It was that kind of memo.
Besides a "universal news desk" and the hiring of something called a "watchdog reporter," the paper plans to eliminate ten positions, and these are basically news positions. They include a news editor, assistant copy chief, copy editor - sports, copy editor - features, special projects editor, librarian, page designer, sports reporter, opinion writer and business editor.
Hilliard forgot to mention blogger Pam Varkony, who probably doesn't count because she is an independent contractor or something.
Despite the frilly language, The Morning Call is obviously making cuts. Aside from the affected employees, the readers will suffer most. But we still get to pay the same anount of money for a paper. Hilliard's memo, in its entirety, is below. I don't think it's copyrighted. If it is, I hope they sue Poynter.
Memo to Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) employees from editor Ardith Hilliard:
Change in our profession is relentless. We know this from many discussions in recent months here at The Morning Call but also because we know well what struggles are unfolding throughout our industry. Reader habits are rapidly shifting, demanding that we rethink our entire business. At the same time, our vision calls on us to sustain The Morning Call well into the future. And our commitment to our responsibilities as truth tellers to a public that needs us remains our primary duty. Through innovation and your toughness and resolve, we have met these challenges again and again, taking many steps to work more efficiently, stay true to excellence every day in the pages of our newspaper and build our on-line franchise, affirming our rightful place as the most important news source in our region. Now we must do more.
So we are implementing a significant reorganization of the newsroom that will be challenging but is consistent with our vision.
The plan includes:
· Completing creation of an innovative universal news desk begun in 2007.
· Reorganizing some functions within the visuals department to better support digital initiatives, including a new investment in more than 40 video cameras to be deployed this month in the newsroom.
· Creating three new positions to help build our print and on-line audience: A watchdog reporter for publication of investigative consumer columns Sunday and during the week; an additional lab tech to complete a pool of technicians to handle video editing closer to the 24/7 ideal, and an on-line producer assigned primarily to sports to assist in updating sports news Web pages and to update the Varsity Web site, nightly scores and statistics. This producer also can support building of photo galleries and other elements for non-sports continuous news.
· Eliminating 10 current positions: four open, four resulting from retirements and two others.
The plan will reduce editorial costs. Part of achieving this is job elimination. The pain of losing friends and colleagues who have contributed so much should never be pushed aside with platitudes. But this newsroom repeatedly has proven that it can absorb change, no matter how difficult. You are what gives me confidence that this reorganization will work. You are the key to its success.
I believe the plan will help us adhere to our commitment to our profession and will be a foundation for innovation in the coming years. It also preserves our regional reach, conceding nothing to our competitors and continuing to serve our readers with minimal disruption to them.
Within each of the changes I will describe, there are many more details. All those individuals directly and immediately affected have had discussions already. However, I anticipate that you will have many questions now and through the implementation of the plan. We will offer an additional opportunity for discussion at two staff meetings on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the newsroom and at one-on-one or group discussions as needed and desired.
The Universal Desk
At the heart of the reorganization is complete consolidation of our universal desk operation. We took a step in this direction in 2007 by consolidating the management of copy editing and other production under Ron Stumpf, chief of copy desks/continuous news. Now we will go further, co-locating all production desk staff in a central location (to be determined) and changing responsibilities, deadlines and in some cases, schedules, to leverage talent and time. This will entail complete rethinking of all workflow, process and even seating in the newsroom; I ask your patience and cooperation as we work through this in the coming weeks.
Key changes related to the universal desk:
· Rick Sample has been named to a new position of news chief and will be the senior editor in charge of the night production operation across the entire newsroom, with primary oversight of Local, Business and the A-section. He will report to Ron Stumpf.
· Deputy copy chiefs for features and sports will continue in those roles but at times will be assigned elsewhere as workload dictates. Karen Phillips is being named as an additional deputy copy chief, joining Jane White (features) and Brad Krum (sports).
· Several assistant copy chiefs will be named to provide additional bench strength to the overall universal operation. They are Keith Kaeppel, who will be reassigned from his current job of assistant sports editor, and current copy editors Gary Andrews and Jacob Michaels. Additionally, Eloise DeHaan is being reassigned to the universal desk as a copy editor. The classification of assistant business editor is being eliminated. The Sports department will now have one assistant sports editor, Ernie Long, reporting to Sports Editor Bill Kline.
· As has been the case with the reorganization of the copy desk under Ron, all editors on the new production desk will be trained to handle posting of continuous news. This initiative already has been very successful, boosting night Web site traffic considerably because of the efforts of the entire desk staff.
· Finally, Dave Dawson is being named editor, news technology/training, to better reflect his role and increasing responsibilities for training, including Intranet updating.
