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Gannett’s Commitment to Diversity Reflected in Work on Conventions, Mentoring Program

Virgil Smith of Gannett’s Human Resources Department leads many of the diversity efforts in the company, including Gannett’s presence at the ethnic journalism conferences every summer and the Talent Development Program. NEWS WATCH asked Smith to provide an overview of the company’s diversity efforts.

Virgil Smith

By Virgil Smith, Vice President/Talent Management, Gannett Human Resources

Gannett remains committed to diversity even in difficult economic times.㄀ Our impressive standing is a reflection of some of the good efforts of Gannett’s managers and editors.㄀ The company continues to concentrate on diversity in two areas:

DIVERSITY:㄀ First, we continue to support the concept and belief that Gannett’s greatest assets are its people.㄀ We believe diversity includes everyone.㄀ We believe that increasing workforce diversity will bring unique perspectives, experiences and ideas to our company.㄀ Moreover, we believe diversity drives innovation and creates reader, customer and operational solutions.㄀ Check out this 30-second video with the company’s refreshed diversity statement:

At Gannett we accept and respect the diversity of everyone.㄀ Diversity of life experience, culture, education, interests, race and ethnicity, age, socio-economics, physical abilities, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and other beliefs encourages innovation and powers ideas. Diversity is the foundation of Gannett.

ACCOUNTABILITY:㄀ Second, the company is committed to accountability.㄀ We believe strongly that our workforce should reflect the communities we serve, so we created the annual Leadership and Diversity Progress Report to measure our diversity and the career development of our employees, specifically women and people of color.㄀ In 2008, 90 percent of Gannett units achieved a commendable or higher rating on the Leadership and Diversity Progress Report.㄀ Along with the annual report, we review progress of the total workforce monthly for diversity and voluntary employee turnover.㄀ With the reductions in staffing over the past few years, you would think that our diversity representation has taken a severe hit.㄀ On the contrary, we are pleased to report that in comparing year-over-year percentages of minorities and females, we have maintained our standing and we are slightly above last year for Top Four Jobs in the company, which are Officials and Managers, Professionals, Technicians, and Sales Workers.㄀ Thanks to you and your commitment we continue to be the industry leader in diversity.

JOURNALISM CONVENTIONS:㄀ We supported conferences financially and the workshops.
This past year we attended and supported financially through the Gannett Foundation journalism conventions and job fairs hosted by Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, American Indians and others in cooperation with U.S. Community Publishing, USA TODAY and Gannett Broadcast.㄀㄀ Attendance was down at the ethnic journalism association meetings; however the quality of the candidates and the programming was strong.㄀ We conducted journalism workshops at NABJ and AAJA.㄀ The workshops and participants follow:

New Digital Tools for Investigative Journalism’㄀㄀ (NABJ)

    Ann Clark, News Executive, U.S. Community Publishing, Moderator

    Africa Price, Executive Editor, Shreveport
    Brad Heath, Reporter, USA TODAY
    Don Hudson, Managing Editor, Jackson, MS
    DeWayne Wickham, Columnist, USA TODAY/ContentOne

‘New Digital Tools for Investigative Journalism’㄀㄀ (AAJA)

    Kate Marymont, Vice President/News, U.S. Community Publishing, Moderator
    Stanton Tang, News Director, WFMY-TV, Grand Rapids, MI
    Roxanna Scott, Senior Sports Writer, USA TODAY
    Mary Chao, Reporter, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

‘How to Manage a Big Story:㄀ Case Study’ ㄀㄀(AAJA)

    Frank Witsil, Copy Editor, Detroit Free Press, Moderator
    Catalina Camia, Politics Editor, USA TODAY
    Ritu Sehgal, Deputy Managing Editor News & Features, Detroit Free Press

‘Lessons from a Pulitzer Prize Winning Investigation’㄀ ㄀(AAJA)

    Kate Marymont, Vice President/News, U.S. Community Publishing, Moderator
    Paul Anger, Editor and Publisher, Detroit Media News Partnership, Detroit Free Press

‘Creating a Website:㄀ A Quick Guide’ ㄀㄀(AAJA)

    Elizabeth Jia, Multimedia Journalist, WUSA-TV, Washington D.C.㄀ (TDP Graduate)

We believe we demonstrated our commitment to diversity by attending and participating at the ethnic journalism workshops, and we plan to attend all of the aforementioned journalism conferences again in 2010.㄀ If you have any questions or suggestions for the conferences in 2010, please let us know – we encourage your participation.

LEADERSHIP & DIVERSITY COUNCIL:㄀ The LDC continues to work on people-related strategies. Recently a company-wide webinar was conducted with the U.S. Census Bureau.㄀ The webinar provided journalists with an in-depth look at the mechanics for the 2010 U.S. Census and responded to questions that will be of assistance for database reporting.㄀ The webinar also demonstrated how to find information on demographic shifts in the targeted markets.㄀

The LDC has developed a company-wide “Exit Survey” for employees who voluntarily leave the company.㄀ The results of the exit survey are e-mailed to the HR representatives for each Gannett location.㄀ In addition, the LDC has worked with Corporate Communications to improve the career site on㄀

GANNETT MENTORING PROGRAM:㄀ As part of our ongoing effort to retain our best talent, we are preparing for the third year of the Gannett Mentoring Program.㄀ There were 123 mentoring pairs selected to participate in the program this year.㄀ The mentors and mentees were nominated by local units and then selected to participate in the program.㄀ As part of the program the mentors and mentees were able to participate in two webinars on how to manage change when the future is unknown and power, leadership and achievement. The program has been very successful according to the mentors and mentees who have participated. Listed below are a few comments on the program from participants in the program.

    “It was good to have somebody at another property at the same level as my manager to bounce ideas off and to have a level of confidentiality that you may not have in your own building.”
    “I’ve learned so much from my mentor and I have taken her advice and recommendations to help me in my day-to-day working environment.”
    “I think I was able to provide my mentee with some good advice, and he felt comfortable confiding in me.”

We encourage editors to become mentors to share and assist in the development of our mid-level managers and to nominate some of your best people for the 2010 Mentoring Program.㄀ A request for nominations will be sent in early January 2010.

TALENT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM:㄀㄀ We visited a host of the nation’s top colleges and universities searching for the best talent we could find. We did hire a few journalists in 2009 from the conventions and found five Talent Development Program Journalists who are listed on the TDP Web site. The Talent Development Program has 27 journalists participating at USA TODAY, local newspapers and television stations.㄀ We will continue to find the best journalists we can for participating newspapers and television stations by visiting ethnically diverse schools and encouraging editors and news directors to participate in the Talent Development Program.㄀

PIPELINE OF TALENT:㄀ A key challenge for us is to ensure we have a pipeline of diverse candidates who can ascend to higher level positions in the Information Centers.㄀ We encourage you to list high potential candidates on the annual Leadership and Diversity Progress Report and to contact us directly for career development and succession planning strategies.㄀

We appreciate the strong and unwavering support we have received from editors.㄀ It is true that Gannett editors champion diversity more than any other group in the media industry.㄀ Please contact me if you have specific questions or have comments regarding how we can improve our efforts.

Last Modified: December 2009