Houston Community Newspapers

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Houston Community Newspapers Reviews

Updated February 21, 2015
Updated February 21, 2015
13 Reviews
2.1
13 Reviews
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  1.  

    Very Good company to work for

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers

    Pros

    I have been with this company 5 years and the current owners for 2 1/2.
    There is a very large difference between the current management staff and the old management staff.
    The current management staff cares! Yes, they expect everyone to do their job, they push employees to do their best at all times, but don't all company's do that.
     I feel sorry for the employees that gripe about every little thing they can, they should look elsewhere for a job, every employer has rules. I personally can't stand listening to those type of co-workers. I avoid being around them. I have worked for 4 different company's in Houston and there always seems to be a few whiners. This company has worked hard to rebuild a company that was going down hill. I am lucky to have a good group of co-workers to work with, most are willing to help at all times and also care deeply about each other. it is a friendly place to work. This company does a lot of promoting from within, I know of at least 3 promotions this year. Each year they have a special day for all the employees, 1013 day, it is a day of fun and really good food usually held at a place like Main Event, with games and team building activities. It is great to meet all the employees, there are multiple offices within the company and until 1013 took over I had never met some people at other offices, I talked to them on the phone for years but never met. them.
    Overall I think it is a great place to work with good leadership and desires to make it a good company.

    Cons

    Benefits aren't great, insurance rates are high, especially for a family. Singles rate isn't too bad.
    My husbands employers rates are very close to our rates.
    Pay is a little lower than some company's in Houston for comparable jobs.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    work on pay and benefits, add some benefits like disability insurance and 401k.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  2.  

    Good Place to Work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Everyone at this company works hard and puts in the effort to get work done and that includes managers. The company appreciates its employees and does what it can to remind employees of that. Most managers make an attempt to thank and praise us. Once a year the company does an employee appreciation day where it is a paid day for us and we go play games, eat and drink. They are flexible with schedules and understanding and supportive about uncontrollable circumstances. The newspaper was purchased a a few years back and since then the work environment has completely changed from the corporate lifestyle it used to be This is a pleasant place to work if you are willing and eager to work.

    Cons

    Work loads can be a lot at times and this requires some planning. Yes there are a few debbie downers but you would find that at any job

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Most managers have an open door policy but maybe they should actively seek out employees opinions and ideas.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  3.  

    Good for starting out

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers full-time

    Pros

    People pretty much set their own schedules and don't need to be in the office all the time. If you're just starting out, this is a good place to learn by doing. Sales people seem to do well. The company pushes sales.

    Cons

    No real structure or leadership on the editorial side. Upper management won't bother connecting with anyone outside the main office or knowing anyone's name at events. Out-of-touch is an understatement. The focus on advertorial/advertising turns off a lot of reporters.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Obviously there has to be a balance between advertising and editorial, but the ratio is completely out of whack in some markets. Is this a newspaper or an ad flyer that drops with the junk mail? There's an entire market that doesn't even have a single reporter. "Reporting" is secondary to what amounts to advertorial work and regurgitating press releases. Everyone internally knows what isn't working and why, but no one higher up the chain seems interested in hearing why turnover is so high.

    For one thing, the hourly situation is absurd. Many times I couldn't cover events because I was always "out of hours" trying to meet the byline/post quotas. Most reporters would be happy to provide extra coverage to their neighborhoods if they had more time. That's the thing management doesn't seem to understand: everyone who works at HCN is passionate about the communities they cover, but they're constrained by hourly limits and advertorial-type assignments that get in the way of actually spending time in the community and digging deeper into issues people care about. Two things would go a long way toward building editorial: switch to salary and authorize freelancers so more than one person is covering a market when big stories break.

    One other thing pushed me out: the horrible benefits. The company that bought HCN should be embarrassed it doesn't cover any portion of the insurance premium. I have never seen that at any company. And the "mandatory" 401K with no matching -- that is unbelievable. Not even a 25% match?! This is the only company I've ever worked for where I felt the company was stealing from me.

    I have to agree with the other poster who mentioned the "money envelopes" and comp tickets that are given out as "awards" at holiday parties. Please stop that. It's insulting to get $2 from your employer as a holiday gift -- oh, wait, some people got envelopes with $10! That sums up how upper management feels about the peons who actually WRITE the newspaper. We have to bring our own food to parties and if we're *lucky* we'll get a few dollars or random leftover comp tickets to thank us for our hard work.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
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  5.  

    Best for entry kevel or has been

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX
    Former Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX

    I worked at Houston Community Newspapers

    Pros

    Loyal readership and advtr base

    Cons

    Old style mgmnt with small risk mindset

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get out more

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  6.  

