Former Project Thunderdome editor-in-chief Jim Brady asks whether local news organizations need to provide much national news anymore in a reflection on his time at the now-shuttered Digital First Media venture.
Writes Brady, a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board: “Do we think local news organizations — in the disaggregated Web world we live in and the even more atomic mobile world we’re speeding into — actually need much national news anymore?”
DFM announced the shuttering of Thunderdome in April, and it officially closed July 1.
Among Thunderdome’s goals, Brady wrote, was:
To serve as a centralized national news desk for our properties so that we didn’t have multiple papers producing the same story about the royal baby or the Kentucky Derby or the Academy Awards. The hope was that we would then be able to devote more resources to local news in our markets
But that didn’t happen, Brady explained, because “The industrywide financial headwinds ended up being stronger than anticipated, so local newsrooms continued to get smaller during Thunderdome’s life.”
One of those shrinking DFM newsrooms is the Salt Lake Tribune, where the staff is “nearly half the size it was five years ago,” Timothy Pratt reports in The New York Times.
Gays and other minorities have a particular interest in the health of the Tribune and its ability to cover local issues, Pratt writes:
Some members of these groups say The Tribune better represents their concerns than Salt Lake’s other paper, The Deseret News, which is owned by the Mormon Church. And they say that changes made last fall in the joint operating agreement between the publications — which include cutting The Tribune’s profits in half in exchange for cash and other benefits — are certain to spell The Tribune’s demise.
Digital First Media CEO John Paton told the Times, “There are no plans to cease publication of The Tribune today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or ever.”
But the Tribune’s publisher and editor, Terry Orme, told Pratt “his fear was not that The Tribune might fold but that the newspaper would not have the resources to support strong and varied reporting.”
Related: Salt Lake Tribune lays off employees, cuts print features (April) | Salt Lake Tribune won’t get a paywall because of competition (November 2013) | Salt Lake Tribune reduces staff by about 20 percent, undergoes leadership changes (September 2013)