Monday, November 06, 2006

More on Gannett

A couple more interesting things today about Gannett's plans to turn its newsrooms into 24-hour "Information Centers."

Editor and Publisher quotes several Gannett editors, nary a cross word among them, of course. But some insights buried among the verbiage:

Karen Magnuson, editor of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, said her newsroom also began shifting priorities in the past year, basically eliminating its online department and shifting pieces of it to the main newsroom and advertising departments. "It is all about a mindset and a culture," Magnuson, who is president of Associated Press Managing Editors, said. "For many years we were focused on putting out a print product. But as circulation of the print product declines, people are looking to get their information differently." ...

[Detroit Free Press Editor Paul Anger]
said job descriptions could change as well as the size of the paper.
"It could be a combination of using less space in the printed newspaper," he said. "Making sure you are producing the content that people want to use. You may kill fewer trees."
Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star, agreed. "Are we filling space with wire stories just because we have the space to fill?" he said. "Newspapers need to look at consolidating sections. There are some things that we have been doing that maybe we don't need to do."
Take Magnuson's first, paraphrased by E&P as "basically eliminating its online department and shifting pieces of it to the main newsroom and advertising department." Keep an eye on that. As noted in the post the other day, while many operations have said they are moving their online operations into ther newsroom, in most cases it's been moving the tech types into the ink-stained wretches' bullpen -- but still keeping online in its own playpen. This would be a marked change for a lot of operations, forcing true integration.

Anger's and Ryerson's comments, especially Ryerson's, are of intense interest to anyone from AP. From time to time, "insurgencies" have arisen seeking to undercut AP with peer-to-peer services. But this again -- and in a more serious way -- raises the basic question: Once AP has sold the wire to Yahoo, why does anyone else need to buy it? It's a model AP is still struggling with. If Gannett touches off a stampede for the exits (and assuming it begins asking whether the general wire brings any value to its Web sites as well), AP has a serious challenge.

Yes, it could continue tying the state reports to the national so that papers can buy one without the other. But that will just potentially encourage those insurgencies. (Already, for example, McClatchy has created a pretty large Carolinas cluster. As a result, bylines from AP's South Carolina bureau have become scarce in The State, which has come to use the AP state report primarily on its Web site and for a few newspaper briefs.)

Ultimately, AP may need to figure out a way to untie the state reports from the national report so it can leverage the still dominant position it holds on state news. That's a real management challenge when states vary so widely in number of AP members, amount of news generated and bureau staffing. And it assumes anyone will give a damn about what happens outside their areas as we move toward hyper-local news.


Jack Lail in Knoxville has put together a good list rounding up some of the reaction to Gannett's plan.


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