Beginning in October 2006, a newsroom task force from Features, Photo, Art and other departments has been working on initiatives to make features desk and lab operations more efficient. In addition to initiatives already implemented, the following actions are being taken to free up resource in the effort to make a universal desk operation run more smoothly. They are as follows:
· The weekly Merge tab soon will launch as “Metromix” and will be produced in a way that will reduce newsroom labor put toward the publication. It will help promote the new entertainment on-line product.
· Home & Garden will end as a separate Friday section and the best of its content will be placed on two pages in Friday’s a.m. Magazine. The restructured operation also will take some advantage (to be determined) of time gained back in the production schedule from the new computer-to-plate project.
· We hope to eventually launch a capital project to install a Tansa editing system in conjunction with our Hermes pagination system and other production systems. Tansa is a text proofing system that checks spelling, word usage and style, punctuation, hyphenation and some grammar. Dictionaries can be added to this system - word dictionary (AP approved dictionary), AP Stylebook and Morning Call stylebook, except for entries that involve news judgment. Tansa would save editing time for the copy desk, allowing us to more effectively operate a universal desk with fewer editors. The system would help reporters and data assistants file cleaner copy to the desk, thus saving copyediting time. The copy desk also would use it during the final edit to more quickly catch errors and to edit calendars and other lists that could move faster through the process than having a copy editor read every word. This system has been successfully implemented at other newspapers and is currently being tested on the Hermes system at Newsday.
Visuals Department Changes
Next is our visual journalism, also key to our digital future.
Frank Wiese will take on a new role as visuals operations editor. This ends a fractured structure that currently has video assigning and production responsibilities split across multiple supervisors in multiple departments and under multiple reporting structures. He will be responsible for the collection, editing, processing and publishing of both print and digital. Direct reports will be all lab techs. Frank’s initial role will be to re-engineer the operation to support flow from the video cameras that will be fully deployed this month. Frank’s previous job of assistant multimedia editor/video is being eliminated. He will answer to Assistant Managing Editor Craig Larimer.
Ben Morrison will continue as acting photo editor.
Business reporter Spencer Soper has been named an assistant metro editor/business, and will supervise all aspects of business news, including daily sections and Sunday Real Estate. We are pleased that Spencer has taken on this challenge - he has shown great accomplishment in both reporting and editing during his time here. The position of business editor is being eliminated and business news will be merged with the metro operation, with a core of reporters dedicated to this area. Spencer will report to Assistant Managing Editor/Metro Mike Miorelli. Spencer’s reporting position will not be filled. However, by merging the business coverage with our metro operation we make it a broader priority across the newsroom, calling on expertise throughout the editing and reporting operation as well as from the business staff. One open business reporter position will be filled.
Aaron Sagers has been named Entertainment Editor in a role that will take on expanded responsibility for our entertainment franchise. He will answer to Features Editor Mike Hirsch. The position will have responsibility for newspaper content and Web content. This will include the content side of the soon-to-be-launched lehighvalley.metromix.com and future expansion of our local entertainment franchise overall in print and online. Jodi Duckett, who is being named Assistant Entertainment Editor, will continue to have responsibility for Go Guide and other print sections. Entertainment writers will report to Sagers. This will include Kelly Federico, whose responsibilities for Merge will end in late January when Merge ceases publication, as explained above. Federico will have dual responsibilities for print and online, including Metromix, and has already participated in working toward the site launch.
News assistants will be reclassified as data assistants, operating on a central desk to support both print and digital publishing. The desk already is successfully working in this way, having contributed greatly to the successful transition to the Extrovert database system and the building of the new Metromix site, set to launch soon. Deb Schnecker will be chief data assistant, reporting to Terry Rang, deputy managing editor. Kim Quier, a news assistant currently assigned to features, will be reassigned to the data desk, with primary responsibility remaining Extrovert data input. The job of special projects editor to whom the news assistants reported is being eliminated.
1) News Editor
2) Assistant Copy Chief, Features
3) Copy Editor: Sports
4) Copy Editor: Features
5) Special Projects Editor
6) Librarian: This is in anticipation of a more centralized approach to archiving. Until that solution is adopted, there will be an immediate impact on our research resource. More details will come.
7) Page Designer: One position, currently vacant. This is facilitated partly by the reduction of page design work for Merge and Home & Garden. Additional rethinking of design work will be required.
8) Sports Reporter: Being reallocated as an online producer, as explained above.
9) Opinion Writer: While this position reports to the opinion editor, who reports to the publisher, it is included in the newsroom budget.
10) Business Editor
I look forward to discussing the reorganization with you at Thursday's meetings.