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Combined production desks

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by The Shrubberer, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. The Shrubberer

    The Shrubberer New Member

    Just looking to get some dialogue going on the topic. There doesn’t seem to be a catch-all read on the employees’ thoughts or anything that addresses whether or not communities care this is happening.

    While the Los Angeles Newspaper Group proved that combining production desk duties for multiple papers under one roof certainly isn’t a new fad, lots of places seem to be following suit. So where do all of the chains stand? Or your newspaper?

    Gannett has begun to implement the strategy, but is there any master list for how the company decides to cluster the newspapers? I know they are handling multiple papers in Louisville, Marion, Ind., and Monroe, La.

    Is this companywide? Are the bigger papers free from having to do this?

    McClatchy has talked about doing this, but I’m not sure of any timelines. Ditto Media General.

    Scripps has already done this in Texas and rumor has it a decision will be made soon that they will consolidate all of their newspaper design/copy desks under two or three total production centers, and this total includes the one already in Corpus Christi.

    From a desk perspective, if you work at one of these centers, how is it working out? Is technology an issue? How about control of your section, both from a design and content perspective?

    This seems to be the wave of the future but doesn’t represent a huge cost savings in terms of manpower unless multiplied over many years. Of course, the suits say that it’s a huge savings, but at what cost to the product?

    And to the newspapers that have lost their desk personnel to such a center, what issues have you seen with your product? Quality, deadlines, control, etc.?
  2. McClatchy is already sharing content and production between Charlotte and Raleigh in state government coverage, sports and features. Word is even more sharing is upcoming soon.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Sharing is one thing.

    We're editing your copy is another.

    Put it this way, if papers make deadlines earlier so they can lay off some pressmen, why would they worry that combined copy desks inevitably aren't going to be as good?
  4. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    This is not really a combined-publication situation, but I think that the logic might apply.

    In our shop, we used to have different editorial departments that had under-staffed desks, so everyone worked their butts off and, unfortunately, we were always falling behind and mistakes that should have been caught started slipping through. The grand solution was to combine all the under-staffed desks into one universal desk with the same few total people handling the same large volume of work.

    We're a couple of months into it and, surprise, nothing has really changed. Except, of course, that if someone calls in sick who works in another section and that section can't keep up, the work is shared. And all the sections fall a bit behind.

    "Journalists" suck at math.
  5. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    I'll bet Advance Publications (Newhouse) begins doing this before too long.
  6. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    I believe McClatchy is doing that already in Washington state, with the Tacoma News Tribune also doing layout and much of the content for The Olympian. A skeleton crew remains in Olympia. Evidently advertising is being moved into the newsroom so the former advertising space can be leased out, at least that was the talk a couple of months ago.
  7. Pencil Dick

    Pencil Dick Member


    Meeting tomorrow at the N&O. Here's the memo copy desk folks received today. Doesn't sound promising:

    We will have a meeting for designers and copy editors at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the McDaniels conference room. I have talked about studying ways to find efficiencies in the way we produce the newspaper, both here and at other McClatchy newspapers in the Carolinas. This meeting will discuss options we have examined and how they could impact The N&O newsroom.

  8. printdust

    printdust New Member

    Will this result in any cuts in upper level administration once they don't have as much to examine in ways to cut? Nah.
  9. Yeah, why do I read that word "efficiencies" and think it's a euphemism for "fewer staffers"?
  10. Updating now: The McClatchy Pipeline says expect a regional design/copy desk within six months that will serve Charlotte and Raleigh in NC, and Columbia and Rock Hill in SC. No mention (yet) of adding Myrtle Beach, SC. Sources say it will be based in Charlotte, that it's practically a done deal. The bean counters expect to save 10-20 percent in "efficiencies."

    That's 10-20 percent fewer copy editors and designers, if you're scoring at home. Would have wished I wasn't right on that prediction. But not to worry. Those designers and copy editors working in Columbia and Raleigh will get to apply for their old jobs, as long as they pick up and move to Charlotte. (Rock Hill apparently is already designed and edited in Charlotte.)
  11. Dusty13

    Dusty13 New Member

    A while back, I worked on a regional desk that copy edited and paginated a handful of papers. Suffice it to say, I didn't enjoy it very much.

    It wasn't so much the heavy workload that bothered me, but the fact there was absolutely no connection to any of the papers on which I worked. It became much more of a production job, rather than a creative, collaborative process. One thing I always loved while working in newsrooms was the teamwork that happened from reporter to assigning editor to copy editors. When you simply paginate a paper 40 miles away, that interaction ends, and the process of putting out a newspaper becomes much less enjoyable. That's just my opinion.

    (As a matter of perspective, I was lucky enough to work at a paper that took on the increased workload, rather than the other way around. I feel for the many who lost their jobs in the process of creating "efficiencies.")

    I now work at another paper and occassionally fill in on the copy desk. Sadly, even though only one paper is edited and paginated at our shop, stafffing issues have still made it more of a get-that-page-sent process rather than a journalism process. I guess no matter how many papers you handle, that's the reality for copy desks everywhere.
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