Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hubs | Here's another downside of rollout delays

Some newsrooms haven't replaced copydesk staffers as they've quit, because they anticipated losing those jobs to the five newspaper page production hubs where the work was eventually supposed to be done.

Now, as the hubs' rollout is getting delayed, those already short-staffed papers must keep producing their own pages -- but with even fewer people.

The News-Press at Fort Myers, Fla., for example, has been told it won't be able to shift work to its assigned hub at Nashville, Tenn., until early October, according to one of my readers; that's four months later than originally expected. Other papers that also have been delayed include Florida Today at Brevard, and The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. They, too, are assigned to Nashville, the first hub that was to go online.

"These push backs really have people worried,'' my Jackson paper reader says in an e-mail.

Fumbling football season?
The problem will be especially acute as the fall high school sports season approaches, a time when copy desks scramble to cram late game scores onto pages at final press deadlines.

"Football here is a big deal," my Fort Myers reader says, "and the powers that be don't seem to understand what or how to handle the sheer numbers of high school sports stories that the staff produces -- from collecting to editing to designing, on a typical fall Friday and Saturday night."

Under the original plan, all five hubs, including Nashville, were to be established by approximately summer 2012. The hubs will design and produce pages for nearly all Gannett's 82 U.S. dailies. (USA Today is one of the exceptions; Guam's Pacific Daily News is another.) The other four hubs are at Asbury Park, N.J.; Des Moines; Louisville, Ky., and Phoenix.

The project is meant to reduce payroll costs through work efficiencies; Corporate hasn't made those savings public, including the number of jobs that will ultimately be eliminated.

Fort Myers, for example, is losing about 10 positions, including up to five that will eventually move to Nashville, the reader says. Staffers that don't move to Nashville will be able to apply for other jobs at the paper, such as reporting, according to the reader.

At Florida Today, I reported earlier, about half the 20 staffers on the copy desk eventually will lose their jobs, according to a reader there.

[Image: today's News-Press, Newseum]


  1. My, my. So CCI Newsgate isn't up to all it was boasted to be. Whooocuddaknowd? Whoooocuddaknowd?

  2. The biggest problem is yet to come, when career designers who spent a whole shift working on one or two pages are going to have to "supervise" the production of multiple newspapers at these hubs. They will have no idea what to do or how to do it.

  3. As MyBoss has disclosed, only 4,749 to go before some semblance of normalcy will emerge.

  4. The version of Newsgate the hubs will be getting has limited capabilities -- no pageview, no track changes (the system won't use Word). It's almost as if the hubs will be asked to produce multiple papers with 1985 word-processing technology. It's a real step back; but much cheaper than full versions of Newsgate.

  5. 8:28 Why is it that with this Newsgate thingy, I'm feeling like a fat trout on the wrong end of a fishing line, and someone out there is just reeling me in, and in, and in.

  6. Gannett always tries to be aggressive with their timeline on projects. Anyone in their right mind can see the timelines are totally unrealistic. They don't build in enough time for testing, training, unforeseen problems, etc. Then they have egg on their face. This doesn't just happen once or twice but every time. FAILURE TO LAUNCH must be embarrassing.

  7. 6:13:

    If you think Gannett will be hiring "career designers" for these jobs, you're sadly mistaken. The hub jobs will go to fresh-out-of-college young guns who are impressed by the fancy-sounding titles and geegaws at the "studios." They'll happily agree to design three different newspapers a night, slapping stories on the templated pages and shipping them out in true assembly-line fashion, because they don't know any better. They'll work 10, 11, 12 hours a shift without complaining because they're thankful to have a job and they want to please their overlords.

    Those crotchety, experienced career designers age 40 and up, the people who raise questions about scope and scale and deadlines and resources and QUALITY, will find themselves politely shuffled to the side, their resumes ending up in the round file.

  8. The football part is really true and scary. The people making these hub and deadline decisions have no idea what goes into collecting high school FB scores on Fridays and making deadlines on Frdays and Saturdays throughout football season. It's incredible the amount of disconnect that exists. Or complete disdain. Either way, the product suffers and the people who should care really don't seem to give a shit.

  9. OK, this Fort Myers situation can be a test case to see if Kate Marymont, who on paper is the corporate vice president for news, has any clout. Marymont was editor at Fort Myers before being elevated to corporate. Surely she knows the situation and the needs there. Let's see what, if anything, she does to alleviate this dire situation. And that can serve as a measure of her ability to do ANYTHING for the cause of journalism within Gannett.

  10. 9:45, seriously? I wasn't talking about the run-of-the-mill hires, who probably will be as you describe. I was talking about the people who will "run" the hubs.

    I won't blast you because I suspect you are actually agreeing with what I would have said, if I had been talking about the hires to come. I wasn't.

  11. The delay is in getting the 2adpro people in Bangalore to put aside their ad building long enough to learn how to build editorial pages.

