Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Media General consolidates design/editing of metros

Well, Media General has finally dropped the lopng-awaited other shoe -- it's consolidating design and some editing for its three metro papers:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Media General to Consolidate Copy Editing and Page Design for its Three Metro Newspapers

RICHMOND, Va. – Media General, Inc. (NYSE: MEG) said today it will consolidate copy editing and page design for its three metro newspapers, The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal.

The consolidated metro editing and design operation will have two groups, one in Tampa, Fla., and one in Richmond, Va. The operation will be led by a single managing editor located at the Richmond facility. Each of the two groups will have primary responsibility for particular sections and pages for all three metro newspapers. The next steps are to select the managing editor, install common production software and establish common design elements that will facilitate production efficiencies. The consolidated operation is expected to start up in the third quarter of this year.

The metro operation will be the third of its kind for Media General. The first became operational in Lynchburg, Va., in April 2009. The second started up in Hickory, N.C., in October, 2009. At this time, 12 of Media General’s 23 metro and community newspapers are either part of or transitioning to a consolidated editing and design operation. The company expects to have all of its newspapers in a consolidated editing and design operation by the end of the year. Once all newspapers have completed the transition, Media General expects to realize annualized cost savings of more than $1 million from efficiencies related to this initiative, starting in 2011. The company intends to use a portion of the savings to focus on intensified local news coverage.

“Our consolidated editing and design operations allow our newsrooms to focus on strong local news reporting. Stories will be edited once rather than multiple times, and we can take advantage of economies of scale and centralization of top talent,” said Donna Reed, Media General’s Vice President of Content. “Our customers will be unaffected by this internal process change and all news decisions will continue to be made by our local editors,” said Ms. Reed.

Over the past 10 years, Media General has consolidated and centralized a number of broadcast functions, including traffic, master control and graphics, and newspaper functions, including printing and distribution and various call centers. This approach allows the company’s properties to focus on their local communities while creating resource groups that both increase quality and provide significant process efficiencies.

The Lynchburg editing and design center produces the pages for The (Lynchburg) News & Advance, Danville Register & Bee, and the company’s Rockingham, N.C., community newspapers. The (Manassas, Va.) News & Messenger and The (Waynesboro, Va.) News Virginian are in the process of transitioning there.

The Hickory, N.C., editing and design center produces the pages for the Hickory Daily Record, Statesville Record & Landmark, The (Morganton) News Herald, The McDowell News, and the weekly Mooresville Tribune. The Florence (S.C.) Morning News and (Concord & Kannapolis, N.C.) Independent Tribune are in the process of transitioning there.

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At 4/8/10, 1:21 PM, Blogger ptotheatsign said...

I like how "Stories will be edited once rather than multiple times" is supposed to be a good thing.

Also: "Our customers will be unaffected by this internal process change" -- except the product they get will be of lesser quality. But they're just dumb readers who don't know what's best for them anyway, right?

At 4/8/10, 2:45 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

A friend and I were talking about this at lunchtime, and we decided it's eventually going to be totally live - you'll be able to see the reporter typing as he or she assembles the story. ;}

At 4/9/10, 4:07 PM, Anonymous M.C. said...

Doug: There are people now who think that if a story is filed late (like night games in sports), it may not even be looked at once. Maybe the assumption is that no one will notice.

At 4/9/10, 11:37 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Well, from what I've been told is the operation at one M.G. paper, that's pretty much even what's happening now during the day.

As the person explained to me, he/she:
- Comes in from story and files to Web.
- Sends e-mail to three or four editors/webmasters saying the story is up.
- They go back and look at it "as they get a chance." He/she says there seldom is much feedback.
- The story, if needed, is iterated through the day with this same method each time.
- When it comes time to put the paper together, "they cut and paste what is on the Web," maybe give it a little editing, and send the page off.

From what I know of the staffing at this shop, it's not beyond comprehension. So maybe an editing hub would be no worse and maybe better?

At 4/10/10, 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former MG employee, I would like say that this is just one of a string of MG corporate decisions that might save a few dollars at the expense of the quality of the newspaper. All they care about is the bottom line, and it shows even as far as the design of their Web sites. I wonder if they even read their own newspapers or if they are too busy congratulating themselves for pinching pennies.

People who make decisions there act as if they have never worked in a newspaper setting. They don't understand the benefit of having designers and editors with the photographers and reporters. I was able to catch mistakes that someone hundreds of miles of way wouldn't realize were mistakes. I was able to double check things by walking over to someone's desk rather than e-mailing/calling/hoping for a response. I feel like designers will just stop caring about details if they don't have to look their readers and coworkers in the eye.

Maybe it makes sense to design weeklies this way, but daily papers should be edited and designed in house to maintain quality and a sense of camaraderie. To say readers will be "unaffected" is naive AT BEST.

I'd like to be clear that I'm not an angry former employee who was laid off, but I was angry about the decisions and attitude from the company even while I was working there. The paper I worked for was nurturing and did the best they could with the limited help from MG corporate.


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