GNNL puts measures in place to enhance Daily, Sunday Chronicle By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
January 4, 2004

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THE Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL), publishers of the Daily and Sunday Chronicle, will put in place a number of measures to enhance presentation and content to encourage wider readership and boost the circulation of those products.

The decision to take a number of structural changes at all levels of the organisation was announced at a meeting with members of the Board of Directors, management and staff of GNNL on December 29.

Newly-appointed Chairman of the Board, Mr. Keith Burrowes, in addressing some of the issues affecting the company, said in order to effectively monitor the performance of the entity, the Board will very early institute a strategic plan which will outline the steps that should be taken to correct some of the problems.

This process will involve the Board, management, staff, vendors/clients, and the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU,) which represents the workers. Views from the general public will also be solicited.

The Board has already begun to meet with vendors and other stakeholders and has initiated action on certain issues.

"Feedback from the general public on the product Chronicle is selling is important in terms of helping to enhance sale of the papers," Burrowes said. The Board has already begun considering some of the views of the public on this matter, the Chairman pointed out.

The Board has mandated that communication between management and staff of the entity must be significantly enhanced in the shortest possible time. Appropriate steps have already been initiated to ensure systems are in place to address this issue.

Burrowes said too, that the company's operational cost has been a core issue, and that this will be reviewed and cut where necessary.

Already, steps are being taken to reduce expenditure in some areas, and this, he assured, will be a major hallmark of the new Board.

Management/union relationship is also to be reexamined. The union is to be briefed on the steps the entity is taking and its views will be solicited.

"We would more seek to have the union understand the realities of the issues we are dealing with...they would clearly understand the basis for these steps," Burrowes indicated.

Based on preliminary information the Board has, it is likely that there would be a review of the staff complement of the institution, which would result in changes. But the Chairman did not specify exactly what those changes would be.

Among other steps to be put in place are performance indicators for staff members. This is a necessary component, which will ensure that each member of staff makes a positive contribution to the company's development.

There would also be an element of training for staff in an effort to enhance their performance capabilities. This is one of the issues the Board has already begun looking at and action has been initiated to develop a training plan.

Burrowes noted that GNNL - one of the longest standing entities in the business of news and information - has over the years had to face growing competition with the emergence of several other media outfits.

In fact, the entity runs as a business and although the Government is the major stakeholder and controls about 90 per cent of the shares, like many other entities in the current climate, GNNL has had its fair share of difficulties in the business world, he noted.

But the Chronicle, as a State entity, has the responsibility to carry news from a national perspective, that is, of interest to everybody, unlike its competitors in print.

The newspaper has been doing this to some extent, regardless of its critics.

It is the intention of the Board to allow management to manage and to ensure there is accountability in that process, the Board said.

Managers will be held responsible and there will be zero tolerance for inefficient management, the Chairman said. The Board and the major stakeholders expect this to be carried through.

Chamanlall Naipaul, a Senior Reporter at GNNL, agrees that such a meeting was inevitable and was an important forum for interaction between the workers, management and the Board, which was lacking for a long time.

The staff, like the Board, he says, is very concerned about the state of affairs of the company as it faces a decline in the circulation of its newspapers over the years.

This, in effect, puts a strain on financial resources which has resulted in a review of expenditure and other considerations.

However, despite GNNL's limited financial resources, the major stakeholder - the Government - has supported the payout of a bonus at the end of last year in an effort to ensure there is some degree of satisfaction by the workers.

More attention should be paid to the welfare of staff members, particularly of the Editorial Department.

"This department is the nucleus of the company. Therefore, if it is not functioning effectively, it would result in the lowering of production, profit and morale," Naipaul said.

One other important consideration, he says, is that there is a need to change the public's perception of the newspaper.

"While we agree that the paper is State-owned and has a responsibility to provide a lot of information on governmental and related developmental issues, we must be able to strike a balance in order to also get the readership of those persons who would have other interests", Naipaul commented.