    Word to the wise - be prepared for the hubs to ask for more FTE budget from your site - you remember when the RTC came around looking for more bodies.

    There's a mantra: inflate the ROI, lowball the cost, then insinuate the sites lied about their hours estimates.

    Just because you could do it for 30 years with three people doesn't mean it's not going to cost you five people each year going forward. You saw it with RTC, finance, circ, GPC and next it's going to hit the newsroom again.

  12. Fort myers is starting to look like s ghost town. Before you know it they will be selling the building and moving the staff to a strip center office - at this rate there will be all of 40 people left.

  13. Watch as the Naples Daily News now moves in for the kill. Naples already has been cornering wealthy Marco Island and I see them using that new printing plant to take over Ft. Myers.

  14. Shreveport's move to the hub was pushed back to early 2013 instead of late 2011/early 2012. Not sure about the other Gannett-La. papers. The Louisiana papers already cope with a consolidated production center that cranks out five dailies each day. The La. CPC is constantly short-handed and staffed primarily by inexperienced recent college graduates. It functions, but not well. There's no such thing as advance design (anyone remember the days when designers would spend time making a section front pop???). Typos, incorrect headlines and captions and stories cut off in mid-sentence are common. And now the CPC is doing some of our Web site coding, too, which creates a whole new set of problems.

    Has ANYONE discussed who will handle the Web site coding and story placement when Gannett does to the large, regional production centers?

  15. 3:16: I still disagree with your assessment. "Career designers" like the ones you describe aren't going to havve any sort of jobs at the hubs. The supervisors are going to be mid-career people in their late 20s or early 30s who've been deputy design directors and assistant news editors - they'll have a bit of management experience, but not enough to buck the system and stand up for their staff.

    The people whom, as you say, have spent their careers working on one or two pages a night are not going to be hired in the hubs. Why would they be? It doesn't make any sense from the Big G's perspective. They're expensive, stubbborn, perfectionists and resistant to change. And they don't have the kind of experience that the hubs are built around - production-line, color-by-numbers work.

  16. I'm sure Mark Silverman, who runs the Nashville operation, is addressing these problems with his usual calm and constructive approach.

  17. 12:95, some of those people already have been hired. That's why I can't agree with all of what you say.

    You're probably right about some of what you say, but my point still stands. Just look at the 10:08 post. People like him still yearn for the days when newsrooms spent a lot of time and money on a couple of section fronts. There wasn't money for that then, and there certainly isn't now. But there are people in those hubs who still think in those parameters.

  18. Typo -- that should say 12:05.

  19. Hey, 4 p.m., 10:08 here. I don't "yearn" for anything other than basic quality, such as headlines that match stories and correct word use. I love it when a talented designer sets off my words with eye candy, but I'm a realist about the new normal of print. BTW, quality didn't come with a high price tag. It happened because of planning, teamwork and editorial leadership, qualities all lacking now. My daily site's single dedicated designer did at least 75 percent of all section fronts, from news to features.
    Oh, and I'm a she, not a he.

  20. As someone who is on the ground and witnessing the studio launch process, it's clear to me that many of the individuals running the studios do have a clue about production, journalism and design. The problems have all been generated at the corporate level by uninformed and clueless decision makers. If and it's a big if, the studios have any chance of succeeding it'll be because the studio managers are given some say on how things should work and corporate realizing they need to back off. Good luck.

  21. 10:57, how in the world would I know what gender you are? The people who post here all are anonymous. Sometimes there are clues, but not in this case. You're shifting your argument, too. First you say it's a bad thing people can't spend a whole shift making a front "pop," whatever that means, and then you make a 180-degree claim about someone grinding out covers. Can't have it both ways, shemale.

    11:49, huh? How are you making this judgment before any of the hubs are operational? Tea leaves?

    This place gets more humorous by the day. No one here has any credibility to risk, so they just say anything.

  22. 1212: Both Asbury and Nashville are operating. No tea leaves. Just facts. You should have some before you post.

  23. Clearly Gannett employees are beginning to see the shadows of a failing leftist underwritten Soros dominated group. Remember a few years ago when the "transformation" began, how GCI City editors told their people,"pay no attention to circ. They mean nothing to us". Of course it meant nothing. If advertising numbers decline because of declining circ, then where is the money to survive coming from? Clearly the agenda to self destruct was written on the pages of a
    New World Order of journalism: Sure newspapers are in decline, but clearly many left leaning "journalists" in the organization couldn't read the tea leaves. Now its too late.
    Sad for the few truly great non-partisan investigative reporters at Gannett. They won't need you anymore. Instead, hire fire-starter leftwing college graduates that will hasten the demise of some of these one great local newspapers. I give most of the groups second and third tier rags less than a year. They are in hospice care.. just make 'em comfortable and assure they pass quietly.


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