You can find his remarks in the comment thread from yesterday, but here’s the nut graf:
What I find lacking is a conversation about journalism. How will this impact the core mission of the newspapers to cover our communities, states, the nation and the world? It is fine to talk about strategy and revenues, and the economics of the news business. But that I expect from Gary Pruitt. I especially want to hear you of all people talk about journalism in this environment. How will reporters and editors do their jobs? What's your vision for journalism is this environment? It is fine to say the survivors who are left should focus on their jobs, but how? Doing what? What will not be covered? What beats are going by the boards? And I ask this as a member of the Sacramento community who depends on my newspaper to cover the community and the state. The Sacramento Bee has 151 years of credibility. What are you going to do with it as journalists?First, I’d say that while yesterday’s post wasn’t much about journalism, this whole blog is. We’ve been talking since 2006 about precisely these issues -- more questions than answers, as a rule, but that’s the nature of reinvention, isn’t it? We truly are going to have to do things differently.
Secondly, let me follow the old city desk advice to be specific rather than general. Hours after the layoffs were announced yesterday, newsrooms in Raleigh and Charlotte made another announcement: the two are, in effect, combining sports staffs, N.C. capitol bureaus and libraries and will be coordinating features coverage. This means fewer editors and more reporters, less duplication, more coverage. In N&O Editor John Drescher’s words to me, “We’re going to be breaking more news and producing more enterprise.”
The memo to staffs there included this summary:
These are bold moves for two outstanding newspapers. We believe that they will help ensure that these papers continue to set the standard for excellence in journalism across North Carolina for many years to come.
We also have many details yet to work out. For that, we’ll need your full support, talent, patience and problem-solving skills. So, please join in and help us now build on these ideas and make them a success.
In an era of stretched resources, our newspapers are very fortunate that we have this opportunity. There are few places in the United States where sister newspapers are as naturally aligned in terms of journalistic values and geography. We want to take full advantage of it for the benefit of all of our readers.
This is part of the way we’ll do it, Jim. McClatchy’s new scale helps with content sharing, allowing papers to stop covering some traditional stories, using colleagues’ work instead and devoting scarce resources to other, unduplicated efforts. (Technology makes this much easier.)
You may remember times when the Sacramento, Modesto and Fresno Bee papers all had separate staffers at the same event. For good (mostly) and ill, that’s over.
I recall a day not long ago when the Sacramento Bee ombudsman criticized his paper for sending only about a dozen staffers to cover some Southern California wildfires. I thought at the time that was misguided; if it happened today, I’d be furious. While there will always be good reasons to send special talents to remote events – a great photographer, perhaps, or a compelling columnist – I flatly dispute the logic of sending a dozen Bee staffers hundreds of miles simply to have staff bylines on a story being covered by hundreds of L.A. Times and other local journalists whose work we can publish and link to. We’re doing things differently now.
McClatchy’s new scale also allows us to share the robust, original journalism of national and international staffers overseas and in Washington. I’ll point with great pride to the series currently featured in our papers and online, Guantanamo: Beyond the Law, as a splendid example of public service journalism that only a committed professional news operation can support. These stories spanned eight months reporting in 11 countries, tracking down more than 60 former detainees who didn’t necessarily want to be found. And they told Americans something they very much need to know.
Finally, I’d point to other efficiencies we’re actively pursuing in order to sustain resourses devoted to journalism. Here’s one: yesterday we also announced a strategic partnership intended to take advantage of upgraded printing capabilities at Pioneer Newspaper facilities in Washington and Idaho to print two of our papers there. Similar discussions naturally are underway elsewhere, as are deals to share distribution forces with neighboring (sometimes competitive) papers, to outsource work outside our core mission, to expand into growing, profitable niches like speciality magazines, and so forth.
Honest to God (sorry, Jim), it really is about reinvention. We’re not just saying that. We’re doing it. Seminars and conferences and workshops aren’t the answer. We need to produce. Asked about some of this by Editor & Publisher today, I said "we are at a place where we have to demonstrate that our plan will work -- we have to perform ..."
We won’t get it all right, certainly not the first time around – and when we screw up, as you see here, we have friends, colleagues and others readily at hand to help point that out.
What we will not do is stand still, and we won’t quit. The work we do is too important, and our commitment too deep for it to be otherwise.