Friday, February 16, 2007

'Blowing up the newsroom' in Atlanta

The Atlanta Journalism & Constitution will radically restructure its newsroom and undertake concerted efforts elsewhere to shape the company's response to changing conditions, according to reports Friday. The best overview story is, unsurprisingly, from the newspaper itself.

Judging simply from this first explanation, the AJC’s newsroom plan could be described as both more radical and more realistic than the “Information Center” campaign that drew so much attention at Gannett last November. As I read it, the structural changes rest on this underlying premise: that newsgathering and news distribution are distinctly separate enterprises nowadays, and they will now be handled independently of one another in the AJC newsroom.

As Julia’s memo and the stories all report, there will be four newsroom divisions: breaking news, enterprise journalism, print production and digital production. Presumably, copy generated by any of the news teams will find its way online and/or into print based on editors’ determination of where it belongs; actually producing newspaper pages or online presentations will be the province of specialists from those divisions.

Operational arrangements will no doubt be intricate and sometimes messy, but there is an elegance and underlying simplicity in this arrangement that appeals to me. It will be fascinating and surely instructive to watch as it develops.

Some of you may wonder why there hasn’t been Grand Plan announced at McClatchy. Are we that far behind Cox and Gannett in responding to competitive changes?

Not hardly. It’s not our style to centralize and roll out singular initiatives with big titles (McClatchy 2000?), but innovation and change are well established in our operations. Our online growth has been impressive, and we capture a larger percentage of total revenue online than anybody but the big national players, NYT and the Washington Post.

Fresno’s online operations (news and sales) have been thoroughly integrated with newspaper functions for more than a year now. (It’s probably no coincidence that the percentage of revenue from online there leads the company, too.) Raleigh recently debuted a locally developed reorganization plan that moves the newsroom to the front ranks of the revolution. Anchorage will unveil new initiatives in coming weeks; Wichita is increasing dedicated online staff in the newsroom from 2.5 to 17 … and so on, throughout the company.

Chris Hendricks and I will be playing an increasingly active role in helping spread this innovation rapidly around the company. Local strategic expertise and news judgment remain our basic touchstone, but conversations about change, priorities and follow-through will be more focused and more frequent. They must.

The Great Helmsman recommended “constant, disciplined rejudgments” as the path to improvement. So, too, for us. We’ll work to communicate continuously, test constantly, revise and reiterate incessantly. Watching you all do so is the basis of my great and growing confidence in our future.

1 comment:

  1. John Kirsch1:54 PM

    Your posting on changes at the Atlanta paper. I am intrigued by your comparison w/ Gannett's big initiative and the statement that Atlanta's undertaking is more realistic than Gannett's "information center" project. Could you expand on that? John Kirsch