MediaNews Group

MediaNews’ Richard Scudder dies at 99

The Denver Post
Richard Scudder, who with Dean Singleton built MediaNews Group into the second-largest newspaper chain by circulation and then saw the company go into bankruptcy in 2010, died early Wednesday.

Scudder’s career in newspapers started in the 1930s, as a reporter at the Boston Herald and the Newark Evening News, which his grandfather had founded, according to the Post’s obituary.

“The newspaper business generally has fallen into the hands of people other than those who grew up in the newsroom,” Scudder said in a 1988 interview. “That’s not the case with Dean and myself. We’ve been reporters, and we’ve been out in the street. I don’t know how you could judge a newspaper to be good or not so good unless you’ve lived in the newsroom for a while.”

An interesting footnote: Scudder was one of the inventors of a process that removed ink from newsprint, which gave birth to the recycled newsprint industry. Read more


Denver Post, Bay Area News Group revamp story editing with fewer copy editors

In some ways, the Denver Post and Contra Costa Times’ cutbacks in copyediting, announced last month and now final, are a common story these days. Less common are the other changes they’re making in how they handle print stories.

The Denver Post is eliminating its copy desk and moving away from an assembly-line editing process. Instead, reporters and editors on each desk will take stories from reporting to publishing, online and in print.

The Contra Costa Times, which handles production for the Bay Area News Group’s 10 regional newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune, is not eliminating its copy desk. But it is reducing the amount of copy editing for routine stories and moving deadlines up so stories are published earlier in the day.

The new approaches have more in common with Web publishing than the old systems. That brings some benefits, like publishing stories during the day when people are online and having a more flexible staff with a wider range of skills.

And it comes with drawbacks: a greater chance that errors will make it into print — without the ease of fixing them like you can online — and earlier deadlines that make it harder to get late news in the paper.

Finances, of course, are driving these changes, as they are with Digital First Media’s efforts to centralize production of non-local news pages and consolidate and outsource printing. (Does “Project Thunderdome” ring a bell?)

But a digital emphasis is driving the changes, too. “If the company is called Digital First, are you going to be willing to commit more resources to the digital side of things?” asked Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of Digital First, in a phone interview. “At some point it will have to come at the expense of people who are working on the print side.”

Brady said the papers are pulling back on copy editing so they don’t have to cut reporters and ad salespeople. “No question, you’re walking more of a tightrope when you do that … We can buy ourselves more security by keeping that layer, but at the same time we decided you don’t want to cut feet on the street.”

San Jose Mercury News Editor Dave Butler, who oversees Bay Area News Group, and Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post, said in separate phone interviews that they’ve finalized the cuts that they outlined in April.

The final numbers at Contra Costa:

  • Five copy editors laid off
  • Four transferred into vacant reporting positions
  • Two resigned just before the cuts to take jobs elsewhere
  • Up to 10 weekly part-time shifts eliminated

All told, 13 full-time equivalent positions were cut, Butler told me.

At the Post, no one with the title of copy editor will be employed at the paper after June 15. Of the 23 people on the copy desk:

  • 11 are resigning with severance and an enhanced health care package.
  • One copy editor is moving to a reporting position.
  • Another is going to the design desk.
  • The copy desk chief will become a production manager.
  • The remaining nine former copy editors will become “assistant editors” assigned to desks (business, features, Metro, sports) throughout the newsroom.

Each of those desks will operate as “self-contained publishing units,” Moore said.

The process will vary, but for routine stories it will go something like this: A reporter will write a story and a suggested Web headline. An assigning editor will edit the story, check the headline and publish it on the website.

When designers arrive in the afternoon, they’ll lay out pages based on the budgeted lengths of stories and come up with headline specs. The reporter will revise the story if necessary, perhaps adding additional reporting. An editor will read the story again, and one of them will place it on the page. Sometimes reporters will edit one anothers’ work.

Moore said the Post already publishes a number of stories throughout the day, but it will publish more under the new system.

Under the old system, Moore said, a story often would be read six or seven times. Now it will be two or three, perhaps more if it’s a big, high-stakes story.

For this to work, staff will have to be trained on a variety of skills, such as writing headlines for print and the Web and, of course, copy editing.

