Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Memo: GCI establishing national news desk

USA Today Executive Editor Susan Weiss sent the following memo to staff yesterday. It came on a day when many U.S. journalists participated in a teleconference on the future of wire news. Over the past few weeks you have heard Gracia Martore talk about playing offense and proactively building Gannett’s future. During town-hall meetings at every site, you have heard the leadership team talk about Gannett’s powerful combination of hometown advantage and strong brand advantage. Our hometown advantage comes from deep connections in communities coast to coast. Our brand advantage is built on iconic brands like USA TODAY, The Des Moines Register and WUSA. Across Gannett, more than 5,000 journalists make up a powerful news organization. Each reporter, producer, photographer, developer and editor is a member of that news network. To showcase and leverage the journalism of that network, we are creating a national digital-first news team based in McLean to serve every site in USCP, Broadcast and USA TODAY. As a working title, we’re calling it The Desk. Its assignments: Produce an engaging multimedia national report 24/7. This report will appear on every web site across USCP and Broadcast to supplement local coverage. It will draw from USA TODAY’s enterprise and seek the best local journalism from all Gannett newsrooms. Work with Design Studios to produce national news content in our daily newspapers. This is designed to free up local time for local journalism. (Because this is specific to USCP, there’s more detail about this in a separate document attached to this message.) Facilitate coverage of national events so that we have the best possible content – stories, photos, videos, etc. – created and curated efficiently for all of our platforms. It will coordinate planned events as well as big breaking stories. So what does The Desk mean for you? For community journalists it means more time to concentrate on local coverage with impact and depth. It also provides the chance for superior local content to be shared across all of Gannett in a powerful new way. For USA TODAY and the new national desk it means access to the best all of Gannett has to offer on a 24/7 basis. A group from Broadcasting, USA TODAY, USCP, Digital and Military Times together defined the role of this centralized news team, which will be housed within the USA TODAY newsroom. Journalists from across divisions will be enlisted to help the Steering Committee build the right structure to best serve readers and viewers across Gannett. A critical first step is to identify a director. We will post this position on this week. The director will report to the cross-divisional Steering Committee comprised of Rob Mennie, Broadcast; Kate Marymont, USCP; Mitch Gelman , Digital; and Susan Weiss, USA TODAY. The centralized news team does not change the role of the Washington-based regional reporters who serve USCP sites. The Video Production Center at WXIA will be the video arm of The Desk, working with the producers on The Desk to provide the best, most relevant on-demand and live video programming. This operation will be rolled out in phases. First to be created will be the portion that produces print pages for USCP newspapers, with launch scheduled by May. The 24/7 national digital report will launch in June by using Odyssey templates and will be upgraded with the relaunch of sites starting with USA TODAY this fall. This is an exciting venture that gives us the opportunity to better leverage our hometown and brand advantages. We’ll share lots more information as we continue to build….Kate, Mitch, Rob and Susan. And I will be available today –and the rest of the week—to answer any questions. And I welcome your suggestions/reactions. Thanks, Susan

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