In two late afternoon meetings with newsroom staff Monday, part of a series of such gatherings in every department of TheTennessean
, publisher Ellen Leifeld offered her thoughts about how the daily can cut costs and stem its ever-declining Sunday circulation.
Since everyone’s clamoring to know the answer to the obvious
question, Desperately will go ahead and tell you now: cake is not a part of the equation. During what one employee describes as “a candid but not feel-good meeting”—where Leifeld specifically forbade staffers to take notes—she said that expenditures for such things as overnight shipping and frosting-topped delights for departing employees would be reviewed much more closely.
They took away the coffee pot—and the coffee—in the newsroom years ago. So now when reporters and editors go across the street to the Exxon Tiger Mart for a cup of joe, they can grab a Little Debbie snack too. Because chances are pretty good that the steady legion of editorial staffers marching out of the newsroom for other opportunities will get little more than a clipped email from managing editor Dave Green announcing that they’ve left the building. Upwardly mobile Gannettoids, however, might get lucky with a slab of sheet cake from Kroger. That will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, probably in triplicate. Just warms the heart.
But perhaps we’ve buried the lede: Leifeld also told the group that she would continue to encourage editor E.J. Mitchell to franchise personalities in the newsroom, whereupon she then confirmed that, yes, she paid gossip columnist Brad Schmitt and music writer Peter Cooper more money to stay at the paper after both submitted, then withdrew, their resignations a few weeks ago.
“She said they paid them more to stay because you just wouldn’t believe how many people buy the paper because of Brad About You,” one staffer tells Desperately. (Speaking of Brad, has Dr. Travis Stork scratched his ass today? Because we depend on Brad to keep us posted. Oh wait, here it is on p. 3: “Don’t forget that Travis will co-host a bachelor and bachelorette auction on April 27 at the Vanderbilt Student Life Center, and more hotties have been added to the lineup.”)
More substantively, Leifeld made it clear to employees that more would be expected of them and that changes are on the way. She told them the newspaper would be stepping up its partnership with WTVF-Channel 5 and with other Gannett papers to enhance its standing in the community and to ensure that Gannett’s smaller midstate papers and The Tennessean
aren’t duplicating efforts. She also mentioned that the company might be getting into the niche-publication business.
Staffers say they appreciate Leifeld’s willingness to be so frank, even if she was describing a sort of crisis mode at the paper. She shared revenue and cost figures to help explain why the measures she’s suggesting are necessary. The series of meetings comes just a week after freelance writers were either fired or saw their pay cut.
Note to potential ship jumpers: we at the Scene aren’t perfect, but we do have coffee and cake. Of course, it resides right along with hairy ice cubes and pizza in the fridge from circa 2005.
“I think she won’t be coming back”
That’s what a desk clerk had to say when we called Diane Long at The Tennessean
Monday. Long, a quiet and diligent reporter who’s been covering Metro K-through-12 education at the paper for as long as anyone can remember, has left the building. She didn’t get a cake.
In an email she sent to a select group of friends at the paper, she said she’d “encountered a major turn in the twisting road of my life. Translation: I’m no longer employed by The Tennessean
Sources say she submitted her letter of resignation on Friday after having been asked to transfer to the higher education beat. “After searching my heart,” she told her colleagues, she decided to decline the beat change and resign.
For a fleeting moment, Desperately was curious why other Nashville media outlets were ignoring the legislative proposal to ban dildos in Tennessee. Writer and editor E. Thomas Wood of Nashvillepost.com
had the best answer: “If we tried to cover all the high weirdness that ensues at the statehouse, we would hardly have time to beat the daily on business stories as regularly as we do. Besides, I tend to think Lord Rochester had the final word on this subject quite some time ago (http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/dildo.html
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