The E.W. Scripps Company, publisher of my former employer, the Ventura County Star, has decided to “consolidate” the desk functions — including the page designers — of its three West Coast properties (the Star, the Redding Record Searchlight and the Kitsap Sun in Washington) into one department in… Corpus Christi, TX. Yup, Texas.
At least 15 copy editors and page designers (some people do both jobs) dealing with news, features, business and sports will see their positions eliminated, along with the news wire editor. Supposedly they can apply for jobs in Corpus Christi… but then, that means living in Corpus Christi.
What does this mean to the newspapers? It means there won’t be local people to catch local place names, history or other regional idiosyncrasies that good local copy editors can catch, nor any real “institutional memory” of local people and institutions.
For example, the city of Ojai (pronounced OH-high) in Ventura County has a now-closed burger shack, the O-Hi Frostie. An out-of-town copy editor likely wouldn’t accept the deviant spelling of the latter to see print even though it would’ve been correct. Would they know that “Mandalay Bay” and “RiverPark” are part of Oxnard? Would they think the name “Oxnard” is too weird and maybe it should be “Oxford” instead?
As Greenberg notes, MediaNews Group pioneered the consolidated copy desk, having merged multiple news desks into one for its Southern California papers and one for its Northern California papers. The company has yet to cross state - or international - lines.
(Comment on Greenberg's post: "Is it true that the Ventura paper is changing its name to the Ventura County Lone Star?")