Gannett watchdog will shut down his blog

May 26, 2009

Gannett watchdog Jim Hopkins has spent a lot of time and money running his blog dedicated to keeping a close eye on, and usually criticizing, the company. Not anymore. Come Oct. 1, Hopkins said on an entry on his blog on Tuesday, he will “stop active management.”Here are the relevant excerpts:

I had planned to post this on July 1, the start of the third quarter. In fairness to my more than 10,000 monthly readers, however, I’m moving up the publication date. …

My plan did not, however, anticipate the rate at which readers would post comments: I am now anticipating at least 50,000 over the next 12 months. For both news-gathering and ethical reasons, I am committed to reading them all.

That would be OK, except the tone of comments shifted in December — for entirely understandable reasons. Many of Gannett’s 41,500 employees came to understand what was taking place in the company. They are now fear-filled, desperate, angry — even suicidal, on occasion. Blogging can be very stressful, of course, Now, I’m finding it may be psychologically harmful, too.

This is not about Corporate winning or losing; this is about adhering to my plan. …

I intend to lock the blog in place, with all content and comments visible. No more comments will be allowed, nor removed. Basically, Gannett Blog will become a point-in-time snapshot of a Fortune 500 company in transition. I hope to find a permanent custodian for the content, in lieu of Google’s Blogger division.

Hopkins was a longtime Gannett reporter who took a buyout from the newspaper publisher. He started the blog as a watchdog project, applying his investigative skills to the company at a level that few other reporters do. His posts are usually critical of the publisher’s managers, and contain their share of vitriol, though not the kind of abuse that Gannett received on the blog from people — usually anonymous employees — leaving comments on the site. Some of those posts have relied more on rumor than fact, but it’s likely that Hopkins has more sources inside the company than anyone else who writes about it.I asked Hopkins some questions via e-mail, but haven’t heard back yet. I will update this post with his answers. I am also waiting for a comment from Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell, the target of more than a few tomato tosses by angry readers. (No comment, says Tara Connell.)What I asked Hopkins:– How much of a role did money play in this decision? Can you not afford to keep the blog going anymore? How short did you fall of your quarterly/monthly/annual funding needs?  (Hopkins previously said he was trying to raise $24,000 a year from various sources to supplement his income, and suggested $20 for readers as a “voluntary subscription fee.” In the spirit of complete disclosure, I paid one, as I am a regular reader of the Gannett blog, the same way that I am of The Wall Street Journal, which I also simultaneously cover and pay or. Either way, we don’t know yet if he met his goal.) ANSWER: Hopkins says he was on track to make $15,000 this year and was happy with that. It was not designed to make a profit, he told me, but to cover costs: “I never intended to make any money off it.”– What psychological harm is it doing to you? ANSWER: The kind that makes Hopkins not want to do it anymore.– What does stopping active management mean? It sounds like you are ceasing to manage it entirely, meaning no more new posts, etc. Do I read you correctly? ANSWER: Yes.(Photo: Reuters)

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