Jan 2, 2009

A universal copy desk*, **

The nine daily newspapers that make up the Los Angeles Newspaper Group plan to merge their copy desk functions sometime in the next few months. The resulting universal copy desk will be based in West Covina, home of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. As many as 10 copy editor slots could be lost as part of the merger (from about 85 positions down to about 75).

I'd reported last month that LANG's so-called Inland Division - the Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Redlands Daily Facts and San Bernardino Sun - had planned to consolidate their copy desks. The broader plan now takes in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze and Los Angeles Daily News.

Some LANG newsrooms were told about the plan earlier today, with the admonition that the plan's final shape had yet to be fully worked out. Employees were also warned of more turmoil in the coming weeks.

*Updated: Though some details of the plan have yet to be sorted out, editors at the Daily News and Daily Breeze decided to tell their respective newsrooms about the merger today to head off rumors. Copy editors were told they would be eligible for severance if they choose not to make the move to West Covina.

Also, while the universal copy desk might seem radical at first, it's really just the final step for consolidation-addicted LANG. Although there are nine papers, there are only five copy desks - the Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram share a desk, so do the Star-News, Tribune and Whittier Daily News, and so do the Bulletin, Sun and Daily Facts. Only the Daily News has a desk of its own.

**Updated II: The Daily Breeze folks are finally set to move in to their new offices at the end of the month. There is, of course, room for a copy desk.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Poor start to 2009.

Anonymous said...

A common product, or somewhat common product, or increasingly common product as the consolidated copy desk builds skill?

Anonymous said...

Did they lay anyone off today or will this happen Monday?

Anonymous said...

I think the idea is to piss people off so they will quit on their own.

The spineless bastards who run the company didn't have the stones to make the announcement themselves, and did it on a day when the newsrooms are lightly staffed.

Pafnuty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I agree. This is a calculated move designed to shed some job posts along the way. It is not the first time desks have been consolidated.

Jonathan Volzke said...

Of all the bad things that have been happening to newspapers, I'm not sure this is the worst.

I'd rather see a consolidated copy desk than the elimination of a reporters.

Same with printing.

I've owned my own newspaper, and now our group has three. I'd be scratching my heads if we had three teams doing essentially the same thing from three different locations.

I'm sure within the consolidated desks, different CEs will retain/develop their expertise in each given publication.

But then again, I haven't been terribly alarmed over the consolidation of bureaus in Tribune and others, either. Same idea, if I own more than one paper and have a reporter based elsewhere, that reporter reports for all of the papers.

When I started at the Register, we used to send two reporters to City Council meetings, one for the daily and one for the community sections. Even there, someone finally figured out that was a waste of money. Readers didn't notice the consolidation.

We're not talking about greed here, folks, we're talking about survival.

All that said, I hope it doesn't lead to layoffs; seems like attrition, etc. would do it.

Anonymous said...

This move is not to consolidate as much as it is to spur some people to quit. When it's forced, I'm not sure attrition is actually a better move than layoffs, it is essentially the same thing. Now I finlly believe that outsourcing to India is a real possibility.

Anonymous said...

Earlier comments attached to the 401k info are no longer rumors. The number now exceeds 60 positions that won't be filled and layoffs this Monday
Another illustration that so called leaders in LANG have not a clue. How many times has the copy desl been moved in the last 2 years?
As far as greed., it is greed. Why would anyone get to the point of killing all their children rather than those who are going to die anyway. I doubt if the Daily News is filled with margin!
The same can be said for some of the so called Inland newspapers.
By the way, I doubt if the layoffs will be just restricted to the newsroom.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Janiga say no more layoffs?

My goodness, were you fibbing?

Anonymous said...

Somewhere Steve Osullivan is laughing his butt off.

Anonymous said...

Re: Somewhere, Steve O'Sullivan is laughing his butt off

Unfortunately, OSU could never find his ass with either hand so he's going to need someone to tell him that he's laughed it off...

