I felt like I was coming full circle. Memories of riding on the orange line for over an hour, chasing the one bus that drove down Jones Branch Drive, and looking forward to BBQ Thursdays all came rushing back. I could remember two years ago, walking into the glass doors and transparent walls of USA Today/Weekend/Gannett for my first internship in journalism. I started by researching, writing, and editing for USA Weekend Magazine and since then have dipped my feet into other magazines, radio, web and television stations. Although much has changed within the walls of this magnificent building, the exterior and all I remember seem to stand the test of time.
Professor Josh Hatch took a group of Bootcampers to probably the most illustrious publication facility any of us will ever see. You wont find bare walls, undecorated desk spaces, or water puddles dripping from the ceilings. Rather, the rooms are brightly colored, filled with toys, gadgets, posters, and memorabilia that make you feel you’re at home with your kids rather than at work. Outside, you see an extensive softball field, rooftop tennis courts, and an indoor basketball court. Flora line the balconies that face a large lake and fountain just outside the building. It’s almost a breath of fresh air to see signs life in a “dying” business.
USA Today moved to this building eight years ago, said Professor Hatch. He told us that if the company were to buy a new building today, they would never choose somewhere this nice. The company has reduced its electricity use by shutting the lights off in unused parking/office space, which gives you a good indication on how they’re doing economically.
CBS News posted a story from paidContent.org stating that Gannett will likely face more than 1,000 layoffs as of July 2009. According to the article, the company “has already laid off about 10,000 employees in 2007 and 2008, with the last round of 2,000 announced in October of last year.” Josh directed us to the USA Today research library, where he says most of the layoffs in the building have occurred. Right now, there are approximately 400 editorial employees working on news content.
I did note a few changes to the structure of the building that reflect the change over to web-based content. Instead of having the USA Today online department on its own floor, web writers are dispersed among the print reporters. The newsroom also features new “interview” booths where reporters can use video/audio technology to produce multimedia content for the web.
Bootcampers were fortunate enough to meet one of the few employees working over the weekend: Megan Chan. Chan was also a graduate of the American University School of Communication. She produced content for the web, but admitted she wasn’t an “expert” in coding.
We had a chance to take a look at the money, sports, news, web, and design departments in the building. Unfortunately I didn’t see the changes that have occurred at USA Weekend, but I’m sure the opportunity will arise again.