    Co workers nice folks

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Account Executive
    Former Employee - Account Executive

    I worked at Houston Community Newspapers

    Pros

    Respected brand and loyal advertiser base

    Cons

    management hasn't a clue how to grow the business in a changing industry.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Listen to the field level

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    Micromanagement Hell!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers

    Pros

    Sometimes you work with people that are truly nice people despite the oppressive nature of the office.

    Cons

    Poor pay. The worst benefits immaginable! ZERO match 401K (with a nifty little attempt at tricking you into being automatically enrolled!) We have a company handbook, however each department has the right to change whatever rules they want to for their department. So WHY have a company handbook then? They are NOT life friendly! PTO time is a joke. There is nothing to work towards...very dead end here. Management becomes flustered when you questions confusing rules and then LIE to you in an effort to make up some sort of excuse they can fly by you as a reason something is the way it is. And the micromanagement is enough to make you want to slit your throat. We are not THREE. We are capable of doing our jobs thank you. Time clock is online and so there are often problems being able to sign in to clock in. And time is set at 1/100th's of an hour. They shriek like a banshee if you are 1/100th over because the company allows no OT at all. But yet the time clock is so confusing they are hoping you will just short yourself pay so that you won't go over. Disgusting. And this past Christmas was a total nightmare. For Thanksgiving the employees all pot luck lunch. The company doesn't have to provide anything. So you would think that a multimillion dollar company would be able to at least show their appreciation to their hard working dedicated employees something simulating respect and gratitude for a job well done. Well, what we got was a small loaf pan of sliced turkey and another one of sliced ham. That was it. The employees yet again were the ones that made the attempt to decorate the office, bring food in for our Christmas dinner and to top things off, management insists we play these silly little games. Okay fine....but to give prizes for those games that amount to free tickets to Houston Zoo Lights (which the company does not have to pay for...they are comped to HCN) and envelopes that contain anywhere from $1 to $20 as a prize...of which I did not see one prize higher than a $10 bill given out. This was just INSULTING. No card, Nothing at all but a slice of ham and a $1 bill. This was swiftly followed by a company wide announcement 5 days later announcing the large promotions given to his upper management team. I think if I were that cheap I wouldn't be bragging about handing out promotions to his favorites. And yes...they play favorites. I can't stand this place anymore. there is nothing worse than working for a company that treats the low man on the pole like dirt.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    You talk a good talk, but follow through is never present. You claim that you care about everyone on your payroll, but your actions speak louder than words. Sooner or later you must come to realize that micro managing your team is NOT productive for your company. You end up with a higher employee turnover rate and have to spend more company dollars on training new people just to have to replace them again once they figure out HCN is not what it is presented to be. Try actually listening to your lower employees, engage them in suggestions to improving their departments..they would know because they do that job. Get rid of that stupid time clock! If you tried treating your employees like adults and not like little kids that need to be babysitted you may be surprised at the result. People are sick of hanging out at a game room for 1013 Day. Try something a little more age appropriate rather than just jumping on the TRADE bandwagon! If you have happy employees, you will also have hard workers who feel respected and will willingly give you 150% more in productivity! When people don't feel respected or appreciated, well then that's when you have people who just can't wait to get the hell out of there.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  8.  

    Account Executive

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX
    Current Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    Colleagues can be nice to work with. Graphic artists are the best in the city. Great support personnel.

    Cons

    Low pay. VERY costly benefits for VERY high deductiible. Management doesn't care about employees, only money that can be generated.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Realize your employees are your best asset and treat them as such.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    Good first post-grad job, wouldn't stick around

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Reporter in Houston, TX
    Former Employee - Reporter in Houston, TX

    I worked at Houston Community Newspapers full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    Encouraged to develop own story ideas, positive relationships with all supervising editors, flexible (but unpredictable) hours, good journalism experience

    Cons

    Little guidance or direction from upper management, couldn't seem to decide where they wanted the product to go. I didn't care for sharing the open office with the sales staff, who were pushy and abrasive toward reporters.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  10. 3 people found this helpful  

    Low pay with expensive benefits.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX
    Former Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX

    I worked at Houston Community Newspapers full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    It was quite nice to be learning to sell by doing it, rather than spending weeks or even months in training classes before being allowed to talk to a single one of the customers. It's not so much a pro though once you start actually doing it and realize you needed all of that training, unfortunately.

