Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hubs memo: 'We know we don't have a lot of time'

Following is Corporate's memo outlining a plan to consolidate newspaper page production at a series of new "production hubs." Note: Ann Clark is a general executive in the News Department. Also, I don't know who got this e-mail; in the version provided to me, the "to" line of recipient names and addresses wasn't included.

From: Clark, Ann
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 7:18 PM


This note is to give you a heads up on an important project that we have launched.

As you probably know, Bob Dickey pulled together a group of folks a few weeks ago to discuss ways that we can streamline our work to result in significant savings. Concepts related to how we could be more efficient were central to the conversation.

A major result of those discussions is a project that focuses on workflow standardization issues. The feeling among editors in the group was that we needed to take a look at how our copy/production desks were structured and streamline ways to be more efficient with this work. That idea resulted in a plan to develop production hubs. A production hub located at one site would produce the pages from another site.

The local site would handle copy editing and story placement.

We identified possible production hub setups based on regional compatiblity and system compatiblity. Some of you may already be working on this based on conversations with your publisher or group president.

If not, this note is to let you know that you will be hearing from members of the team on this project in the next few days.

We are developing a wide range of material that will help get these production hubs up and running as easily as possible. We are working on communication issues, training needs, system compatibility issues, the possibility of common content/pages, etc.

The group is moving forward quickly on this. Members will reach out to you to get specific details on your operation.

The goal is to have these production hubs in place as early as possible in the last six months of the year. We know we don't have a lot of time.

As always, I am available to discuss any aspects of this.

Thanks for your support.


Group members: Stacey Martin, Cyndee Royle, Arnie Garson, Ronnie Agnew, Carolyn Washburn, Traci Bauer, Rick Green, Mac McCullough, Ann Clark. Anne Saul and Stew Rieckman also are working with us.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green rail, upper right.


  1. So that's what she's been up to.

  2. A truly dumb idea. It is only going to create new chokeholds at the regional hub desks, with copy backing up and waiting to be finished. That, in turn, will result in missed deadlines, overtime for the back shop press operators, and late papers. Since we are no longer delivering missed papers, readers will just give up after missing their papers in the mornings, and circulation will drop. Then those advertisers who are left will abandon us. Reminds me of that old "for want of a nail" story about how a war was lost. Rather than streamlining, it is going to be incredibly costly.

  3. Well, for once my paper's editors just might have to hold reporters accountable for deadlines on stories. Imagine that.

  4. This is great. My morning paper's deadlines are already so early that it's difficult to get anything in that happens past 8 p.m. I suspect this will make it difficult to cover anything that happens later than 5 p.m.

    That will make the paper even less relevant to readers and speed the demise. Since it's apparent Gannett wants to kill the printed page, this is a wonderful strategy.

    But what do they do when they finally realize there is no business model that allows them to make a significant profit online? Bankruptcy I suppose.

  5. "Well, for once my paper's editors just might have to hold reporters accountable for deadlines on stories. Imagine that."

    Shitcan the web updates, and maybe they'll have time to write an actual full story for print!

    Seriously, deadlines have been the eternal struggle between reporters and editors. In Wilmington, we're on a 4 p.m. daily deadline for most copy. Night events and stuff that breaks at 2 p.m. or so is exempt. I have no idea that's going 'cross the newsroom.

  6. Workflow standardization issues. Production hubs. Regional compatabilty. System compatability......

    I love Corpspeak. We should write that way in our papers, too, to drive away the last of our stubborn subscribers.

  7. This won't be fun for a lot of people, and it could hurt quality, but it certainly beats the hell out of chopping our news hole again, or firing half of the reporters and photographers. Wake up, people: our ads are being sold at steep discounts, if they sell at all. If these crazy hubs can save money, it's worth moving up the deadlines or making any other changes for that matter. I think many journalists fail to understand that readership trends take a huge back seat to ad revenue. It's all about the ads, and right now they're not selling.

  8. So firing half of the photographers and reporters would be bad, but firing half of the copy editors (as is sure to happen under this scheme) is OK? The fact that some people - maybe even in my own newsroom - feel this way is a depressing thought.

  9. 9:59, you make a good point, and as a reporter I admit my personal bias. However, we're way beyond preserving jobs just to preserve jobs. If we can put out a product that makes money or breaks even, and serves the community, that's an achievement even if it means shedding jobs. If we need to turn reporters into correspondents and the photogs into freelancers, that's fine. And if my job vanishes for the sake of saving the business, so be it. Do you have a better solution?

