Saturday, March 7, 2009

Read this email from the publisher of the Modesto Bee and tell me what you think

An emailer forwarded a copy of an email sent to Modesto Bee employees by publisher Eric Johnston. Read this email and tell me what you think.

"Good afternoon everyone,

By now many of you have probably heard the rumors or read the hateful, angry comments regarding The Modesto Bee and The McClatchy Company. The claim that bothers me the most, and one I want to respond to directly, is whether The Modesto Bee is going to shut down. I can answer that very simply - no. There is also considerable speculation about when layoff announcements will be made - those notifications will happen next week.

There are those who enjoy seeing us fail. They don't care about The Bee, your family, or our community. The challenges we face are a result of forces larger than our company, our city, our state or our nation. Even in the face of such adversity, I believe we will survive and ultimately thrive.

As we proceed through this year we will be a smaller company. I would challenge you to view this time in our history as I do - our chance to take the resources we have and create the model 21st century media company.

As part of that process we will be critically reviewing all facets of our operation - everything we produce, every process we have, every procedure we use - giving emphasis to those that work and eliminating those that don't. I will call upon everyone's creativity, passion and skill to find the best solutions for every problem.

If you were to believe our critics, you might think we are doing everything wrong. I however, disagree. So, what have we done right? Of the many things, two recent examples come to mind.

First, The McClatchy Company recently named Garth Stapley as a recipient of a President's Award for his research and reporting of the 'Framing our Future' series published last year. The stories were striking in their originality, and took a complex issue - managed growth of valley communities - and presented it in a very understandable way. In this year-long research endeavor, Garth had cooperation from colleagues throughout the building - all of whom made it a team-effort and a great piece of community-oriented journalism.

Second, at the center of our printed product business is our circulation. The accurate reporting of every paper delivered is crucial across our entire enterprise. Each year we undergo an extensive audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations - our audit for the 2008 year just wrapped up last week. I am pleased to share that we passed the audit with flying colors and that no adjustments or corrections were required. Congratulations and thanks go to Tracy Prachittham in Finance for her ongoing and fastidious management of our circulation accounting.

I appreciate your creativity, your passion, your skill, and everything you do for The Bee."


I have my own thoughts but thought I'd throw it out there to see what you think.Leave your answer in comments.



Dave D. said...

...So the two most successful accomplishments of the MoBee are giving an award to there own reporter and counting the copies they gave away and sold accurately. Wheeeeeeeeee!! A damned proud moment for the whole Central Valley, yesseree Bob. Faces glowing from Redding to Bakersfield.
..But promising the paper won't fold....just another lying S.O.S. McClatchy Manager, gulling the desperate and depressed.

Anonymous said...

"They don't care about The Bee, your family, or our community."

Ex-McClatchy editorial person here. The Bees can be properly accused of not caring about their communities or anyone else's families.

Some of the comments posted on this blog might sounds hateful to them, but you can see they are not even considering other comments about their slanted story choices and coverage. Bee people dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as ignorant, unenlightened "White Trash." They do.

The current economy has hurt the industry side of newspapers, but Bee3 (Sac, Mod and Fres) self-righteousness and bias has been keeping their circulation stagnant for years now.

You would think that just normal journalistic curiosity would cause them to study this blog and consider what is said here. It breaks my heart to the Bees in such trouble, but it hurt my head to work in one of their newsrooms and listen to the contempt they showed for area residents.

McClatchy Watch said...

Dave D -- Yeah, the one about accurate circulation numbers was especially noteworthy.

Anonymous said...

Titanic sends up beat telegram ashore, touts brave crew. YAWN!

Anonymous said...

Well, If I was working there and I thought everything was all just peachy-keen up until now, this e-mail would scare the hell out of me.

This guy must have taken an on-line management course from the Little Big Horn School of Enthusiasm Under Adverse Conditions.

Anonymous said...

Denial is such a horrible thing.

Anonymous said...

Eric open your eyes your just another pawn for MCclatchy. First there was Lynn Dickerson she jumps ship because she knew the ship was sinking. So then the brought in Margaret Randazzo as the new publisher to keep it afloat for a bit longer so Darla Ruiz could come in with her and start punching holes in the ship and throwing employees overboard. Now there is Eric The captain that will finish the Titanic off and steer the ship directly into the iceberg. NEWS FLASH the Modesto Bee is going down everyone grab what's left of the life vests and jump in the remaining lifeboats.

Anonymous said...

Sort of sad, really. Guy's obviously been swallowing the pablum for so long he may actually believe the crap he's being fed by the PTB. And like a good little soldier he's going to try & rally the troops. He'll be completely surprised when it becomes clear he's being used as just another sacrificial pawn.

Anonymous said...

Eric's real wisdom will be revealed when the layoff list is disclosed.

I'll be proud of him if it includes a bunch of over-paid, under-performing managers (i.e. editors Mark Vasche and Dan Day).

