In your grim Wednesday media column: Mandatory "furloughs," flagging magazines, canceled parties, and no more fancy office plants:

Gannett, a newspaper company, is in a world of financial trouble, naturally. How to balance out the need to cut budgets and keep employees happy at the same time? By giving everyone a week of extra vacation! Which will be mandatory, and unpaid. You have to admit this is much better than having your pay cut and still having to work the same number of hours, like some companies have done (cough). [E&P]

2008, the year in consumer magazines: overall ad pages dropped almost 12%, and only 18% of magazines saw their ad pages increase. This is the answer to the Jeopardy! question, "What led to the Great Magazine Die-Off?" [Folio]

Remember when Tribune visionary-in-chief Lee Abrams said "the pattern is FEAR OF CHANGE...then ACCEPTANCE OF CHANGE...then EXCITEMENT AND CONTRIBUTION TO CHANGE."? Well he was talking about newspaper redesigns, of course. And now the Chicago Tribune is going (primarily) tabloid. As Lee Abrams would say, "It's a whole new day . . . and attitude." Tribune Co. will continue to be bankrupt. [WSJ]

A tipster tells us there have been "a bunch" of editorial layoffs at Travel & Leisure (part of American Express Publishing), including a senior editor. Tears were said to be flowing. Neither Travel nor leisure are currently within the average American's price range. Nor is a magazine.

National Enquirer publisher AMI had layoffs last week, and is probably on the verge of bankruptcy, in debt up to its eyeballs (eyeball level: $436 million). But it just gets worse: an AMI tipster tells us "Even the plants are being rolled out...maybe the plan is to deprive the remaining employees of oxygen? Or can [David Pecker] no longer afford them?" The plants belong to a hedge fund now, thank you very much.

MTV is canceling its supercool inaugural ball! The Youth are now being asked to go to the offical "Youth Inaugural Ball," which will feature Capri-Sun, Hydrox cookies, Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and gym teacher Mr. White as a chaperone. [Washington Business]