Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For editors, new software tool -- and Connell, too?

Gannett is on the verge of launching an online software application to make it easier for its newspapers to share and reuse each others' stories and other content, readers tell me.

The service, possibly called Gannett One or Content One, could largely or completely replace what remains of Gannett News Service. What's more, it appears to be a step in the direction of weaning the company off increasingly expensive Associated Press stories, video and other content.

CEO Craig Dubow and Gannett's chief spokeswoman Tara Connell described the new initiative in a series of employee meetings yesterday during a Corporate tour of papers at Greenville, S.C., and at Brevard and Fort Myers in Florida, readers say. "There was a TON of open groaning and shifting about this from the news side of yesterday's meeting,'' one tipster told me about the News-Press meeting in Fort Myers.

In a curious twist, I'm told, Connell -- who has been vice president over corporate communications since 2003 -- would take on an editorial role, working with research and development chief Michael Maness to run the service. (I asked Connell for comment last night, but have not heard back from her.)

Gannett One would let an editor quickly determine which company newspapers have just published a spring gardening story on, say, planting tulips. The story could then be downloaded, re-written to include more local information, then published online and in print, readers say.

Dubow and newspaper division President Bob Dickey talked about the same sharing of information when they visited employees last month in Louisville, Ky. "Someone asked if this meant eliminating AP, and they said that it would probably happen later down the road, but not immediately,'' another reader says. "The impression I got was within the next 3-5 years."

Connell's credibility problem
An employee since 1972(!!!), Connell has spent the past five-plus years in the public-relations spin cycle, defending Dubow and other top executives even as their compensation skyrocketed while revenue and the company's stock price tanked.

To be sure, Connell has worked editorial before: Prior to being named the company's top publicist, she was a managing editor at USA Today before being replaced during a change in top editors. While her defense of Corporate has hardly been full-throated, I imagine her credibility among some editors is now pretty much shot. (Besides, if Connell moves back to edtorial, who's going to make sure you-know-who doesn't keep losing her BlackBerry?)

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  1. If a major client such as Gannett pulls out of Associated Press, what does that do to Associated Press? It can't be good. Another nail in the coffin of journalism in the U.S.?

  2. It will be worse for Gannett if they pull out. AP will be around for a long time. Gannett will be lucky to survive over the next two years.

  3. Knight-Ridder is gone.
    Tribune is gone.
    GateHouse and Journal Register are all but gone.
    And Scripps is in the ER, paddles ready.

    Why would Gannett take another 3-5 years?

  4. The beauty of local local reporting lies in its authentic, community- driven news. A plan like this one won't work, and communities (that's advertisers and readers) will laugh. It won't work. It just won't.

  5. With dwindling newsroom staffs throughout Gannett, what material will be created to share?

  6. If Gannett further damages its news coverage by pulling out of AP (can you localize a Red Sox game into a White Sox game without things turning pink?), AP certainly will feel it, but that's only a portion of the 25% newspapers overall make up of AP's revenue.

  7. Yep - doomed to fail. Even with all the support of everyone on this board willing to give it a shot.

    It's just sad that no matter what anyone tries, you all will bitch that it's not going to work.

    If you think that the company is dead, then get the hell out already. I don't give a crap that it's "hard" for you to change jobs. Get some balls and shut up or get out already.

  8. You guys are joking right?
    AP doesn't need Gannett and it's utterly laughable to think that the largest news cooperative in the world (which has been around since the 1840's) needs Gannett, which is now in the throws of its nefarious-cling-to-the-past-omg-let-us-freeze-the-pension-plan-and-lay-off-a-bunch-of-folks-to-make-the-company-more-aesthetically-pleasing-for-sale-plan.
    AP is probably one of the few news organizations that isn't hemorrhaging ink because it's President and CEO, Tom Curley (who ironically left USA Today) was smart enough to begin moving the nation's largest news organization into the 21st century.
    Last year, Curley advised member papers to stop "living in the past" and adapt to the ways news will be consumed and distributed in the future.

    Here's what he said in a speech delivered in 2007:
    "We — the news industry — have come to that fork in the road. We must take bold, decisive steps to secure the audiences and funding to support journalism’s essential role in both our economy and democracy, or find ourselves on an ugly path to obscurity.”

    Truer words were never spoken.
    And, unfortunately, many newspapers haven't begun to realize they are left in the dust when it comes to news. I grew up reading newspapers - but you couldn't pay me to stain my fingers with a dirty newspaper for yesterday's news ever again. And I'm not alone. I'd rather read up to the minute, current news on my handheld device. And when I do, I don't go to newspaper websites - I get my news from Internet media sites, not the MSM (that's mainstream media for you uninformed). HuffingtonPost, Politico, CNN - hell, there are too many to mention. Are you people working in newsrooms even aware that there are people out there getting their news from Twitter, Yammer, and YouTube? WTH?! And if you don't know that the kid down the block is blogging the news of his little league game (talk about super hyper local coverage) through his Twitter account or Facebook page way better than some sports writer, you guys are in deep pooh.

    These massive layoffs are just the beginning. And sadly, it's not just Gannett. The Los Angeles Times just laid off a Pulitzer Prize winner and got rid of most of its Washington correspondents -- a trend that does not bode well for those news organizations with tons of staff working in news bureaus in D.C.

    I could go on and on, but I won't. Despite the acerbic tone of this post, I truly feel for all of you. Advice? Beef up your online media skills, learn HTML, Flash, Dreamweaver, AJax, Fireworks, XML. Learn how to shoot video or craft a podcast - there are free lessons all over the web. Think outside the box. Ask your kids to tell you about Web 2.0 media tools. Put up a profile on LinkedIn and get people to write you recommendations (recruiters all over that site looking for people)!
    The future of newspapers is bleak. And that's why this is probably only the beginning of mass layoffs in the newspaper industry.

    Good luck, God Speed.


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