The Chron's Top Execs Write Another Memo as They Prepare to Hand Out Merit Checks to the Best of the Best at the Chron (Lesser Employees Are Excused to Go Pound Sand)

It's homestretch time for Houston Chronicle President John O'Loughlin and Publisher Tom Stephenson, who we've written about before for their determination to be one of the Top 50 Places to Work in Houston while at the same time doing away with regular raises for Chron employees.

In the latest missive to staff, signed by both but written by Stephenson (do they speak as one voice or take turns writing these things?), the publisher is just pumped with pride about the terrific job the Chron staff has been doing on all fronts this year, and announces they're about to hand out the merit bonuses as rewards for terrific efforts. (Merit bonuses to the most deserving members of the staff which replace regular raises to what one would assume would be all of the staff).

Also, as it turns out, Thanksgiving Day was a godsend for them, a cash cow for the year. Hair Balls applauds; we have a considerable interest ourselves in newspapers continuing to prosper.

All is pretty much pure bliss in the e-mail, unless you more closely read the graph toward the end about the merit pool. "If we can sustain our pace through the holidays, the Merit Pool will recognize our 2012 achievements," Stephenson writes.

Ah, sustaining. Cue the Chariots of Fire music now. They won't know till after December so employees will have no way of knowing if the big flat-screen they buy for Xmas Day will have to be returned.

We'll let you read it for yourself.

From: Stephenson, Tom (HC) Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2012 4:14 PM Subject: Important Update

Dear Colleague,

Thanksgiving week was our most fruitful of the year. Thursday's paper was the year's largest print edition, and across all departments, we came together, hit deadlines, and pushed ourselves, resulting in a strong week across all key measures in our business. More broadly, through these first 11 months and the great week we just wrapped up, we also remain on track to hit our 2012 financial goals.

When we met this summer in Town Hall meetings, we talked about our aspirations to become a top destination workplace, which includes recognizing and rewarding efforts. One area we outlined briefly was the introduction of a Merit Pool, whereby we would return a portion of the company's profit to our employees. It would take effort, yes, but we are delivering. We have launched unique content initiatives such as Houston Gives and OTC, introduced new products such as Style and HealthZone, and expanded key 'tent poles' in areas of Fuel Fix and La Voz. We led Hearst Corporation with the debut of, introduced a new Star Access membership program, and redesigned our flagship - currently on pace to hit a record-setting ONE BILLION page views for the year.

These last five weeks will test us and our ability to deliver. With demands on color, the website's premier positions, production deadlines, and insert volumes, all of us in every area will be strained to give their best performances - and cooperation efforts. The month ahead will not be a layup for sure; it will take laser-like focus, attention to detail, and absolute commitment from all of us.

If we can sustain our pace through the holidays, the Merit Pool will recognize our 2012 achievements. We will know the available amount, including the match from our parent company, after the close of December, with the payouts to be based upon eligibility and individual performance. We'll be sharing the details in the coming weeks.

Thank you in advance for your extra creativity, ambition, and tenacity as we make the final push during 2012. It will take everything we have, but the finish line is in sight. Here's to a great holiday season!

Tom Stephenson John O'Loughlin