Open Container: D-News F-U | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Open Container: D-News F-U

Posted By on August 31, 2010, 5:05 PM

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Deseret News executives execute a mugging, Tijuana-style, on their employees.--- 

In Tijuana at the age of 20, two guys mugged me. In short, I went into a liquor store and bought a bottle of rum. A guy was waiting out of sight, just outside of the door, and when I came out and turned down the sidewalk, he kicked me in the balls. I doubled over, and his friend grabbed my George Costanza-like wallet from my back pocket. They got my $12 in cash and my ID, I kept the rum.

Today, at the Deseret News, executives of Utah's oldest-daily newspaper did the exact same thing to their employees. They kicked them in the nuts, stole their purpose and livelihood, and sent them down the road. I brushed my mugging off as part of the adventure, since I lost nothing more than my dignity. The Deseret News executives took the same approach, basically telling the 43 percent of their staff that has been fired that the layoffs are just part of a grand adventure to greater things.

Credit where credit is due: The Deseret News executives have been amazingly consistent in their level of incompetence and arrogance. I won't even parse anything before today, because in the last 24 hours they have secured themselves a place in the Hall of Corporate Fuck-ups. It began last night, when they called night staff at the end of their shifts–around midnight—to tell them they had to come to a meeting this morning. They put out a staff e-mail at 7 a.m. Then, they had a 10 a.m. staff meeting in which CEO Clark Gilbert told them that everything they feared was going to happen, but hey—the world would be better because of it, and by the way, the newspaper will live on. Because, you know, editors and reporters and photographers and paginators and feature writers and sports writers are pretty inessential to a newspaper.

It continued when the meeting ended with one of the best examples of corporate double-speak I have ever read. Seriously, this thing should be a teaching tool for future White House spokespeople. But it's not the double-speak that galls me, although I could write my own 1,000 word rebuttal to it if I felt so inclined. It's that they wave good-bye to the fired employees as if those leaving are nothing more than slightly wet farts. Change the underwear, spray some Lysol. Problem solved. This release seems to run almost 1,000 words, including a six-paragraph lead, and the best they can do is say there is a "reduction in staff."

After the release, enter stage right: Jay Evenson. I like Jay, and always found him reasoned. Yet today, he wrote a blog that starts with this gem:

I'm assuming that by now you've read all of the rumors about what will be happening to the Deseret News. Now it's time to hear the truth.

The truth is simple: the rumors that I reported were true. The only thing they continue to dispute is that the paper will end daily publication. That's not a rumor, it is—as I wrote—my own insane suggestion that nobody else agrees with.

Meanwhile, as corporate PR slugs were churning through their messaging, the paper's hatchet men were holding individual meetings with people to tell them their fate. Those who were fired immediately were told to pack their stuff and turn in their computers, all under the watchful eye of muscle-bound goons with headsets.

Finally, Gilbert went to the brave new world of the Internet this afternoon, which he preaches an affinity for, and basically got pantsed during a live Twitter interview. He fled the scene with zero questions answered and a whole lot of frustrated tweeters.

As I've disclosed so many times, I worked for the Deseret News for a long time. My experience was that they were a company who cared about employees, who treated their workers well and who genuinely cared about the product. They did not exercise the type of corporate arrogance that has become a hallmark of American management, at least not until today.

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