. His personality, personal brand and joy for the industry have given us numerous contributions.

Over the last three years, our USA TODAY newsroom has proudly earned numerous journalism and product awards. During his tenure our mobile page views are up 50% and visitors are up 150%. Larry helped implement our USA TODAY Local print edition that has brought USA TODAY content to 35 Gannett local markets, as well as a growing number of non-Gannett markets, more than doubling our print circulation.

Before arriving at USA TODAY, Larry was president of CBS Digital Media. Prior to that, he founded and led MarketWatch for 12 years before selling it to Dow Jones in 2005. His journalistic roots come from his more than 20 years as a reporter and editor.

We will be conducting an extensive search for our Chief Content Officer role.

And, we will soon share details for a reception honoring Larry’s role with USA TODAY. Meanwhile, please join me in thanking him for his service and welcoming him to his new role on our board.

Bob

* Gannett board approves completion of spin-off transaction (gannett.com)




USA Today editor-in-chief David Callaway said on Wednesday that the company could stop publishing a daily print newspaper as early as the next “five or six years.” (A weekly USA Today print edition coming soon?)

That remark didn’t go over well with Jim Gath, who was on the ground floor of USA Today. He tells me in an email: “I was there from the 2nd prototype onward – from 3/81 to 10/94. Was Director of Special Sales, Director of Sports Marketing & VP/Advertising. Also a founder of Baseball Weekly.”

Gath says of Callaway’s remarks: “To me & to an awful lot of other people out there who remember what having guts is like, this idea of ceasing the print version of USA TODAY is nothing short of a travesty. Not a shame, mind you. A friggin’ travesty.”

He adds: “People WILL buy pieces of paper with stuff printed on it. But only if they feel they can’t live without it or it adds an important, welcome addition to their lives. If you give people something they can’t possibly get anywhere else, they’ll flock to your door.”

His full blast is posted on Facebook, but it’s reprinted after the jump for readers who’ve chosen not to log in at Mark Zuckerberg’s place. Read More

USA Today editor-in-chief David Callaway says of this Tuesday post:

I think the story yesterday misrepresented the depth of the talent in the newsroom… [including] a ton of great social [media] people, and data people and news people who are taking over some of the more prominent positions in the newsroom.

There’s been goodbyes, there’s been tears and hugs, but most of the people leaving are pretty excited about having a lot of time off, paid. And you know what? They’re all getting offers, because they’re all news pros.

* USA Today editor says he won’t disappear in spinoff (capitalnewyork.com)
* Editor: Daily USA Today print edition could vanish in a few years (adage.com)

New: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s new owner offers buyouts (bizjournals.com)

A Romenesko tipster and Gannett employee writes:

One of the remarkable aspects to [last week’s USA Today] buyouts is the number of top execs leaving. Along with Money editor Anne Willette and deputy editor of personal finance Rodney Brooks [mentioned in this post], they include:

* David Colton, Executive Editor
* Susan Weiss, Executive Editor
* Brian Gallagher, Editor, Editorial Page.
* Dennis Moore, Managing Editor, News
* Fred Anklam, Senior Night Editor
* Bonnie Tkach, Director of Edit Operations
and a bunch of other editors, reporters, photographers and graphic artists.

There are still big outstanding questions, including:
* Will the new Gannett bosses insist on further layoffs before July 1?
* Will [editor-in-chief David] Callaway and [publisher] Larry Kramer stay?
* Will there be any hiring after July 1, the target date for the spin-off of the publishing company?

Will the top bosses be pushed, or depart voluntarily?

I don’t think Kramer and Callaway are going to be replaced so much as they may want to leave on their own, especially Kramer. I don’t think either is clear on what their roles will be in the new company. That said, it would surprise me if they don’t stay through the year.

Laura Petrecca is USA Today’s new Money editor. The memo is after the jump. Read More

John Waggoner, who wrote the crack above two weeks ago, is one of 50 or so USA Today employees who accepted the paper’s buyout and were toasted by colleagues yesterday. He tells readers today:

This is my last column for USA TODAY. My company has offered a generous buyout package for those of us who started writing when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and I’ve taken it. But I haven’t retired, and will be writing elsewhere.

Where will you be writing, John? I asked.

“Right now, I’m going to be decompressing and taking lots of walks with my dog,” he writes in an email. “After that, I’m going to try my hand at freelancing and see how that works out.”

* John Waggoner writes his final USA Today investment column (usatoday.com)
* Claudia Puig writes her final USA Today film review (adweek.com)
* Earlier: Good advice from USA Today’s money guy (jimromenesko.com)

New: USA Today Money desk is hit hard by buyouts (talkingbiznews.com)




usatodayFrom DAN MITCHELL: USA Today gave space to a “radical Muslim cleric” (as the bio under this piece puts it) to bash France for not censoring Charlie Hebdo.

It’s “balance.” Just another “view,” and as we know, all “views” are equally valid, and deserve to be heard. He’s “entitled to his opinion,” and so forth.

How did we get to the point where people actually think like this? Not like the radical Muslim cleric (that’s no mystery) — like the clueless, misguided editors who published this nonsense.

* People know the consequences of provoking Muslims (usatoday.com)
* Why USA Today ran today’s “Opposing View” (usatoday.com)
* More comments about USA Today’s “Opposing View” (twitter.com)
* Why it’s important that USA Today run essays like this (washingtonpost.com)

New There’s a lively discussion about this on my Facebook wall

USA Today staffers got this Monday afternoon memo from boss Larry Kramer:

From: USA TODAY Publisher
Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 2:09 PM
Subject: Congratulations!

Dear Colleagues,

I couldn’t wait to tell you some great news. In January, for the first time in our history, we served more than a billion page views across our digital platforms.today Our total of 1.1 billion pages views over mobile, tablet and desktop was a 36.7% jump over last January and 17.6% over last month. This is a huge milestone on our journey to the top of the digital news and information world. Thank you for all the hard work you have all put in to keep us moving in the right direction.

Cheers,
Larry




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

——-
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)