Thursday, June 11, 2009

A new Audi for a newspaper exec? A gag order for FJ employees?

Early today someone posted a comment (which I can't find because it was left on a much earlier post) that a current Booth executive has recently traded in an American mid-range car and purchased a very expensive "$80,000" Audi sports car which employees, all who have taken huge pay cuts, now see parked in a newspaper parking lot.

The commenter mentioned that the sight of the car has caused at least some employees extreme disgust as they ponder their new lives under tightened budgets and friends who are now gone through layoffs.

I'm not going to get any more specific that that until I get more information - or hopefully a photo of the vehicle - and at this point will assume that the report may be false. Do they make Audis in Michigan now? The foreign car aspect of this story is as troubling to me as the obvious tone deafness such a purchase would signal, again, if true.

Making things more difficult to get news about the newspaper is the new "Free From Editor" clause in the buyouts and severance papers of recently severed employees.

This is rich. A newspaper, a business that makes a living (although not much of one anymore) demanding transparency and frankness from everyone else, has inserted a "gag" (my word) order for employees leaving the paper saying they are prohibited from speaking ill of their former employer. If they do, they risk financial sanctions from the company.

The irony of that needs no further discussion from me.

Again, employees - past or present - are free to post here, anonymously if need be, as long as their comments are within loose civil bounds, don't contain obscenities, don't mention full names of people (with some rare exceptions) and that don't involve the families of employees or other personal, non-newspaper issues.

If you post anonymously (or make up a fake name) rest assured I do not see any e-mail address or direct link to you. I'm still trying to figure out who "inky" is and they have been commenting here since the beginning. I do get a Google Analytics report that tells me generally, by city, where posts are coming from. So far people from 275 Michigan cities, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 75 other countries have stopped by.

Do NOT post from work and if you see the Audi parked anywhere, let a friend or non-Journal employee snap the photo for me.


Anonymous said...

Well here is a hint. The man is from Flint and is heading production at VP and Flint. Nice car and yes It's true. I wonder if this was his reward for screwing all of the "NON LOYAL" employees.

jvwalt said...

As long as I've been in or around the biz, newspapers (and broadcasters) have always been highly secretive about their internal processes. Ironic at least, if not downright hypocritical, but true.

Anonymous said...

that clause is typical in buyout contracts.

hypocritical, maybe, but common.

did audiman used to drive a Bimmer? Or a Ford? hmmm.

gee, i have to go to downtown flint soon. maybe i'll swing by for a pic ... get it against the painted wall backdrop for an extra dollop of irony ...

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, Not only is there a gag order but if you read the 2nd to last page #3 at the bottom it states " Who is Bound ". I am bound by this General Release. Anyone who succeeds to My rights and responsibilities, such as My heirs or the executor of My estate, is also bound. This release is made for Your benefit and all who succeed to Your rights and responsibilities". So I guess our wives and children are also bound to this agreement. Hows that for authority?

Anonymous said...

Audi man is B.W.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of irony, has posted a "story" linking unemployed auto workers to John Dingell's resources for job retraining.

When I thanked Mr. Dingell and pointed out that this was useful information for soon-to-be ex-Ann Arbor News employees as well, my comment was deleted.

Nothing derogatory. Just one sentence pretty much word for word what I wrote above.

Anonymous said...

He's had the Audi for a while now. At least a year if not longer.

inky said...

The managers of Pravda (oops, I mean Booth)are so rattled by your blog that buyout recipients are banned from talking to you?

Love it -- congratultions!

I suggest a weekly honor (let's call it the Acorn Award) for the biggest display of hypocricy or other PR blunder committed by Booth or one of its agents in the previous week.

pam said...

New Audi for executive in a financially strapped/failing newspaper conmpany: $80,000

Bankrupt American car company bailout: $100,000,000,000

Failing newspaper employee gag order and Detroit executive driving a foreign car irony: Priceless!

Regarding this severance clause, it sounds like someone is really nervous, although some of the comments here state the clause is customary? I've heard of 'no compete clauses', and proprietary information clauses, but have never known a company to be so insecure about themselves they actually require employees not to say anything negative after they leave! It's like an admission of guilt. (more irony) The whole concept just sends me into fits of giggles and sets me to wondering how out of sorts the place is that they actually have to contractually require this little caveat?! Is there something to hide? Wonder if there might be a bigger story here, one interesting enough to sell more papers. That would be another rich irony. (for some reason I see that funny Falcon Crest clip in my head).

Guess they can't even identify with all the free publicity this blog offers them. Hey, even negative publicity can be great for business, especially something like a newspaper that is in the business of negative news and publicity. oops..more irony. We're just drippin' with it today.

Perhaps they know eventually more people will be reading this blog than their newspaper?

