July 2, 2009

Tough times for Gannett

Gannett Company is reportedly poised to cut more than 1,000 jobs (7/1/09) as it tries to overcome the financial woes of the current recession.

It’s not yet known how these massive cuts will impact the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, the only Gannett newspaper in South Dakota.

A decade ago, Gannett – the largest newspaper company in the United States – employed some 41,000 workers. Including the imminent round of reductions, Gannett employees will number closer to 28,000.

A half century ago, journalist Paul Miller – an Oklahoman – headed the Gannett organization and helped it become the largest newspaper chain in America. Although I never met Paul Miller (no relation), I had the privilege of serving as KOSU General Manager/Assistant Professor for a few years in the Paul Miller School of Journalism and Broadcasting at Oklahoma State University. That was in the 1970s.

It was Oklahoma A & M University back in 1931 when Miller earned his degree in Stillwater. Born in Missouri, he spent much of his youth in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Then, while attending A & M, he took a year off to work for the Okema Daily Leader. That's a young Paul Miller reviewing some copy in the photo at left.

Oklahoma State University has put together a nice collection of Paul Miller photographs/quotations. Despite his enormous success as a manager and leader in the newspaper and broadcasting business, he apparently considered himself first and foremost as a “reporter.” Reading through numerous quotes attributed to Paul Miller is inspiring. Had journalism not strayed from some of the principles embraced by Miller, I doubt that the industry would be in quite the pickle it is today.

Not that Miller – or his successor, South Dakotan Al Neuharth – could have staved off all the troubles facing the media in 2009. But I believe much of the media lost public trust long before the economic meltdown began late last year.

Miller and Neuharth are long gone from decision making at Gannett. Let’s hope that the principles advocated by Paul Miller will find followers in a new generation of journalists, motivating them to believe in and practice objectivity, fairness, and truth.

"SUBSTANCE ahead of Form;

BALANCE ahead of Speed;

COMPLETENESS ahead of Color;

ACCURACY ahead of everything. . ."

-- Paul Miller, September 18, 1965

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