This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
Big Blues

Today the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and went high with bylined pieces on rumors of a biggish layoff that may be imminent at IBM. The Times found "an industry executive close to the company," and the Journal dug up "a person familiar with the situation." relied on named industry analysts "backed up by a report on the Web site F***" The gossip outlet was also acknowledged in a Dow Jones Newswire story yesterday by Donna Fuscaldo (which was picked up by SmartMoney and others) -- perhaps the highest-profile nod that Pud has so far garnered (at least for his news-gathering).'s analyst guessed that the layoffs will number "more than a couple thousand but less than 16,000" -- which would be 10% of Big Blue's U.S. workforce -- and are "likely to come from across the board." CNN talked to a union leader representing some IBM workers, who reported hearing "anything up to about 10% across the board." The Times, getting more specific, reported that "roughly 9,000" will get whacked. The Journal said "as many as 8,000." The two outlets agreed that the reductions will be targeted, and not across the board.

Last Tuesday both Reuters and CNN ran pieces on an April 24 speech to employees by new IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano. Nobody could get IBM on record about the contents of that speech, but CNN quoted a newsletter put out by Annex Research that published excerpts from what Annex claimed was a transcript of Palmisano's little heart-to-heart with his 320,000 charges. "It's clear that the industry is not bouncing back this year," Palmisano was quoted as saying; and "It's not going to be growing at 10 or 11% next year either." When a CEO talks like that -- after the company had issued its first profit warning in 11 years earlier in April -- employees are wise to scramble for cover.

The Times' source spun the impending cutbacks as due to "a pickup in technology investment coming later than many industry executives had hoped." The Journal's no-namer apparently pinned the blame closer to IBM, leading reporter William M. Bulkeley to call the coming layoff "a sign that Big Blue is proving less resistant than it had once appeared to be to the current slowdown in technology spending." Whatever the cause, it's bound to spell big-time blues for some of the IBM troops. - Keith Dawson

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