  10. We have been chipping away at copy desks over the last couple years. I presume that further cuts will result in published copy with as many typos in it as an IM thread. But perhaps the mindset is that it's OK to print a bunch of typos, that our readers (or at least potential readers) 35 and under are accustomed to reading butchered copy as a way of life and it will only make us look "cool" by having a bunch of typos in our print editions. You know, all lower-case letters, abbreviated terminology, plus the usual slew of misspellings.

  11. 11:03 - I'd buy that edition for a dollar.

  12. Fewer copy editors might even make the company hire reporters who don't make the aforementioned typos aned butcher the language. They're writers by profession. Shouldn't they be skilled enough to do it right? I agree that editing is important and shouldn't be reduced. But I've been amazed that we hire reporters without basic command of the English language.

  13. To find out what Gannett is really doing, go out and purchase a Communism primer.

    Standardize, centralize, demoralize.

  14. Jim expects hubs to be in place on demand.

    The hubs should be cleaned and polished to a mirror shine. They won't stay clean, but that's life.

  15. "Fewer copy editors might even make the company hire reporters who don't make the aforementioned typos aned butcher the language."

    "aned" -- typo.

    But we can see just from this silly blog how many dumbasses have newspaper jobs but cannot write. Far too many.

    Thanks for pointing out the incredibly obvious, though.

  16. 11:03 and a few others: You're forgetting, our print products (corp speak for newspapers) already abandoned the 35 and under readers. But that leads to:
    Pondering: Will the editing hubs edit online material, before it's posted?

  17. 9:45 and 10:55 -- I have a better solution. If all you care about is making massive profits, get the fuck out of newspapers. Many, many industries pay more than newspapers and require no more education.

    Most people in newspapers love the work and like to put out the best possible product. I know I always have. But I think we're already producing shit, and I want out now. If it gets worse, I can only imagine.

    This idea that it's OK to cut copy editors but not reporters is ridiculous. The fact that you're on board with it, is even worse.

    I'm a reporter, and I've come up with an even better money-saving plan. Let's fire every reporter and replace them with freelancers. There's a huge stable to draw from and we won't have to pay benefits or living wages. We could still get the paper out, and we would make more money.

    The quality might be terrible, but that doesn't matter, right?

    And another point. Even in this shitty economy, many papers are still making money. In most cases, these cuts aren't to keep the papers afloat, they're to maintain profit margins that are unrealistic in the face of a depression.

  18. Do any of those people on the Clark team have copy desk experience? Some of those have zero. Do they know what the layoffs have done to copy desks? Copy desks don't operate like they did even six months ago, let alone years ago. Maybe this team was put together to tell corporate what they wanted to hear.

  19. I work at a Gannett newspaper that has produced pages for two sites for several years. It's not that big a deal and it allowed the site giving up page production to focus its efforts on reporting and story creation. It may be the only way for smaller dailies to survive in the current economy.

    No matter what the company tries or does, there will be bitter former or current Gannett employees who come on this blog to bitch and whine and complain.

  20. 2:02, good to see that we're now resorting to profanity. I never said I didn't care about serving the community, or other noble causes outside of profitability. I simply believe that it will be easier to consolidate design and copy editing as opposed to reporting and photography, and that the company should move aggressively to do whatever it can to save money. That doesn't mean preserving massive profits. It means being realistic when revenue is being sliced in half. If you care so much about journalism, maybe you should start your own company.

  21. Why not just get rid of everybody but the choosen Few?

  22. 2:02, you hit the nail on the head. Gannett's Prime Directive is to maintain artificially high profit margins in order to drive up the stock price for the institutional investors whose affections management craves. Gannett has always pumped profits out of its papers and stations to build up the corporate kitty for bonuses, the dividend and awful acquisitions. It should be keeping more of those profits in the local sites for investments in technology and talent.

  23. "No matter what the company tries or does, there will be bitter former or current Gannett employees who come on this blog to bitch and whine and complain."

    And many of them are terrible at their jobs. They cannot write. They cannot think. Yet they thought Mother Gannett should provide them a career for life.

  24. I've worked with a couple of the members of this hubs "braintrust." Like many upper-level newsroom managers, they appear to believe that no "real work" goes on once they leave the office. They have never worked on the copy desk, so they have no understanding of the process of putting out a newspaper every day. When it comes time to make their numbers, why not dump a few copy editors? Copy editors are interchangeable and expendable in their eyes.


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