But if all he's willing to cut are reporters, photograhers, graphic artists, layout and copy editors, clerks and librarians, then Eric is a fool and The Bee is doomed.

We'll see what he's really made of this week.

Anonymous said...

Little Big Horn School of Enthusiasm Under Adverse Conditions.

Good one!

Anonymous said...

We really need for these "news"papers to just be liquidated. I honestly believe that the news media will not improve until the current incumbents collapse and something new rises from the ashes.

One could argue that the current monopolies, of one major newspaper per city, is harming the development of creative 21st century news media.

We need these dinosaurs to die-off so that we can get on to the business model that will actually work.

I have no doubt that these current publishers/editors will fail in their attempts to transform their companies. They are simply from the old school and lack the mental tools to adapt.

Anonymous said...

The hardest thing at ModBee is that we've been waiting 6 weeks to hear who and who will not be laid off (this time). The psychological toll it has exacted on the employees is horrific--and by that I am referring to the folks who do the work, not the management. It is like the elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge. And what makes it even more bizarre is that the sales teams are being asked to roll out new initiatives and programs to our advertisers--and yet don't even know who among them will be staying or going!

Anonymous said...

"The hardest thing at ModBee is that we've been waiting 6 weeks to hear who and who will not be laid off (this time). The psychological toll it has exacted on the employees is horrific...."

We went through that at the zoned editions. Two or three years.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of dinosaurs, that reminded me:

Anonymous said...

Tri-City Herald announces cost-cutting measures:

Anonymous said...

The only corporate approved BS he forgot was "we thank you for all that you do."

Anonymous said...

I don't comment here often, but this got me thinking about something I just discussed the other day.

The publisher criticizes people who he claims want to see the paper fail because THEY don't care about the employees and their families while if he really cared he would take more of the hardship on himself.

The pay of the publisher and the rest of upper management could be cut by FAR more than 10 percent and save the jobs of several people he claims to care about.

It is really easy to ask other people to sacrifice. It is hard to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of someone else.

Anonymous said...

This is what I believe will happen in Modesto: All editorial duties will be transferred to Sacramento save for local reporters (they may even resort to contract-only stringers like AP). All advertising and circulation duties will be transferred as well save for ad sales personnel. Printing no longer is done locally. The building will be sold as it will be far too big for the remaining personnel. The reliability of technology/IT will determine whether The Mod Bee will continue beyond that.

My advice for anyone with any marketable skills is to get your resume, etc. together and start looking for another job if you haven't already. You may be able to hold on to your Mod Bee job in the near term, but soon it will be gone as well. That's what I believe McClatchy won't tell you because they need to keep you around until the very end. They cannot do it without you and will take all that you are willing to give, for less, of course.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:42 you are so right. Eric was promoted to Publisher. With his promotion came a large pay raise. I'm sure Eric's lifestyle is still adjusted to his prior salary pay scale at the moment. So Eric taking a pay cut to save a job or two would be a step in the right direction for himself the employees at the Modesto Bee and McClatchy.

Anonymous said...

"...soon (your job) will be gone as well. That's what I believe McClatchy won't tell you because they need to keep you around until the very end."

Yes, yes, yes. Sac Bee managers decided to cut my job on a certain date, and send me to one completely different. I found out about those plans two months ahead of time, and my editor did not deny when I asked her. I lined up another job and gave notice a day or two later. they just needed me to fill out the job until the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

Two words in regard to the publishers letter: Baghdad Bob.

One word in response to 12:19. Bingo.

Anonymous said...

12:19 p.m.: You are the top of the hit parade today.

Anonymous said...

The notion that newspapers are just victims of larger forces at work is just wrong. Of course there are larger forces at work, but dishonest execs have been hiding behind environmental factors to hide their own incompetence, or malfeasance forever.
The Execs at the Bee have dismissed the little people, stuck their thumb in the eye of significant parts of the market that don't think like they do and failed to innovate on the business model. They seem desperate to avoid the blame for incompetence that is coming their way.

Les Weatherford said...

Some folks you want to invite to a tavern for a beer, just so you can have the pleasure of asking them to step outside.

Les Weatherford

Anonymous said...

My Les, you've become awfully violent since getting canned. What I don't understand is why you are still enamored with those that fired you and want to target everyone else that they screwed? You need some help buddy. Someone as wimpy as you threatening people and challenging them to fights is apt to get hurt.

Hmmm, maybe that is the plan though. Suicide by fist in your mouth?

Anonymous said...

