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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007 01:02 am

Deal or no deal

Parent company of SJ-R holds contest to boost profits

Untitled Document Two days before the State Journal-Register offered optional severance packages to 149 nonunion full-time workers, the newspaper’s parent company, GateHouse Media Inc., rolled out a contest to award $1 million to any employee who comes up with an idea to generate $50 million in earnings by the end of 2010.
     The competition begins at noon on Nov. 1, according to the contest rules. Employees are required to sign an “idea submission agreement” and must be in good standing with the company at the time of the payout.
     Veteran media analyst John Morton says he’s never heard of such a contest at a newspaper company, although, he says, it could lift employee morale. A winning idea, he adds, might not be difficult to implement.      “Bear in mind that a lot of the ideas that have proved highly successful are Internet ideas that usually don’t require a lot of money,” Morton says.      Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse, which has been growing dramatically through acquisitions, carries a heavy debt load and reported a loss in its second quarter, which ended June 30. Its shares, which hit a 52-week high of $22.25 in October 2006, have traded in the $12 range in recent weeks.     SJ-R publisher Sue Schmitt says she doesn’t expect all 200 employees — more than half of the newspaper’s workforce of 345, including part-time employees — to accept the buyout offer, which comes as the company is putting together next year’s budget.     Negotiations to make the same offer are also under way with 47 union members, the paper reported on Tuesday.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com
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