Friday, April 28, 2017

Gannett Stalls Severance Payments to Former Commercial Appeal Employees

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:10 PM

Posted to Social Media by Commercial Appeal reporter/MemphisNewspaper Guild representative Daniel Connolly.

Gannett deliberately stalls severance payments to former Commercial Appeal employees
***Please share this with your friends. This is important.***
I'm the head of the Memphis Newspaper Guild labor union, which represents some workers at The Commercial Appeal.
***I'm sorry to inform you that the newspaper's new parent company, Gannett, is deliberately stalling severance payments to 12 former newsroom employees.***
These former employees have not received a dime of severance since they lost jobs effective April 11.
Because Gannett is currently finishing up a brutal "fight-for-your job" contest in the advertising department. The company broke a ton of rules in the process. They're afraid of the legal consequences for their rule-breaking in advertising.
So they're stalling the payments to the former newsroom employees in the hopes of forcing the union to sign an amnesty that forgives the company for its rule-breaking.
I've seen plenty of bad corporate behavior in my life. ***Gannett's calculated decision to inflict harm on people who have lost jobs is among the worst corporate behavior I have ever seen.***


In advertising, Gannett fired everyone and made them reapply for new jobs. We call this process The Hunger Games.
Desperate to hold on to her job, advertising employee Marianne Sheridan competed in The Hunger Games and walked into a job interview with three Gannett employees she'd never met before. She was nervous at first. And then she felt worse.
*** "Frankly, at one point my head felt like it was going to explode," she told me. ***
She left the interview, sweat pouring off her body. Someone called an ambulance and she was taken to a hospital. She's out now, but still undergoing medical tests. It's not clear what happened to her.
"I think it was a huge anxiety attack," she said. "Since the beginning of April, we've been under this stress of having to reapply for our jobs."
She found out Thursday that she doesn't have a job anymore.
Six advertising employees applied in The Hunger Games and didn't get jobs. Around six others refused to participate in The Hunger Games and will also lose jobs. The last day for these 12 or so employees is May 1.
The Hunger Games isn't just stressful.
Our union contract lays out a detailed process for job cuts. The Hunger Games process - firing everyone and making them apply for jobs - is not allowed under our union contract. The company knows this and did it anyway.
Some of the people who "won" The Hunger Games competition will be paid thousands of dollars less than they were paid before. That's also not allowed under our union contract.
We're already hearing disturbing reports of sales staffers not being paid for commissions they rightfully earned.
And somehow, magically, the six people who participated in The Hunger Games and lost their jobs are all women. Several are African-American.
We're concerned about that, too.
**** Due to Gannett's willful, blatant violations of the rules, we filed a federal complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on April 21. ***
The federal agency will now investigate the complaint and take appropriate action. We also have another complaint pending through what's known as the grievance / arbitration process.
On Thursday, the company lawyer once again demanded we sign an amnesty deal that withdraws all our complaints.
Otherwise, he says the 12 former employees in the newsroom plus The Hunger Games victims in advertising will have to wait months or years for severance until an arbitrator decides.
If you ask the company lawyer, he'll say the delay is the union's fault. That because we won't sign the amnesty, we're the ones who are stopping these workers from getting their severance.
But think about that for a minute.
*** Gannett breaks multiple rules in firing people.
We complain about it to the feds.
And then Gannett says it will refuse to pay severance until we drop our complaints about its rule-breaking.***
I know I'm coming across as angry.
That's because I _am_ angry.
*** I'm watching good people suffer. I'm furious to see how Gannett fires people, then works very hard to hurt them some more. ***
We, the labor union, are going to pursue legal challenges hard. In the meantime, you can make a difference!
*** Call our interim publisher and tell him to pay a fair severance to the former workers. ***
His name is Mike Jung, he's based in Florida and temporarily working here.
His phone number is 239-335-0277 and his email address is
I've met him, and he seems like a good guy. But he needs to hear from you.
*** And you can reach out to help our former workers. Our former employees are great people who had the misfortune of losing jobs to cost-cutting. Why not hire them? Send job leads to Guild office manager Amy Olmstead: or 901-726-6857. ***

How Much News is on the News: A Guns & Bunnies Web Extra

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:52 PM

This week's cover story measuring violence and fluff on local TV news has generated a lot of questions. One more frequently asked: How many news stories make it into the evening broadcast, and how much time is allotted to each story?

This may not be a perfect answer, but it should at least point curious folks in the right direction.

I went back to the Flyer staff's original viewing diaries but only looked at Tuesday night's broadcast. Every night is a little different, obviously, so one night isn't a good data sample. Still, the formula is more or less the same broadcast to broadcast, so Tuesday, being a fairly normal news night, provides a reasonable snapshot.