Anonymous said...

Jonathan, you are way out of your element in this case.

By consolidating these desks, while it may seem like this great idea to save reporters' jobs, it won't. All they're doing is stripping away the institutional knowledge of the areas.

Your papers (nice plug by the way) -- and the Register daily and community editions, for that matter -- have been fairly tightly clustered together. The current set up has worked, in part, because of that.

But by ripping copy editors from LA and telling them that now they need to read a story about Operation Fenix is San Bernardino (or is it Phonix? or Phoenix?) is absolutely wrong. (by the way, it is Phoenix). Is that LA copy editor going to know who 40 Glocc, the Rialto "gang" rapper? Or should it be 40-Glock?

Sure, some of the copy editors from the Inland area will know that ... if they make the move, and many of them probably won't. And if you expect the copy to come to the desk clean from the city desk (if they stay out in their regions at all), good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

And that's not even mentioning the fact that the paper's are having a hard time of completing their "core" mission of serving their community.

For example, on a typical day, it's hard to find Pasadena news in the Pasadena Star News, because so many reporters and editors have already been consolidated.

What you had were papers that had carved out their own local niche and covered just those areas. With consolidation, the idea of a "local" story now includes cities as far as 50 miles away that have absolutely no bearing to the readers it's reaching.

Anonymous said...

For example, on a typical day, it's hard to find Pasadena news in the Pasadena Star News, because so many reporters and editors have already been consolidated.

What you had were papers that had carved out their own local niche and covered just those areas. With consolidation, the idea of a "local" story now includes cities as far as 50 miles away that have absolutely no bearing to the readers it's reaching.


You're absolutely right. I've said it before and I'll say it again - the only advantage a mid-market paper has is its local news gathering operations. 99% of the time, there's no competing business or organization capable of gathering local news on the same scale or at the same quality as the town newspaper. Local Web sites may be able to pick off a story here and there, and get the occasional scoop, but when it comes to day-to-day reporting of community news, there's no competition.

By giving up that advantage to focus on a more homogeneous, generic, "one size fits all" publishing model, they're forcing their individual properties to compete with media outlets that are much more nimble, efficient, and new-media savvy than they'll ever be. The results, as we've all seen, are predictably disappointing. Circulation keeps falling, revenue goes down a few more percent, and they decide the best response would be to eliminate local resources even more. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that with all the cuts that have been made over the past few years, copy editors aren't just copy editing anymore. They blog, compile calendar listings, create online packages and databases, make cop calls on the weekends, take phone tips from readers at night, take prep scores, fill in for the city desk.... All their "downtime" has been absorbed to pick up the slack left by other cuts.

I hate when people think of copy editing as a processing job that can be done on an assembly line. These people are content creators, too. All that content is just going to be thrown out. I guess we won't answer the phones on the weekend. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

A universal copy desk just means less news. They did this with the Star-News and the Tribune years ago and you had West Covina stories on the story of the SN, which just served to piss people off.

The Pasadena Star-News is sad, which is a shame as it was a great paper once upon a time.

The SGV Tribune has always been horrible.

Anonymous said...

I hate when people think of copy editing as a processing job that can be done on an assembly line.

That's what happens when you push the journalists out of management so that bumbling theory-smart MBAs can take over and run things into the ground. These guys are absolutely convinced of their own genius, and no amount of reality is going to convince them otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I am worried about what will happen come Monday. I know a lot of other people are too.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the only advantage a mid-market paper has is its local news gathering operations. 99% of the time, there's no competing business or organization capable of gathering local news on the same scale or at the same quality as the town newspaper.

Absolutely, positively correct. And I can't believe someone hasn't realized that yet. The Pasadena Star-News, for example, can't compete with the L.A. Times, CNN, the Internet and all the other news sources on state, national or international news. But, on local news, no one can compete with the Star-News. Or shouldn't be able to, anyway.

