Adventures in voluntary buyouts: Volunteer, or you will be volunteered

Remember when Gannett announced a new round of early retirement incentives aimed at cutting the numbers of senior (i.e. high-cost) staff? Well, the deadline is almost upon us. And apparently, not enough Gannetteers are volunteering.

The offer, for those just joining us, was open to staffers 55 or older, or who had at least 15 years’ seniority in the company. Employees with 25 years or more seniority would get two weeks’ pay per year of service (capped at 52 weeks’ pay); those with 15 to 25 years seniority would get 1.5 weeks’ pay per year. Vermont’s Gannett outlet, the Burlington Free Press, has some notable Olds on its masthead, including Mike Donoghue, Michael Townsend, and Aki Soga, who would presumably qualify for the gilded plank.

Last week, Gannett’s Chief People Officer (I kid you not; that’s his actual title) David Harmon sent a letter to all staff, reminding them that the deadline for this offer is Monday, October 12. And delivering some unsubtle hints that so far, enthusiasm for the offer has been less fulsome than expected.

We hope that those of you who have not accepted are giving careful consideration to this offering.

Hint, hint.

If we don’t achieve our goals, we will need to re-evaluate where we stand and we can’t rule out implementing other actions in the future.

Threat, threat.

Harmon closes with a reminder that “the program is completely voluntary,” which is nothing but eyewash. If they don’t get enough volunteers, the hammer’s coming down. And the next offer might not be so generous.

We’ll see if Harmon’s missive inspires a last-minute wave of ardor, or perhaps panic. Either would be acceptable as long as the corporation achieves its cost-cutting target. And we await with trepidation the impact of the buyout on the Free Press’ senior staff.


3 thoughts on “Adventures in voluntary buyouts: Volunteer, or you will be volunteered

  1. newzjunqie

    Hilarious takeaway on a sobering topic – roflmao after reading this keeper “… would presumably qualify for the gilded plank”.

    Perhaps their outstanding veteran journalists wiil join the ranks of Mike Faher who went from the Reformer to Vtdigger where he now covers Windham Cty – the Reformer is still publishing his stories via Digger. Had to laugh at seeing his name mispelled in one of the republished stories but par for their course.

    Howard Weiss Tisman also of the Reformer is now at VPR. Both outstanding veteran local reporters. Looks like Brattleboro is buying the building for new police station and Reformer renting some space. Paper is printed in Pittsfield MA and a shell of what it was, they followed the model of the Free Press by greatly raising the price then mandating purchase of “online content” claiming it’s ‘free’ with print purchase. Numbers have dropped like a rock. Keene Sentinel which is a competing paper appears to be doing just fine as is the Valley News in a different area but competing with Times Argus and to a lesser degree the Herald, which are now greatly pared down versions. Kevin O’Connor who wrote for both is now writing for Vtdigger. The Herald, according to grapevine reports is down to 9000. Unsure if source intended to include both of their birdcage liners.

    Expecting VPR with its multimillion expansion and Vtdigger to become centralized news outlets scooping up the reporters along with the news of these once fairly good papers and areas covered. Stringers in select localities could be used. There is presently no news to speak of in southern Windsor Cty unless there’s a fire or tractor trailer rollover.

    When the bottom line became above all and the most important aspect, with news and service second it precipitated a downward spiral from which they have been unable to recover. Cutting an arm or leg off as a weight loss plan may work however the consequences are permanent.

  2. Scott K. Stafford

    First Sam Hemingway. Now Mike Donoghue. Stalin’s purges were as well-organized. Ultimately, it’s a continuation of the ongoing death-spin. The only thing local papers have going for them any longer is *local* content, by *local* reporters who know the community intimately. Now we’re getting AP phoned-in content about Vermont stories – and bunches of bush-league lackwits who can barely write a coherent sentence and whose ties to Vermont is limited to visiting Starbucks.

    Free Press, you’re doomed. Your silly paywall is circumvented trivially by Cookie Cutter. And nobody’s interested in buying your rag anyhow. Woodstoves and the need to light them up are your last chance. Beaten by FatWood. A rain forest product!

  3. newzjunqie

    Well it’s official – 5 Freepers will walk the “gilded plank”. And your scooped story was credited as one of the sources for the Vtdigger story:
    – “Retirement buyouts have also been a trend in the Vermont economy. This year, about 300 state employees applied for retirement incentives meant to cut the state’s budget. GlobalFoundries, which recently took over the IBM plant, also offered buyouts in September”.
    Seven Days:

    End of an era. Sad for them all as I was for veteran statehousers Nancy Remsen and Terry Hllenbeck although they, along with other reporters from all major newspapers have migrated to Vtdigger and VPR & Seven Days, along with other talented reporters being snatched by the above.


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