AndSheIsNepotismAtItsFinest said...

At least it is 70 percent smaller than the monstrous black Secret Service like boat of an SUV that Ann Arbor's publisher lugs around town in.

FactO'erFiction said...

Gag order? The Flint Journal? Is this the same paper that repeatedly criticized Don Williamson for exactly the same thing? Amazing!
Anyone ready to start a new one yet?

Anonymous said...

Bet he drives something else to work for at least a week or so, you know they monitor this blog the way the ACORN White House monitors Limbaugh.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it . Everyone who bought a foreign car is partly responsible for what is happening to this country. Here in Michigan it should be a crime. There is a direct domino effect in this state to what is happening to the GM plants here in Michigan and to every business the people that worked there supported.

Now you can buy a GM car because they will all be made in CHINA...Congrats!!

Anonymous said...

BTW... His car looks like a roller skate

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what kind of car he drives. This is the USA, land of the free right? He could have won the lotto, or his wife could have got a raise. There are better (Or worse I guess) reasons to dislike that guy, than the car he drives.

Eric said...

Why are they obligated to buy an American car just because the American manufacturers are struggling? It's not this persons fault that is happening.

Who cares what he drives? Of course he makes more money than the staff, execs always do. Welcome to America. What's he supposed to do? He can't enjoy the money he has because it might upset someone? Tough. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly, there is another BIG announcement coming from Booth sometime in July, according to some insiders @ Grand Rapids? Any ideas ? ?

Anonymous said...

Jake's comment about Dingell/AA News is still there. So either his post is wrong, or removed it and then put it back.

Jim of L-Town said...

Jake: Your comment does appear to still be there.

For the record: Buying a foreign car is legal and anyone has the right to do it. Never said otherwise. However, a SMART business person in FLINT would realize that the best message to send would be to drive the product that supports yours.

Again, it's the idea that there should be shared sacrifice - and an extravagant auto purchase - in the face of people getting their first look at their new mutilated pay scales - is simply management tone deafness.

On Thursday, FJ employees (and perhaps others at other Booth papers) got their first look at their new pay. It was grim.

If management was smart they would lay low and let this new reality sink in without lauding expensive vehicles over their struggling employees.

It's America, they can do whatever they want. I'm just saying it's not very smart.

As for me: The only vehicles I have owned for the past 30 years are American made, or American brands (Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler). Currently we drive a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe (purchased in December 2008) and a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria.

Both are excellent vehicles with great quality and performance.

Own what you want, but don't cry when the economy goes into the tank because many Americans are awarding foreign countries with their business.

Live local, shop local.

Jim of L-Town said...

For the record, when my wife and I purchase cars I only buy from American dealers who advertised in my former employer's newspaper. In this case: Al Serra. (Salesman - Jerry Parsons, best there is.)

Anonymous said...

Yup, it was restored. It showed 1 comment but when I clicked on comment to see it an hour later it disappeared and showed 0 comments. I suppose it could have been a technical glich on their end, but I prefer to credit Jim. It really is good info though. I printed it out.

Anonymous said...

Well guess what, It does matter what and who you buy from. Yes this is the U.S.A. and yes a free country. Change starts with the consumer: we are the ones with the power to control the economy but refuse to see it. Consumers in this country drive the worlds economy. With every import people buy; OUR economy here will suffer in one way or another. It is my right to my opinion as it is who does not agree with me. I will bet a lot of the jobs lost here in Michigan supported a big chunk of newspaper subcriptions

Anonymous said...

BTW Jim,

Glad to hear you buy AMERICAN. You hit the nail on the head. Much respect for your opinions and values.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last persons comment on buying american. It does make a difference. It's not hard to do and if you stop and look at the stores you frequent you just may be surprised that they will be cheaper than the foreign competition.

Some things may be harder to find but I think it's worth the time and effort.

If I owned a failing restaraunt I surely would not buy food from my competition across the street. I think that was the point he/she was trying to make. I agree. Help starts at home.

Anonymous said...

FYI - I work at another Advance newspaper and the Publisher drives a brand new corvette, the President drives a brand new yellow porsche and they both park in a place where everyone gets to see them. They bought them a while back, right when they started making cutbacks.

Its hard to believe that this kind of stuff is happening at all the papers, not just mine. Tragic, actually.

Anonymous said...

actually B.W. drives a Volvo

Anonymous said...

All the best cars are made in other contries. All the cool cars are made somewheres else. Its a personal chose. I don't live in Flint, but I did many years ago.Id love to see someone try to tell me what I can or cannot drive.

Anonymous said...

I will not value your opinion until you learn how to spell.

Anonymous said...

"All the best cars are made in other contries"

You should go live there.