Loss of autonomy
An interesting tidbit from Teresa Lawlor at Indigio:
During my tenure at MediaNews Group Interactive I saw the smaller local markets become increasingly more profitable and begin to develop a more loyal audience than some of its larger local markets.
Indigio is the company that's been hosting LANG's newspaper blogs, at least until tomorrow, when MediaNews is scheduled to switch over to its MNGi servers.
Lawlor's comments touch upon what I think is the main failing of MediaNews: a top-down management structure that believes in a one-size-fits-all approach to its papers. The result is an extremely rigid enterprise that cannot respond or adapt to change, whether it's a small paper trying to capitalize on increased profits or a larger paper trying to stem its losses. The answer is always the same: throw people overboard.
When money is tight, and it always is, everyone shares the pain - whether they're profitable or not, whether their newsrooms are able to handle cuts or not. This is particularly painful for smaller papers, the golden geese, where even a small drop in the workforce can result in a major drop in quality. (Note to Dean: The Gremlin failed for a reason.)
At the same time, every paper must work from the same basic web template, leaving editors and designers impotent and unable to chart a their own course. No single paper has much, if any, control over their own destiny (the best they can do is manage their losses). The only "innovation" that's celebrated is one that saves money. No capital investment, no local programming, no locally tailored websites. And when they still manage to eek out a profit, break their legs and make them crawl.