Good jobs at good wages

Context is everything. Yesterday, I wrote about the compensation packages of GateHouse Media’s top two officials, chief executive Michael Reed and the just-promoted president and chief operating officer, Kirk Davis.

What I wrote was accurate, but I failed to consider what top executives might be making at other newspaper companies. As it turns out, there’s nothing special about Reed’s salary ($925,000 in 2007) or Davis’ (about $461,000). Reed’s 2006 compensation, $6.4 million, included a lot of stock, the value of which has presumably all but disappeared.

With 2007 revenues of $589 million, GateHouse is on the smaller end of the publicly traded newspaper companies I looked at this morning. But its challenges are as great or greater than those of much larger companies — it’s staggering under a debt load of $1.2 billion, and its stock price has fallen so much that it was delisted this fall by the New York Stock Exchange.

Anyway, here’s a quick cruise around a few other newspaper companies and what they paid their top managers in 2007, ranked by 2007 revenues.

Gannett Co. ($7.4 billion)

  • Craig Dubow, chairman, president and chief executive officer: salary, $1.2 million; total compensation, $7,546,710
  • Gracia Martore, chief financial officer, executive vice president: salary, $700,000; total compensation, $3,026,985
  • Susan Clark-Johnson, chairwoman of U.S. community publishing: salary, $735,000; total compensation, $3,145,339
  • Not-so-fun fact: Employees have been told to take a one-week unpaid furlough during the first quarter of 2009
  • Financials from WSJ.com

New York Times Co. ($3.2 billion)

  • Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman: salary, $1,087,000; total compensation, $3,439,280
  • Janet Robinson, chief executive officer: salary, $1 million; total compensation, $4,142,410
  • Michael Golden, vice chairman: salary, $1 million; total compensation, $1,706,579
  • James Follo, chief financial officer and senior vice president: salary, $480,000; total compensation, $859,273
  • Not-so-fun fact: A recent, widely disputed essay in the Atlantic speculates that the flagshap New York Times could cease publishing as early as this May
  • Financials from WSJ.com

McClatchy Co. ($2.3 billion)

  • Gary Pruitt, chairman and CEO: salary, $1.1 million; total compensation, $4,635,355
  • Patrick Talamantes, chief financial officer and vice president for finance: salary, $500,000; total compensation, $938,970
  • Three vice presidents of operations are paid salaries in the range of $500,000 to $600,000; total compensation is around $1.1 million apiece
  • Not-so-fun fact: The debt-burdened chain is trying to sell the Miami Herald, but can’t find any takers
  • Financials from WSJ.com

Journal Register Co. ($463 million)

  • James Hall, chairman and chief executive officer: salary, $394,750; total compensation, 411,233
  • Scott Wright, president and chief operating officer: salary, $201,923; total compensation, $231,040
  • Julie Beck, executive vice president and chief financial officer: salary, $337,500; total compensation, $431,510
  • Robert Jelenic, former chairman and chief executive officer: salary, $945,396; total compensation, $6,318,394 (Jelenic died last month)
  • Not-so-fun fact: The deeply troubled company is closing some of its papers and selling off others
  • Financials from the company’s 2008 proxy statement (PDF)

What’s the takeaway? Top executives at newspaper companies, like top executives everywhere, make a lot of money. We tend not to notice when times are good. But with the newspaper business under siege, such lavish compensation packages seem out of sync, both symbolically and substantively.

On the other hand, if any of these well-paid folks can find a way out of the current morass, they will be worth every cent.

7 thoughts on “Good jobs at good wages

  1. Lisa Williams

    Wow. I do have to say that if you want someone to run the online side of the house for a chain of newspapers, you’d have to be at or near $200k to be competitive. But does anybody think that whoever runs the (very small!) team that created and runs Google News makes $400k? No way. Not even counting bennies like that famous cafeteria. Papers aren’t going to do well vis-a-vis pure web outlets if they overpay by 2-3X for talent. Though I do note that most of the people listed here don’t look to me like they’re running the web outfit; I do have to say, looking at how much the finance types are being paid makes me wonder how much does it cost, exactly, to get someone to do a competent job in that position? Apparently it’s a lot.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Lisa: Given that there are no ads on Google News, I don’t see why anyone would be getting paid anything. It’s a fun little experiment, no more.

  3. Lisa Williams

    Dan, I’m absolutely certain that whoever wrote the code for it, and maintains it, is absolutely drawing a paycheck. Google may be too controversy-shy to make money from Google News directly, but anything that draws visitors to the search engine will probably end up in ka-ching somewhere for the Big G. But you pushed a button of mine: Where’s the best place to start the NEXT great newsroom? My answer? Inside the walls of Google itself. If I were free to move to Mountain View, I’d weasel my way into any old job at Google and stop at nothing until I got into the Google News team — and then I’d get to work making the next great newsroom. If I were teaching, I’d require my students to apply for jobs at Google to pass (because I’m a crank! But also to make a point that applying solely for jobs that “look like” newsroom jobs is gonna be a giant FAIL for j-school students). Hell, I’d make it a group project to get journalists into tech companies, tech companies that have the resources and skills to build the next news infrastructure (which, as much as it may pain me to say it, I don’t think is coming from existing news organizations).

  4. Scott Rosenberg

    Good piece, Dan. As for Google, they laid off 100 people today (in HR, they’re scaling back recruitment). While it’s still a fabulously successful company on an upward curve, I don’t think it’s going to be the news biz’s savior. Different corporate mission, different culture. Larry Page has little interest in being a news czar. Make that “no interest.” The new models are going to bubble up from below. Which is fitting. But it means that energy spent expecting Google to figure out the future for us is energy wasted.Hey, it’s a play! Waiting for Google.“Let’s go.” [They do not move.]

  5. Tony

    Wow, those numbers say a lot. And, after looking at them and thinking about this for a number of hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “death” of newspapers seems to be three-fold: Drop in advertising revenue, gutting of newsrooms AND over-paid leaders of companies who put their own compensation ahead of the product. I’m no commie, but can’t some of them work for less in order to keep others hired? Can’t some of them work for less in order to keep the product appealing and worth buying, you know, to try and save it? Think about all the jobs that could be saved if all of the CEOs made 50 percent of what they made last year? That’s hundreds of reporters. And, they would still be making more annually than 95 percent of the people in America. Now, you can argue about the stock options are not cash and therefore, it shouldn’t be counted, or whatever. But it makes absolutely no sense for many of these people to be making what their making while their companies crumble – not unlike a lot of CEOs on Wall Street [and don’t even get me started on the billions in TARP money that went to salaries and bonuses of the same thieves and liars who destroyed the economy …]. Where are their BODs of these companies putting the brakes on this while their newspapers whither on the racks? Don’t they care about the product they are running into the ground?

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