Patriot-News, Post-Standard will reduce print frequency to three days a week

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The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Penn State scandal, and The (Syracuse, N.Y.) Post-Standard are following their corporate siblings in Alabama and New Orleans to a reduced printing schedule.

Beginning in January 2013, the Patriot-News will print on Sundays and two other days that "will be determined after gathering input from readers and advertisers," an unbylined article reports. "Further details and how these changes will affect employees, readers and advertisers will be announced over the coming weeks and months," Syracuse's announcement reads.

Advance executive Randy Siegel tells Poynter in an email there's no word on layoffs yet:

Our local leadership is evaluating the needs of the two new organizations and will let employees know as soon as is possible. It is likely that there will be fewer employees at the new organizations than currently at The Patriot-News. However, our complement of reporters and content creators will be comparable in size to our current staff.

The moves follow the script of previous changes to Advance-owned papers. The Patriot-News and will merge into an entity called PA Media Group. Patriot-News publisher John Kirkpatrick will become its president. In a letter to readers, Kirkpatrick praised the Patriot-News' impact on the communities it serves.

The plan to reinvent ourselves into a digitally-focused organization with a quality print product three-days a week is aimed at making sure that kind of work continues long into the future.

In this photo provided by The Patriot-News, reporter Sara Ganim, 24, center, waits for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize results with Assistant Managing Editor Mike Feeley, left, and Executive Editor Cate Barron, right, moments before winning The 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, April 16, 2012. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Christine Baker)

In March, The Patriot-News reported average Sunday circulation of 118,655 (including branded editions) a 4.5 percent increase over the year before. Its daily circulation was down slightly, to 70,446. It reported about 1.6 million unique Web readers.

The Post-Standard's average Sunday circulation was 137,489 in March, down from 140,226 the year before, and daily circ was down 7 percent, to 78,616. (Jeff Sonderman breaks down the circulation figures in greater detail.)

"In the short run it's not so clear that this saves them money," says Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds. "They think in the long run that print ad revenues are going to continue to decline. It's also true that unlike the 300 or so papers who have put in pay walls, they are not betting on charging for digital or charging more for print."

Paul Pohlman, a Poynter faculty member who consults regularly with Advance, said, "It seems like they are doing this in regional clusters. Syracuse and the Patriot-News are the closest together."

At the beginning of this month, Advance executive Steven Newhouse told me the company is taking a hard look at all its properties:

“We’re facing the same conditions everywhere,” he said. “We’re looking at every market and trying to figure out what the right model is. We have local teams doing it because the conditions are different in different markets, but our goal everywhere is to come up with a formula where we can see a long-term future.”

At the time the Alabama and New Orleans changes were announced, Steve Myers talked with Harlan Spector, the head of the Advance-owned Cleveland Plain Dealer's Guild. Spector said the paper's got a no-layoff pledge from Advance that runs through January 2013. "But no one’s naïve enough to think that we’re going to be spared for eternity the ravages, the things that have happened to other people," Spector said.

Earlier in August, Willamette Week reporter Aaron Mesh wrote employees at the Advance-owned Oregonian are "living with the reality that any day might be the day when the people from Jersey walk in.”

In May, Patriot-News Editor David Newhouse left the Patriot-News to take an executive position at Advance. He was replaced by Cate Barron.

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at nearby Syracuse University provides many interns to the Post-Standard. In an email to Poynter, Newhouse Dean Lorraine Branham writes, "at the moment we anticipate no change in our internship relationship with the Post-Standard."

They still plan to have a robust online operation and they still plan to cover the Syracuse community, so we think our students will still be welcomed there. But I know they are still trying to sort things out, so we will see.

My coworker Mallary Tenore is curating reactions online, including from Sara Ganim whose Penn State coverage led the Patriot-News to its Pulitzer Prize:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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