Upper management has taken a far greater hit on pay that what you know, and much deeper than the average cut. When they get to that level, a good percentage of pay is bonus and stock options, not salary. All of that is gone for 2009, and it wasn't great in 2008. Eric is showing great leadership in trying to communicate with everyone at the paper. He must feel a little like Obama, take office at a time when the company is struggling to no fault of his, yet he has to try and reassure staff and guide the changes. The bitterness and anger here is unbelievable. Channel that energy to looking for work. I lost my job too, but so what, millions of Americans have lost theirs in this mess. If it's McClatchy, or it's the business model, then hundreds of thousands of other businesses must be messed up as they are doing the same thing with cuts. Seems to remind me of a great line from 1992, "it's the economy stupid"

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, MClatchy has taken care of employees far greater than any company I know of. To give such a huge severance package to laid off employees in this environment is admirable. I received 18 weeks plus 3 months of health insurance. My sister in Texas received nothing after 12 years of employment. Like most things in this country, when people are given too much, they have an expectation of entitlement. MClatchy has overstaffed it's newsrooms for years (see the Inland study), and cut other departments far deeper for the past year to save that staff. It's about time the newsroom had to share in the pain. Now they need to implement some productivity standards like most newsrooms in this country.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:29 Dude you da man!

Let me translate for you for the little people

You’ll never know what hits we’re taking here in the executive suite

“Pass the champagne will you, and send out for a lobster dinner, I’m blogging”

You see, up in the clouds of the executive suite, we just get stock option. No cash, honest

“Honey. I’ll be late for dinner so, yes the steak house is fine, and yes snoogums, when MNI goes belly up, yes the south of France is just fine”

You see, (feet on desk), I’m just like the new guy in office, (who just snubbed the Brits, that we refuse to report on), this is a transition period that’s tough on US all, (sip, slurp, belch)

And you’d thank us all here, if you only knew just how tough we have it here, and It’s not our fault

You pathetic POS little man. Sell it to linda williams, and lokeman you idiot!

Anonymous said...

6:28, 7:09. Josef Goebbels can’t hold a candle to you! You tell em! (wink, wink)

Anonymous said...

“And for years, I made sure we had tons more people then we needed, like in the newsroom, and those extra people salaries could have gone to my executive pay, but I made sure the little people got taken care of, and you should thank me for all I’ve done for you.”

Anonymous said...

“And although we signed a trillion dollar stimulus bill that will bankrupt this country, I created 25police jobs in…what state are we in again?”

“And although I have bankrupted MNI with my leftist policies, I have saved a few jobs here at MNI”

Anonymous said...

melanie (sill), please have the courage to sign your posts. (anom629 and anom 709)

Anonymous said...


“No honey, I did some great work today, I told em it’s the economy, and everyone is suffering under this gosh darned recession. My conclusion, as usual, was brilliant.

“Of course they listened. Sure there area a few hard core hanger oners out there, but another blog or two and I’ll have them eating out of my hand. Hey, It’s me!”

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, MClatchy has taken care of employees far greater than any company I know of.

If I thought you were smart enough, I'd think for sure that you are an ex employee inciting violence against McClatchy management.

Sadly though, I am pretty sure you're just a total dumb f#$k that got your job based on the color of your skin, your sex, or what you like to have sex with. You pretty much have to believe that garbage you just spit out because no ordinary person of average intelligence is going to buy it.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, MClatchy has taken care of employees far greater than any company I know of.

By the three mouseketeers. melanie, linda williams, and "three heels" lokeman

Anonymous said...

As a Modesto Bee employee (and no where near the management level) I can say I appreciate the communication level on Eric's part. It's nice to hear something from the Publisher's Office. I respect the fact that he's not hiding out in his luxe office, he's in my department daily and responds personally to our emails when we have worries and is quite honest. I've known Eric since he got to The Bee and I honestly feel that had he been Lynn's replacement instead of Margaret, our newspaper wouldn't have been as bad off. The online initiatives we are implementing now that Eric is in office shouldve been done years ago when other media companies were transitioning. While I'm nervous to know if I will have a job next week, I'm at least a little relieved I have a timeline. Sigh, I just want this to be over!

Anonymous said...

12:19 mentioned selling the building. Problem is that they have to sell the press first and no one wants to buy it. It is a fine press with a lot of mileage left but if worse comes to worse, they might have to sell it for scrap. No one can afford to buy any major purchases in the present economy.

As for the blinded Pro McClatchy souls still employed at the Bee...Eric is a nice guy, Margaret was a nice person too, so was Lynn, Orage was really good to the employees at the ModBee. But ever since MNI became an icon on the NYSE it has been a gradual downhill event and with the exceptionally wise decisions pioneered by high and mighty (scary) Gary P. it went from a gradual slope to a downright avalanche. One wonders where and when the snowball will stop (in Hell?)Yes MNI has been generous with severance, but wait till your 3 months of company subsidized COBRA runs out and then you will need and ambulance and EMTs to restart your heart when the bill comes for $1,300 or more a month.
Eric J started at ModBee in the IT area and has helped pioneer on-line ideas and innovations which I feel only acted like a rouge torpedo heading back toward the ship.
Man the life rafts, forget about rearranging the deck chairs. It's every exec. for himself!