“We have not given up on copy editing,” Moore said. “We’re going to still edit stories before publishing online or in print. And we’ve retained a lot of copyediting DNA” in the newsroom; some of those people will do the training.

When Brady was a sportswriter for The Washington Post, “I knew that if I didn’t have a word spelled right … I could punt and someone could catch it,” he said. “We’re not going back to the era of having that many touches on stories.”

Not only are tools readily available to check facts, titles and spelling, Brady said, but he believes reporters are more conscious of accuracy as they tweet and live-blog.

Still, he acknowledged that quality will suffer. “I doubt Dave or Greg will tell you they’ll have a better product after having fewer copy editors,” he said.

The changes at the Contra Costa Times are less radical. Stories will move from an assigning editor to an editor on the integrated copy/design desk, but each story will get one read on the copy desk, not two. That means the total number of reads will go from four to three. Some briefs may go up without copy editing; big stories will get more attention.

Butler said he’s making these changes as part of an effort to upend the traditional emphasis on print. The various BANG websites do well with posting breaking news online, but planning meetings are still print-focused, he said.

Enterprise stories are edited at night, and they aren’t posted online until they go through the print production process. Some of those stories are buried on the website by the time most people see them the next morning.

Butler wants to avoid editing stories at night unless they have to be. He’s moving up the deadlines for non-breaking, enterprise stories so they can be edited and published during the day, when people are looking at the site.

That means reporters have to start their work earlier, at 8:30 a.m., not 10.

Under the new system, a story budgeted for Wednesday’s paper would be edited on Monday. “And then the next morning we can decide to release the story for the Web when we have the … maximum potential for traffic,” Butler said. “We’re making a specific effort so that at noon there will be some new material that is not simply … breaking-news stuff.”

The Washington Post recently delayed print publication of its story about Mitt Romney’s bullying until the day after it ran online, but for different reasons. Editors decided to hold it from the paper in part because they didn’t want it to run alongside another story about President Barack Obama’s support of gay marriage. The story went online Thursday and was in Friday’s newspaper.

“Am I worried that TV and other newspapers will steal stories we post in the morning and will run with them all day, and we come out with a story [in the newspaper] the next day?” Butler asked. “Of course we are. But they’ve been stealing our stories the whole time.”

He said the new editing system is a return to the days when reporters couldn’t rely on multiple lines of defense, which he believes encouraged sloppiness.

“I need every reporter and photographer that I can get to produce the news,” he said. “Whether it’s Web production or print … I have to streamline as much as possible so I can devote my resources to newsgathering.”

Moore is “doing what he thinks is best for the Denver Post and what is appropriate there, and I’m doing what I think is best for the Bay Area newspapers,” Butler said. “God knows what either of us will do if the economy collapses and things keep going as they are.” Read more


Bay Area News Group cuts 34 newsroom positions

Walnut Creek Patch
MediaNews’ Bay Area News Group, which includes the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, The Oakland Tribune and other papers, cut 34 positions on Tuesday. Walnut Creek Patch reports that 10 of the cuts were voluntary; that matches the expectations of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which said on its website last week that about 25 people would be laid off after “several workers quit or stepped forward for a voluntary layoff” and the company reduced its freelance expenses. || Related: Such cutbacks increase the importance of independent sites like Oakland Local (CJR) || Earlier: Oakland Tribune, other BANG papers to retain mastheads; end Monday home delivery ( Read more


Oakland Tribune, other BANG papers to retain mastheads; end Monday home delivery

San Jose Mercury News
Bay Area News Group (BANG) has reversed its decision to combine its East Bay papers into two mastheads after getting negative feedback from the community. BANG also announced Thursday that it will halt home delivery on Mondays of the Oakland Tribune, The Argus and the Hayward Daily Review, starting sometime in November. Monday papers will still be available at stores and news racks; there will also be electronic versions.

