Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Death by a thousand cuts [UPDATED]

UPDATED at 3pm, Thursday:

A newsroom source now tells Random Pixels that Herald publisher David Landsberg said as recently as yesterday that the talked about and anticipated job cuts in January may not be necessary.


A few brief notes on the current state of affairs in the newspaper business:

  • A source at the Herald tells me that despite two rounds of buyouts in the space of three months, some staffers are bracing for more bad news.

    Executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal has already told his staff that more cuts in the newsroom may be necessary - as early as January. As many as 10 more staffers may lose their jobs.

    The newsroom buzz is that with the previous round of cuts taking a toll on reporters, photographers and support staff, some senior editors may now find their heads on the chopping block.

    My source tells me that some of them [editors] are sitting at their desks with "thousand-yard stares. They're shell-shocked."

  • Some Herald staffers are complaining about the Herald's new website re-design. "While it may look like it's new and improved, all they did was put lipstick on a pig," said one newsroom insider. "They did it on the cheap." Another staffer tells me that the design was mandated by the Herald's parent company McClatchy. The source says that all McClatchy papers will soon have similar looking sites.

  • Another Herald source tells me that the Herald's Broward bureau in Pembroke Pines has become a ghost town. He reports that many days he's the only person in the once-busy building. "It gives me a creepy feeling," says the staffer.

  • And here's something that Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal is no doubt paying attention to:

    While newspapers will never get back subscribers who have migrated to the web, they're trying desperate measures to hold on to subscribers they still have.

    One of those measures is re-design. The Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel have recently launched re-designed papers.

    Tampa Tribune executive editor Janet Coats thought she'd come up with a sure fire way to re-invent her paper. Coats decided that what her readers wanted was a more compact and condensed version of the Tribune. The problem is she never asked the readers what they wanted.

    The Tribune rolled out a one section paper back on Oct. 6.

    Readers hated it.

    Less than a week after launching the slimmed down version of the paper, Coats had to apologize to readers and announce that the Tribune will it resume publishing a multi-section paper.

    The Tribune is in a no-win situation. It competes with the St. Petersburg Times for readers. The St. Petersburg Times, which is considered one of the best newspapers in the country, outclasses the inferior Tribune in circulation and and quality. The only way the Tribune can beat the St. Pete Times is to give away a $20 bill with every paper they sell. Giving readers less of a newspaper is not the answer, as editor Coats has painfully learned.

    The incident just proves that some people who run newspapers have no idea what readers want.
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