”The internet enables those tasks to be performed remotely, and other newspaper chains have made similar moves.”
This is a part of a message from Cox Media Group from October 27. The headline is ”Cox Media combining jobs at AJC, other papers”.
AJC is Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Cox Media Group has decided to consolidate different newsroom and business functions at its four newspaper locations, which also include Austin, Texas; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Dayton, Ohio.
And this will probably mean that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Statesmen Co. in Austin in the future will be designed in West Palm Beach or Dayton.
This is just one of many strange news this fall on what’s going on in big media groups.
Design hubs are spreading like a hurricane in the US right now.
Another notable news this fall:
The Tribune: Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Florida will be designed and laid out mostly by people working at The Chicago Tribune office. What possibly will remain to do in Orlando will be Sport pages, Living sections and Front pages.
And it’s just not Orlando. The papers included in this consolidation at The Tribune are: Fort Lauderdale SunSentinel, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Allentown (Pa.), Morning Call, Newport News (Va.) and Daily Press.
When I ask Charles Apple, visual journalist, instructor and in fact the one who knows most of what happens in the news business, if he knows other examples of this consolidation trend, I get a list that is long as a PhD thesis in Media and Communications.
He writes: ”The list of papers in the US is really too long to be compiled. This is happening a LOT. And a LOT of newspaper chains have been doing this for a while without many people knowing about it.
The reason: Most readers might not look kindly on the idea of their newspaper being produced by strangers in another town, in another state. Or nearly across the country, in some cases. Most readers want their newspaper to be locally based and locally produced.
Therefore, you’ll find very little concrete material out there on this topic.”
He also writes: ”The Tribune currently creates “modules” – ready-made pages and portions of pages that papers drop into place. So after the Tribune made all its papers redesign, it then went back and made everyone change their designs to accommodate the modules. You don’t want typefaces changing from page to page.
The idea is to increase the amount of modules and to gradually move more and more of the production to Chicago. Folks in the Tribune chain won’t really talk to me about it – they’ve all been warned not to – but somewhere from a quarter to a third of the chain’s papers are currently produced in Chicago.”
On the long list from Charles Apple you also find those media groups making (or already made) the same steps:
- McClatchy recently shut down the designers and copy editors in Raleigh and moved all the work from the Raleigh News & Observer to the Charlotte Observer.
- Ditto for Rock Hill, S.C. And they will soon do the same with its South Carolina papers: The State in Columbia, the Sun-News in Myrtle Beach, the Island Packet in Hilton Head and the Gazette in Beaufort.
- MediaNews’ “Bay Area News Group,” which consists of San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Santa Cruz Sentinel and some other papers.
- Media General consolidated nearly all of its papers last year. It created a design center in Hickory, N.C.
- E.W. Scripps Company which includes 14 newspapers around the country and nearly all of them use a hub system for design and editing.
- Paxton Media Group, which owns 32 daily newspapers. Much of the chain’s design and editing is done in Owensboro, Ky.
- Gannet. Of the entire chain, the only papers not included in its consolidation project are USA Today and the Detroit Free Press. Around 80 dailies is being consolidated into five hubs in Neptune, N.J., Phoenix, Ariz., Des Moines, Iowa, Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn.
What about Scandinavia, then? Well, in Sweden there is similar news from just a couple of weeks ago:
Kvällsposten in Malmö and GT in Gothenburg will be designed at Expressen in Stockholm in the future.
What really bothers me about this development is that consolidations and centralization previously just involved management, advertisement, IT-solutions and departments that had not touched directly on the local journalism.
But now it is clear that also journalism is included.
If we tie up the bag and return to the opening quotation from Cox Media Group: ”The internet enables those tasks to be performed remotely, and many newspaper chains have made similar moves.”
So, if the Internet suddenly makes every task remotely and if all newspaper chains run in the same direction (as always): Then why not make all news design from all over the world in for example in Mombay, India, then?
What, don’t they have the local journalistic competition and knowledge?
Or is journalistic skill really something you can transfer to anyone, anywhere?
If so, we should all react now – before it’s too late.