    Cons

    Compensation was pretty bad, as were opportunities for personal growth. The company has a strong "advertising is key, editorial is not" bias that really hurts them and makes it clear that they are not a business that will be around for a long time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stop cutting back circulation without telling your advertisers.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  11. 3 people found this helpful  

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    *Co-workers are generally nice and easy to get along with
    *You pretty much make your own hours
    *You retain a good deal of control over what news you cover
    *The upper echelons of management pretty much stay in their office up in Conroe, so that's nice (though also a pretty big 'con,' which I'll go into more below).

    Cons

    *The pay is awful (even by journalism standards) and, for whatever reason, hourly instead of salary. Thing about that is, management forbids overtime, for any reason - EVER. If you go just one hour over 40 at the end of the week, expect to hear about it and have your hours changed back to 40.0. As everyone in this industry knows, this job is hardly ever limited to 40 hours a week. We're required to clock in and out everyday, which is a massive time-wasting charade (and frankly, I don't understand how it's legal). If it's going to be like that, why not just put everyone on salary and have done with it? It's asinine.

    *Horrible health benefits, and their 401K is absolutely useless. This isn't exactly a job you want to retire with.

    *Despite the name "Houston Community Newspapers," the company's corporate headquarters is located in Conroe. That's like the New York Times locating their corporate headquarters in Hackensack, New Jersey, or the Washington Post relocating its main base of operations to West Virginia. So upper management is completely, depressingly out-of-touch with anything that's going on outside of Montgomery County. The whole of the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area has something like 6-10 counties, mind you. I've lived in the Houston area for decades; Conroe, though it's grown in recent years, is simply not a destination. Aside from the Woodlands, Montgomery County may as well be Dallas for the vast majority of the Greater Houston area.

    *When 1013 Star Communications bought out HCN a few years ago, they completely annihilated any online staff. So in addition to all the other work a reporter does, you are expected to scrub/post at least four news stories and two "Living Section" stories online a day, as well as consistently update the community calendar. Upper management has said they want two of those news stories each day to be bylines; however, this is not enforced since even they understand that those are *totally* unrealistic expectations. Edward R. Murrow couldn't do all that in a day. You cannot get blood from a stone.

    *Despite the constant kvetching of the handful of online staff that is left, they are completely unprofessional and sloppy with their postings. Stories with no byline listed, stories post twice, stories posted in the wrong section, stories with 25-plus word headlines, stories where the first paragraph is simply something like "EPA PRESS RELEASE," stories that have zero relevance to your "hyper-local" publication....I could go on.

    *Did I already mention they throw around pennies like manhole covers? Prepare for "we would, if advertising was selling more ads!" as the constant refrain each and every time you suggest a way to improve the paper that might actually require a small financial investment.

    *You, a sales rep, the sports reporter and the spread-entirely-too-thin photographer will be the sole ones from HCN that ever go into your area (if it's not in Montgomery County, that is). It's pretty hard to establish serious presence in the community that way. You'll go to chamber events where other news outlets are out in full force, and you are the single dope from HCN representing the entire company. It's embarrassing, and certainly damages our credibility.

    *The printer is located in Austin. So after you send off the finished paper to the printers, there's a one day delay before it actually makes it to peoples' lawns. For example, if your paper is thrown on Friday, it goes into production on Wednesday. So if you cover a meeting or any kind of breaking news on Wednesday evening, it's not going to appear in print till almost 10 days later. (And that's another thing! I'm no accountant, but doesn't sending multiple 18-wheelers back and forth from Austin each week cost a TON of money? Money that is desperately needed in other areas? There REALLY aren't printers located closer we could use?)

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I think my 'cons' pretty well lay out what's wrong; doing the opposite of the above would be a good start.

    Guys, I know you're loathe to hear this, but you've got to spend money to make money. There are SO many things that are in dire need of improvement over here, and a lot could be accomplished even with just a SMALL monetary investment. Try contracting an online developer/coder for a few weeks to redesign the unavigable mess of a website instead of a 'marketing event" one month (and these marketing events aren't even in communities we throw in, from what I've seen).

    If the company keeps going at this rate, it's simply a matter of time till 1013 sells to yet another "community newspaper corporation" (one of the greatest oxymorons in modern journalism), and we have a new set of out-of-towners blaming everything on you, just like you do now with ASP Westward (the previous parent owner of HCN, for the uninformed).

    The sad thing is that HCN does indeed have a very real opportunity to compete with the Chronicle. But as it stands now, no one in charge seems to have the first clue on how to tangibly work towards that goal. You just can't say it, you have to actually do something about it, beyond empty, hollow, hackneyed corporate buzz phrases like "One Direction." Currently, that direction is to plow straight into a snowbank of uncoordinated mediocrity.

    Negative Outlook

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