BANG and parent company MediaNews Group said they plan to emphasize social media and community participation, with the addition of a community media center in the new Oakland Tribune newsroom. “This strategy is in the forefront of the newspaper industry’s transition from print-centric businesses to a locally focused provider of news and information across multiple platforms,” says MediaNews Group CEO John Paton. The San Francisco Chronicle reported rumblings about these moves on Oct. 21. Read more


Digital First Media names leadership team

Digital First Media, the new company that runs MediaNews and Journal Register Co. properties, has named its leadership team. Jeff Bairstow, who was Journal Register’s chief financial officer, will run daily operations for all news outlets as president of Digital First Media. Jim Brady, who was named editor-in-chief of Journal Register Co. earlier this year, now has the same title for Digital First Media. (Brady has done some consulting for Poynter.) The executive editor is David J. Butler, who has been VP of news for MediaNews and editor of the San Jose Mercury News. Read more

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MediaNews and Journal Register Co. brought under one roof with John Paton at helm

Journal Register Co.
Journal Register Co. announced Wednesday that it is creating a company called Digital First Media Inc. to manage it and MediaNewsGroup. John Paton will be CEO of Digital First and will act as CEO of MediaNews and Journal Register Co. Paton said in the news release that the change will accelerate the transition “from what have largely been print-centric businesses to modern, multi-platform media companies focused on local news and advertising.” Paton writes in a blog post, “If our dailies continue on the trend they are on right now, by the end of the year they will have brought in more digital revenue than the costs of running their newsrooms. Digital revenues can pay for newspaper newsrooms.” Read more


About 120 lose jobs in Bay Area News Group rebranding, streamlining

San Francisco Chronicle | Contra Costa Times |
The existing Bay Area News Group (BANG) newspapers titles will continue to be published after the changes take effect on November 2, 2011, but under two consolidated mastheads. The Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald, and East County Times will be branded under The Times masthead, while the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times will be rebranded as the East Bay Tribune. BANG — a division of MediaNews Group — also says it’s streamlining its print operations, which will result in a reduction of approximately 120 jobs, “primarily in the production and editorial divisions.” ||’s Lance Howland hears that almost 50 people on the editorial side will lose their jobs. || SF Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci tweets: “Corporate PR spin: Release from CA’s Bay Area News Group, announcing decimation of its newspaper/staff chain tday, calls it ‘rebranding.’”

Pacific Media Workers Guild executive officer Carl Hall tells KQED:

Its shocking to contemplate any change of this scale. You’re talking about the loss of jobs on a mass scale and nobody knows whose job exactly is going to be cut, so everybody is trying to figure out what’s going to happen to my job, my bureau, my newspaper. …I don’t know how long this chaos and consolidation and layoff is going to last. We were hoping maybe by now we’d be in a recovery, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening.

I can’t just point the finger at MediaNews and say well they’re corporate ogres and they’re only cutting costs. I think they’re trying to find a strategy that will allow them to succeed, but right now we’re in this transition period that’s just devastating.

Read more


‘Watch for MediaNews CEO search to end with Journal Register’s Paton’
Rick Edmonds explains his “wild guess”: “John Paton has transformed Journal Register to digital first, and that aligns with MediaNews’ likely direction.” Journal Register and Media News can also be merged — perhaps with Freedom too, he says. PLUS: Who is Randall Smith and what does he want with the newspapers he’s investing in? Read more


Howard Saltz named editor of Sun-Sentinel

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Howard Saltz, former vice president of content development at MediaNews Group Interactive, has been named editor of the Sun-Sentinel. Saltz was one of the executives who had worked on MediaNews’ paid content strategy. From the Sun-Sentinel:

Saltz came up through the ranks on the traditional side of the business, serving as deputy managing editor of The Denver Post and editor-in-chief of four MediaNews Group papers, before emerging as the chief editorial executive for its interactive division. Recognized for his innovation and vision at MediaNews Group, Saltz pioneered paid content models and strategies, laid the groundwork for newsroom convergence and served as a guardian of journalism ethics for the digital enterprises of more than 55 dailies and 100 plus weeklies.

Read more

MediaNews’ Bay Area News Group papers to operate under one news management team

San Jose Mercury News | Pleasanton Patch
BANG has tapped San Jose Mercury News editor and MediaNews Group news veep David J. Butler lead all the papers. In addition to the Mercury News, BANG papers include the Contra Costa Times, San Mateo County Times, Oakland Tribune and various sister daily and weekly papers. Pleasanton Patch reports: “An employee at the Contra Costa Times said the mood in the newsroom was quiet and gloomy. The employee said the announcement wasn’t necessarily surprising, given the other cutbacks at the newspapers the past few years.” || Newsman Richard Brenneman has been blogging the BANG announcement. Read more


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