If you live in Pasadena, and you want local news -- city council, school board, police and fire, local features, etc. -- the Star-News is the only place you can find it. Or it should be. Beef up and PROMOTE the local coverage. Give readers the news they really CAN'T get anywhere else. Stop trying to be all things to all people, and go back to being a GOOD local newspaper.

Gary Scott said...

Anonymous Jan. 3 8:55 p.m.: A big part of the problem is that chains own many of our local papers. Chains are largely unresponsive to local trends, and that sentiment trickles down to the newsrooms as resources become scarce. That's why chains use exotic-sounding made up words like "hyperlocal" to describe a very ordinary type of news coverage - because it's exotic to the front office.

Papers like the Pasadena Star-News aren't trying to be all things to all people. They don't know what they are anymore.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the people in Denver think these papers are all close to each other. I'm betting they don't realize that there are people who work in the Valley or in the South Bay who have never been to San Bernardino, have never seen a copy of the Inland Valley Daily whatever, and haven't the first clue where San Gabriel is. And I'll bet there are people who work for the inland papers who couldn't name a city in the South Bay.

Anonymous said...

there is very little local news left and it will get even smaller in the coming weeks.

to bad the big shots couldn't find their way out of a ralphs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the people in Denver think these papers are all close to each other. I'm betting they don't realize that there are people who work in the Valley or in the South Bay who have never been to San Bernardino, have never seen a copy of the Inland Valley Daily whatever, and haven't the first clue where San Gabriel is.

It goes deeper than geography, they don't understand the industry at all. What's even worse is that they don't have an ounce of desire to understand the industry either.

They figure as long as the masthead is okay, then people will buy the paper, because the content doesn't really matter. I don't think they've ever considered the geographical distances at all. As long as the pages are getting filled (and for as little expense as possible) then it's a success.

Anonymous said...

The Star News is not the only game in town in Pasadena. The Pasadena Weekly does a good job at covering local news. Right now, I would say the Weekly has more local news than the SN.

Anonymous said...

Look up exit strategy.

Anonymous said...

Saying the Pasadena Weekly has more local news than the Pasadena Star News hasn't been news for quite a while. I doubt if anyone even compares the two in langland. It just doesn't matter to them. Neither does their employees who will continue to suffer.

Mike Rappaport said...

If the question in Pasadena is "who is the competition?", it's a question that shouldn't even be asked.

The competition to LANG is not for subscribers or hits, it's for advertising dollars.

They're far past caring about the product, as we will unfortunately see tomorrow. Say a prayer for all your friends who still have jobs in LANG and hope they survive Renfield.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it will happen all at once tomorrow. The cuts may be doled out little-by-little.

The rumors are all over the map, different numbers and such. Are there even 60 people left working editorial side at any of these papers anymore?

Gina T. said...

I should be asleep but instead I'm up pacing. I have tried to stay away from Gary's blog for a few days but could not tonight.

Not to bring religion into this, but I'm doing a lot of praying that tomorrow will go by like any other day.

That's the hope I'm hanging on to anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, praying....it's got a proven record to be infalible...NOT

Gina T. said...

Sorry, it wasn't my intention to offend any one. These people are my friends, and it's all I have left. I'm tired of crying over what's happening to these papers.

Anonymous said...

so far, so good today. Nothing to report yet.

Anonymous said...

It's still early. The number I hear is 12 in editorial just at the Daily News.

Anonymous said...

do you think this will all go down at the end of the day then?

Anonymous said...

I don't know as the honest answer and have not heard anything one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Attention all LANG executives, you are hurting people by keeping them in the dark.

For once give a damn. Tell your employees something. Your fear inducing methods are sick and twisted.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, really. No one deserves to live like this.

Anonymous said...

I doubt it's going to happen today at this point, not with everyone expecting it and it already being near the end of the day.

But beware of what the future holds. I doubt it's good.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a troll among us who gets a thrill out of scaring people. As if things weren't tense enough. As someone said earlier, at this point, if you don't have concrete information, please don't spread rumors. We're all getting tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Anonymous said...

