The company is billions of dollars in debts, fired hundreds of designers and copy editors while setting up central copy desks in Massachusetts and Illinois, and to top it all off, the company, which has done everything it can to take the "community" out of community newspapers, has had its new management structure investigated by the SEC.
Using the same dictionary that enables it to call its products "journalism," GateHouse officials awarded themselves $1,495,000 in bonuses today, according to a filing with the SEC.
The amounts of the bonuses are listed below:
Michael E. Reed
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operating Officer
Polly Grunfeld Sack
Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel
Melinda A. Janik
Chief Financial Officer
The company began as a sort of pyramid scheme, buying up as many small town newspapers as it could collect, cutting them to the bone (and then some), combining services, centralizing operations and continuing to grow to more than 400 publications as it grew further and further into debt.
Finally, the time came when it could no longer make any more cuts on a regional basis, so the decision was made to reorganize according to the size of the publications and farm out copy desk and layout functions to central desks in Illinois (for larger newspapers) and Massachusetts (for smaller ones).
It awarded the contract to a company, Saxotech, a startup that had never done anything on this large a scale, something that quickly became obvious. The conversion was a miserable failure and has still not been completed (even though GateHouse has already eliminated dozens of jobs to pave the way for the new venture). Now the company is indicating that some of its newspapers might not go through the central copy desk until late fall next year.
Give those GateHouse officials a bonus. In fact, despite mounting losses, the top officials collected $80,000 more in bonuses than they did in 2011.
And as GateHouse Media and the hundreds of "community" newspapers it represents head toward their own fiscal cliff (2014 when its billions of dollars of debt are due), the company's top officials, especially CEO Michael Reed have nothing to worry about.
SEC filings indicate Reed, who has referred to the firing of hundreds of loyal employees as "rightsizing," will be sitting pretty when GateHouse finally goes under or when it decides to rightsize him.
If the company sells and the new owners send him packing, Reed is guaranteed three quarters of a million, including $500,000 in severance pay, a $200,000 bonus and continued health insurance payments.
This week, the forward thinking Reed showed how he earned his $800,000 bonus when he announced another new deal. Don't get your hopes up. It has nothing to do with investing more money into his newspapers to restore them to their former places of respect in their communities.
That would be too much to ask for. Instead, GateHouse trumpeted the announcement that it will now be using TV Guide to provide its television listings.
That ought to be worth another $1.5 million next year.