Not counting weather, sports, and headline teasers, Memphis stations averaged 18 news stories on Tuesday night.  If all of Memphis stations were rolled into one big happy news team 42-percent — or 13-minutes —of their roughly half-hour weeknight (10 p.m.) broadcasts would be devoted to news content.

How much time was devoted to each story? I suppose I could go back and count it all up, but don't really see the point. 18 stories in 13-minutes? obviously not very much. A casual, anecdotal observation: There was more time burned hanging around in neighborhoods fishing for comments about children left home alone (and unharmed) than, say, comparing Memphis parking meter rates to other, similar markets.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

You Look Like Money: Craig Brewer Teams up with the Memphis Comedy Community

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:54 PM

I can't remember when I've been in a happier, busier room. Everybody was grinning wide, and laughing, except for the writers — a who's who of local comedy talent — who looked grave and anxiety-ridden, which is how you could tell they were in the zone and having a blast. Memphis' man in Hollywood, Craig Brewer, has a plan. He wants to transform Katrina Coleman and Tommy Oler's You Look Like comedy show/podcast, into digital content for streaming providers. The popular game of competitive comic put-downs has fantastic web-sharing potential. It's exactly the kind of thing the internet was made for.

On stage the comedy is vicious. Things change after the loser makes a filmed "walk of shame."

"You got robbed," the winner of one round says, chasing down his not terribly disgraced opponent. "I know, I totally beat you," he answers. Nobody's mad. Love is thick. They're all in this together.

"I'm not drunk enough to cry," Coleman says, as the camera crew prepares to shoot the last five episodes of a ten episode trial season. "But set your watches."
Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
  • Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
Coleman, who looks like the person most responsible for assembling the big tent of modern Memphis comedy, gestures to a ridiculous crown spinning on a turntable just offstage. That's the winner's prize. "It's still the You Look Like show," she assures the "studio audience," acknowledging her shoestring budgeted show's many physical upgrades. "I made that motherfucker in my living room," she says, with a catch in her throat. A machine pumps fog into the room, standing in for the P&H's famously thick cloud of cigarette smoke. Local writer/director Morgan Fox orders the cameras to roll and the games begin in earnest.

The rules couldn't be more simple. Two comics stand face to face trading appearance-based insults like, "You look like heroin might improve your life." That's mild. Comics being comics, and built the way they are, the meaner it gets the more respect you can feel radiating from the combatants. When a roughing session ends the audience chooses a winner and the loser has to gaze into a mirror of shame and play the game all over again with his/herself. Simple. Perfect. And Memphis insult hero Tutweezy makes for an affable master of ceremonies.
Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
  • Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
Brewer discovered the You Look Like Show by way of the Memphis Comedy Festival. He had no idea that such a mature comedy scene had grown up in the tavern at the center of his own origin story. "I felt like grandpa," he says of the revelation. 
Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
  • Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
It's epic deja vous seeing Brewer at work in the P&H Cafe. That's where I met him. He was working on his first feature film, The Poor & Hungry and had had come into the bar to screen "rushes" of  footage he'd recently shot. Seemed like would be filmmakers were everywhere, back then, but Brewer was different. He was devoid of pretension, and radiated so much excitement for the work he was doing there was no way to inoculate against the infection. When The Poor & Hungry was accepted into the Hollywood Film Festival, I followed him and the P&H Cafe's late great proprietress Wanda Wilson to LaLa Land to watch an emerging local talent be reborn as a hot commodity. And there he was, big as life, back at the old smoke-stained bar — the place where it all began — doing the kind of thing he fantasized about as a penniless beginner, driving around L.A. looking for a strip joint that might run his credit card and give him enough cash for dinner and parking.  
In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
  • In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
Brewer has always looked for opportunities to export Memphis talent and weirdness. In the 90's he shot the city's bourgeoning burlesque scene. His team-up with MTV on $5 Cover brought a semi-fictionalized version of the Memphis music scene to the masses. In some ways Brewer's plan to turn You Look Like, into a streaming success is enhanced by a largely united comedy scene that's already accustomed to collaboration. As soon as a comic advances to the next round he or she is in the back room working with a solid team of local comics including Hunter Sandlin, and Richard Douglas Jones.