Keep an eye on your bathroom doors everyone!

Anonymous said...

In defense of the "troll," has a rumour proven not true in recent memory? I'm just sayin'..I know nobody want to hear it, but it's the closest to real info we got given the "keep'em in the dark" policy LANG has adopted...

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out why anyone still subscribes to any of the LANG papers.

Anonymous said...

To the "troll" hater:

I am not clear who you are even talking about. Aren't we are all "trolls" then? People are just trying to find out what's going on in an uncertain atmosphere.

Besides, why are you focusing your anger on any of the posters here? It's highly unlikely that anyone here is responsible for the layoffs or if they happen or not. The people responsible for the layoffs are who you should be angry at.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the last comment. Your anger needs to be directed to those holding the strings. Just because the event didn't happen today, don't bury your head in the sand. It will happen and it won't be nice.

Anonymous said...

Enough with the word troll and enough with the scare tactics. If something is coming down the pipe, we need to be supportive of each other to some extent.

We need to choose our words carefully.

Anonymous said...

LOL a troll, so you would thing someone here is the bad guy?? Come on we all know sooner or later exactly what the LANG executives are going to do.

They are going to screw their employees, with layoffs, bad business decisions and bad hires.

They are the ones living under the bridge.

Anonymous said...

There are no bad guys here, but rumors don't help anyone. Unless you have a direct pipeline to Deano's office, your guess is as good as anyone else's as to what's coming down the pipeline. Personally, I think layoffs will be forestalled for a while until they see how many copy editors leave because of consolidation. That's not a rumor, just an opinion.

Gary Scott said...

I'll second what anonymous Jan. 6 8:46 a.m. has to say: LANG is in the process of moving around copy desks, which will mean fewer employees whether through layoffs or people quitting. And MediaNews is awaiting a response from the unions in Denver on $20 million in savings from proposed wage and benefit cuts. Both will take weeks if not months to resolve. I've heard nothing to suggest any layoffs are imminent in LANG. That doesn't mean they couldn't happen tomorrow, but generic assertions made anonymously in a comment thread should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

There may not be a pipeline into Dean's office, but when high placed lang executives tell someone a number it wasn't discussed in a vacuum. No one made it up to be cruel. And for some reason, people are just discussing the copy desk and journalists. There are a number of other hard working talented people who will get the ax.

Anonymous said...

Do you honestly believe Dean Singleton or any of his high-ranking cronies are really going to leave a comment on here and confirm our suspicions one way or another? I can't even begin to understand the troll comment, unless that's what was meant by it. But its highly unlikely LANG managers don't read this blog, its a public blog. I strongly doubted that anyone was going to be let go yesterday when the whole chain was buzzing about it. If there was a real leak in the chain of command, do you really think Media news was going to verify it? Of course not, these things come with an element of surprise and that was compromised. I agree what Gary says makes sense and that blog threads should be taken with a grain of salt. no one should live and die by a rumor but its also stupid to pretend everything is going to be OK now. Sadly, in this industry, rumors often prove to be the rule rather than the exception.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. Well said. The date and timing may be off, but, I wouldn't bet the farm on the outcome.

Anonymous said...

I agree this attitude that somehow these are just rumors is wishful thinking, it is NOT a rumor. There will be more job losses at some point.

Sorry to say it, but it is just the way it is in that company.

Anonymous said...

The grammatical errors in this thread, along with many other comment strings on this blog, are proof that LANG papers desperately need good copy editors.

Good god, people!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the rumors were not rumors.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the "troll" wasn't looking to just "scare" people after all, may be to warn them. The rumors are starting to look like more than just rumors.

You wanted to bury your head in the sand and the "troll" turned out to be right.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Dean is shrinking some of the LANG papers to less than seven days a week publication to possibly three or four times per week? My hunch thinks so sooner rather than later. What about the Times taking over production...where's that going?