Friday, October 3, 2008

GT revampification & miscellaneous newspaper thoughts

According to GT Publisher Mike McInally, the GT is undergoing several changes:

First, on Friday, you will notice some major changes to the Entertainer: The weekly publication now will include a somewhat abbreviated version of the TV listings that used to appear in Sunday’s TV book.

Here’s how the combined Entertainer and TV book will work: One of the covers will be the Entertainer cover for that week. Then, if you flip the publication over, you’ll see the cover of the TV book. It sounds a little odd, but I’m betting it will seem natural when you see the combined product on Friday.

We will stop publishing the TV book that used to be part of Sunday’s paper.

This is a move that allows us to save some money; like businesses everywhere, we’re doing everything we can to keep a close eye on costs.

Translation: They either didn't make enough money last fiscal year, or worse, they didn't make any money; in either case, Lee Enterprises told them to cut costs somewhere.

(As an aside, whether or not they needed to cut costs really does depends on how much money they didn't make. Newspaper companies, including Lee, have been notorious in the past for seeking relatively high profit margins, so I'm leaving open the possibility that this cost-cutting is actually to increase existing profit, not to get back to making a profit. Anyone have the answer?)

Speaking of cost-cutting, here are a few mores changes listed in the piece (I have reordered and numbered them):

1. The job of compiling [the Entertainer's] calendar listings falls to Brandon Goldner, a journalism student at Linn-Benton Community College who also moonlights as the G-T’s afternoon receptionist. He’ll be busy.

2. We’re rolling the Home & Garden section into the Lifestyles section, a move that should allow us to retain the content of each but package them together.

3. A redesign of the G-T to go along with a move to slightly narrower newsprint.

Given the state of the newspaper industry, and given that we're talking about Lee Enterprises here, it seems clear that there was a mandate to significantly cut costs. My question is this: How much control were GT staff given over deciding where to cut costs and what changes to make?

For that matter, is the GT ever going to replace any of the staff that's leaving? AFAIK, Jake TenPas didn't do much besides edit the Entertainer, and Nancy Raskauskas already works at the GT. Is this change workload-neutral for her, or is this another case of more work, less people?

... don't get me wrong. Most of the time, I like the GT, and I like the people I know who work or have worked there. And I am pleased to see that, at least according to this editorial, there are no staff cuts taking place as part of these changes (aside from the aforementioned practice of simply not replacing people who leave). But, like many other people, I don't see how shrinking the newspaper (literally and figuratively) is going to help increase subscriptions.

Of course, maybe I've been making a mistake in assuming there is a way out. Maybe what's happening really is a downsizing of newspapers due to the ability of readers to get their news other places, like the Internet. Maybe it really is inevitable, and it's just going to be painful, and no amount of focusing on local coverage (my preferred solution) is going to help, at least not in the short term.

Oh yeah: Are similar changes coming down the pike for the DH and LE? Inquiring minds want to know.


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