Big changes coming this week and next for the Tampa Tribune
This week and next bring a blizzard of changes for the Tampa Tribune, which laid off a high-profile local columnist among four job reductions implemented Monday, while preparing to launch a streamlined, two-section daily weekday edition on Oct. 6.
Editorial writer/columnist Joe Brown was among four staffers laid off Monday (the other three were editors/managers John McCoy, Martha Durrance and Bob Fryer), the last among several rounds of job reductions at the Media General-owned Tribune, which included reporters, photojournalists and a few editors.
Executive editor Janet Coats said the changes -- including a reorganization and further merging of newsrooms for corporate siblings the Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8 and TBO.com -- are based on a new focus for their work, which involves gathering material for their Web site first, then determining how to place that content in the newspaper and TV station.
"The purpose is to work as one newsroom," Coats said. "It's kind of a return to a lot of newsroom structures we tried in the '90s, but didn't put a lot of energy into. It's a different way of looking at the data we gather."
Coats declined to reveal many details about the new newspaper design coming Monday, saying the Tribune has its own marketing plans for spreading those details later this week. Some readers got a preview from a post from the Tribune's Jeff Houck blog today noting that the Wednesday Flavor section stops publication after today, thus moving his column The Stew and several other features to a new Sunday section called BayLife Magazine.
Coats said the Tribune is doing what others, including the St. Petersburg Times, have done, beefing up Sunday sections where people take more time to read while slimming down weekday editions that arrive when readers have little time to peruse them. She said the new Sunday edition will also feature more business news, with changes to how they present local news. (At left is an example of the newspaper's current design.)
The Tribune joins a long list of newspapers that have recently changed their look and newsroom to deal with staff reductions and the increasing price of newsprint. From redesigns of the Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel to news-sharing agreements among the Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Post in South Florida, many newspapers are trying ideas they once never considered to curb costs and maximize staff contributions.
Staffers in the merged Tribune/WFLA/TBO.com newsroom have been separated into several subject areas: data, deadline, watchdog journalism, personal journalism and grassroots. When a news event like a freeway accident occurs, staffers from the deadline area work to gather material for the Web site first, as those tasked to the other areas may develop plans for their own stories.
Because there are editors in charge of each platform, there will be people thinking specifically about what should go into the TV newscasts or next-day newspaper. But Coats said the goal is to develop a newsroom where there is less emphasis on filling holes in a newscast or newspaper and more focus on delivering information to consumers in whatever form they may need.
Isn't it possible important stories that aren't appealing to the Web will get short shrift? "I think there's a certain degree of old media arrogance that goes into that kind of thinking," she said. "For most of us, it's only been in the last year to 18 months that we've started getting away from the idea that the Web site is the newspaper on a computer screen . . . I'm worried that if we don't change how we think about this further it won't matter what falls through the cracks because we'll have no readers."
And though Coats expects "I'll be spending a lot of time on the phone Monday," with readers angered by the changes, the new face of the Tribune and its new focus is something she expects to last a while. "From a reader perspective, it's been just as bad to keep changing the paper we're giving to people every six months," she said. "This is something we think we can sustain and live with a while."
For real geeks about this stuff, click below to see two memos outlining the specific changes in the newsroom.*
From Janet Coats.....
Today, we're announcing the composition of the reporting and photography teams in the Interactive Newsroom.
This is based in large part on the surveys many of you filled out earlier this summer, telling us your preferences for work group membership. Those were reviewed by Don, Duke, Loren and me. Then, we asked the Audience Editors to do another review, with an eye toward making sure we had enough staffing in each group for the work we'll be doing across all platforms.
This list includes only reporters and photographers. No supervisors are on this list. We plan to announce the supervisors for each work group the week of Sept. 29.
We are also working on staffing for the finishing groups and for the desk that will serve as "air traffic control'' for the daily news report. That desk will assume some of the functions of the current WFLA assignment desk and the Trib photo assignment desk, but the focus will be broader and more universal to all the work that is going on in each news cycle.
We intend to announce more details about how that desk will work and about the finishing groups for each platform next week.
There has been confusion, based on some of my ramblings I'm sure, about beats. Reporters who are covering beats generally can assume they are taking that beat with them to their new team. There are a few exceptions, and we'll be talking with those people individually. The idea is not to eliminate beat work, but to change the focus of much of that work as we shift emphasis to an "audience first'' perspective, using TBO as the medium through which we plan much of our coverage.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your platform chief (Don, Duke or Loren) or drop me an email and we'll work with you to get answers. I'm out of the office the rest of this afternoon, but I will be checking email; if you have a concern or question for me to address, email is going to be your best bet until I'm back in the office on Monday.
If you are a reporter or photographer, and if your name does not appear on this list, please do not panic or assume the worst. With this many moving parts, chances are high that we may have inadvertently left off a name or two. Just flag us via email and we'll fix it.
We are pleased to announce the six Audience Editors for the Interactive Newsroom.
Kiely Agliano. Kiely's current position is Senior Editor/Design and Graphics for the Tribune. Kiely has worked at the Tribune since 1997, when she started as a features page designer. In her current role, she has been responsible for the look and feel of the Tribune, coordinating visual presentations for all news sections. She had input into the final TBO home page redesign, and she is working on the redesign of the Tribune.
Clarisa Gerlach. Clarisa is now the CND day editor. She started on what was then the Tribune's "Comm Desk'' in 1993, serving as a Trib page designer from 1995 until 2000. That year, she made the leap to TBO, starting as a news and special projects producer. In her current role, she coordinates news coverage and multimedia content among the platforms and the affiliate newspapers, with a focus on breaking news. She leads the daily 7 a.m. CND meeting, tracks our user traffic and drives interactivity through reader comments.
Ken Koehn. Ken is deputy managing editor for the Tribune, focusing on metro, business, features and weekend coverage. Ken came to the Trib in 1991 as a local government reporter. He covered city hall for five years, worked as bureau chief in Brandon and served as metro government team leader. For three years, he directed our regional coverage, supervising all the bureaus and neighborhood zones.
Susan Newman. Susan is now executive producer for WFLA. She came to WFLA as a planning manager and served as managing editor for that newsroom from 1995 until 2002. She has been executive producer since 2002. Susan has managed short-term and long-range planning projects on everything from hurricanes to Super Bowls. She has worked closely with the CND and the WFLA assignment desk on the merger of resources during the last year. Susan is perhaps the person in the newsroom who has been most directly involved with all of our convergence and cross-platform collaboration efforts during the last nine years.
Vidisha Priyanka. Vidisha is the Interactivity Team leader. We asked Vidisha to lead the formation of that team more than a year ago, when we decided that we needed to focus more on interactive journalism online. Vidisha has been the driving force behind the creation of our database project; under her leadership, Data Bay has grown to include more than 35 databases on everything from baby names to the Pinellas toxic plume. Vidisha came to TBO on an internship in 2001 and stayed on to become a news and special projects producer until assuming the Interactivity Team leader position last year.
Debbie Swartz. Debbie is the assignment desk manager for WFLA. As assignment manager, she prioritizes stories and assigns reporters and photojournalists for WFLA to make sure they are covering the right stories and developing content for the newscasts. Debbie came to WFLA as a photojournalist in 1995. In that role, she field produced news stories, tracked cases through the court system, shot still photos for the Tribune and operated the live truck. Debbie was a member of the team that launched the CND; she has worked to bring the assignment desk and the CND closer in mission and in work flow.