August 6, 2014

The Tennessean isn’t the only Gannett newspaper embarking on “a newsroom of the future” with fewer managers, more nimble reporters and a smaller overall staff in the 24 hours after the company announced it was spinning off its publishing business.

Letters to readers similar to the one posted by the Tennessean’s vice president and executive editor, Stefanie Murray, have been published to the sites of:

In one of the less sweepingly positive of the five letters, Asheville Citizen-Times executive editor Joshua Awtry acknowledges impending layoffs:

Full disclosure: realigning will come with some pain. In keeping with the realities of a fragmented media landscape, the trade-off is that there will be fewer management positions, fewer production-related roles, and that will make us a little smaller overall.

“This production efficiency will result in the elimination of two copy editor positions at the Pensacola News Journal,” writes executive editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara. She also writes that two reporters will be hired.

“Wrenching changes like this don’t come without some pain,” writes William Fox, managing editor at The Greenville News. “There will be fewer management positions and a smaller number of production-related roles. Staff will need new tools and skillsets in order to fulfill their new roles.”

The goal across the sites, it seems, is a “reinvestment in reporting resources,” as Awtry put it.

Writes Hollis R. Towns, Asbury Park Press executive editor/vice president news:

We are flattening our management structure to be more nimble, with fewer hierarchical reporting lines and fewer managers. Reporters will be able to post to directly, cutting layers to give you the news more quickly and efficiently. Reporters will be empowered to roam for news and listen to you in a more self-directed way. The stories they write will be based on what you read and click on.

In an interview with Poynter on Tuesday, The Tennessean’s Murray said one major goal of the reshuffling is to have more “self-sufficient reporters producing publication-ready copy.” The paper is “deconstructing the typical assigning editors job,” resulting in roles such as audience analyst, engagement editor, storytelling coach and content strategist.

The Tennessean’s staff will fall about 15 percent, from 89 to 76.

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Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor,…
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