"I get paid the same if I win or lose," keystone comic Josh McLane says, praising a spirit of collaboration that brings competitors together to come up with the best worst things they could possibly say to each other. It doesn't matter who wears the crown. All that matters: Is it funny? To that end the whole atmosphere feels a little like old-school Memphis wrasslin'. The outcomes aren't predetermined, but everybody's working together to bring serious pain from the top-rope.
Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
  • Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
For financing Brewer turned to past collaborator David Harris, an executive for Gunpowder & Sky, an LA based digital first studio  Harris had previously worked with Brewer on "Savage County," a horror web-series. BR2, the "digiflick" company originally founded to market The Poor & Hungry is producing, as evidenced by a pair of director's chairs printed with the company's classic logo.

"We didn't have chairs the first time," Brewer quips as a Memphis media super team including co-producers Fox and Erin Freeman, Editor Edward Valibus, and Director of Photography Sarah Fleming all work the room.

I wish I had an appropriate insult to end this post. But all I can say is, You Look Like looks like it was a lot of fun to make. It's bound to be a lot of fun to watch. Now it's all about putting the pieces together, and taking it to market.
Fake smoke, real comedy.
  • Fake smoke, real comedy.

Memphis is Ugly. Cleveland Still Uglier, According to BS List

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 1:28 PM

Hey look, another bullshit list for people to click on and argue about. This time Memphis has been named the 9th ugliest city in America. Based on what criteria?

Jesus, do you really care?


Reading the CA: This Column by I. Dunno

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Because I live in a glass house and everybody screws up sometimes and blogging without a copy editor is scary, I try not to get too hung up on the little things. But Goddammit, Gannett.

When Local News Isn't Local: A "Guns & Bunnies" Slideshow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

The Memphis Flyer's "Guns & Bunnies" issue measuring violence and fluff in TV news is on stands (and online) now. We didn't undertake a proper survey in this area, but it seems like most of the news content local stations pick up from other markets can be described as a Gun (violence, crime, disaster), or a Bunny (soft news, celebrity, trivia, novelty cute stuff). Here's a taste of what's out there. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dogs and People Get Along Well in Mississippi, Commercial Appeal Reports

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:10 AM

Good news out of Mississippi. People and dogs get along well. There's still a lot of work to be done in both the feline, and hamster, communities, and Mississippi's Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed off on Confederate History Month as a reasonable addition to "Black History Month and Native American History Month," suggesting the state's still home to a truly fucking astonishing level of institutional racism. But... Awwww.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter from Fly on the Wall

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM

It's good Friday, and your Pesky Fly's got nothing to make you laugh. So I thought I'd share this Memphis church sign from Easter, 2009 (I think). It's a such a classic it deserves to be trotted out year after year like a Rankin & Bass holiday special: "Jesus Said Bring Me That Ass."

Please help your irreverent Fly keep an eye out for great church signs this holiday weekend. It's like an egg hunt for heathen grownups.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Wiseguys Biggest Hits: Goodbye to a Very Funny Tradition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 10:06 AM


After a long run filled with laughter and long, uncomfortable silences, The Wiseguys improv troupe is calling it quits. Sort of.

In addition to their twice-monthly shows members of this comic collective were also frequent contributors to Fly on the Wall for a couple of very funny seasons. This semi-retirement seemed like as good a time as any to roll out some of my favorite contributions. 

When the state of Tennessee rolled out a poorly designed anti-DUI campaign all about how booze tricks dudes into having sex with unattractive women, The Wiseguys, and Fly on the Wall rolled out our own poorly designed campaign.

Once upon a time U.S. Rep Steve Cohen of Memphis suggested that White House security issues might be improved by digging a moat. He later claimed that he didn't mean a moat exactly, but some moat-like water barrier inhibiting access to the White Castle. It could be beautiful, he said. The Wiseguys, who are all crackerjack fake investigative news reporters, in addition to being fine comedians, discovered more of Cohen's alternative security plans.

The Wiseguys have written about social clubs, public incentives, Elvis, Trader Joe's, the weather, Jack Pirtle's gravy, pick-up lines that really work, the British Royal Family and Big Star fans. During the holidays, they even went caroling.

In addition to all the goofy stuff, The Wiseguys also broke huge news stories like the fact that Janis Fullilove is actually made of bees.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is these are some funny, funny folks. And they're having their last show (before the inevitable reunions) this weekend. If you've never seen them before, goodbye is a perfectly good time to say hello.  [event-1]

Friday, April 7, 2017

CA Gets Wrong Gasol, Ex-Reporter Breaks News

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 10:01 AM

April 7, 2017 will be forever remembered as the day Memphis' Gannett-owned daily, The Commercial Appeal, teased news about Grizzlies player Pau (not Marc) Gasol...
While Phil Stukenborg, a reporter who lost his job in the most recent round of Gannett layoffs,  broke real sports news using Google docs. 
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