‘Dallas Morning News’ Publisher, Editor Say New Structure Doesn’t Equal a Newsroom Sellout

By: E&P Staff

Dallas Morning News Publisher Jim Moroney and Editor Bob Mong say the new business and editorial structure announced this week does not mean sales-side manager will be dictating what editors can publish.

In extensive comments to Robert Wilonsky, media writer for the alternative weekly Dallas Observer, Moroney and Mong said the “business/news integration” structure has been widely misunderstood — inside the newspaper as well as outside it.

“There are people here that are very upset, very concerned about it,” Moroney told Wilonsky. “We’re talking to them directly too. Bob has. [Senior Vice President of Sales] Cyndy [Carr] has. [Lifestyle Editor] Lisa [Kresl] has.”

In a Wednesday memo to employees, Mong and Carr announced the creation of general managers for 11 “business and content” segments such as sports, real estate, grocery and recruitment. The executives said that the lifestyle editor and chief sports editor would report directly to these general managers, who are “charged with analyzing and growing the business by developing solutions that meet consumer needs and maximize results for our clients.”

The general managers’ “responsibilities will include sales and business development,” the memo said. “They will also be working closely with news leadership in product and content development.” The sports and lifestyle editors will also retain “a strong reporting relationship to the editor and managing editor,” their memo added.

Mong and Moroney argued strenuously that the memo should not be understood as making editorial subordinate to the sales side of the newspaper.

“Our content isn’t for sale,” Moroney told the Observer. “If it is, we’re out of business.”

Moroney noted he came from the advertising side of the former Belo Corp.’s broadcast and print media. As editor, Mong reports to him, he noted: “Just because a business person has an editorial person reporting to him or her doesn’t mean our content is now for sale or that the salespeople, the business people, the publisher will dictate to the newsroom what content they choose to publish or not. I have never gone to Bob Mong and said, ‘You have to do the following for business reasons.’ Never done it, never would do it. The integrity of the process is absolutely fundamental to your business and our business. The moment they think our information is for sale, we’re out of business.”

He said the editors affected by the new reporting structure “will not operate any differently” in the future.

“In publishing the sports section, they have never been told what they had to publish in order to favor some advertiser, and that will not start now,” Moroney said.

He said the change was made because “we are convinced the future of digital consumption of news and information lies in narrow niches, in segments, not one-size-fits-all.” By arranging content by business segments the paper will be better able to report information in ways customers want, for instance, getting sports scores in real time on mobile devices, Moroney told the Observer.

Mong also argued the new structure does not erase the traditional line between the business and editorial sides of a newspaper.

“There’s no journalist in our organization who will allow a business person to cross the line,” he told the Observer. “It just won’t happen. I’m not going to allow it to happen.”

The reorganization, he said, is a “an attempt to go to market in a different way” that parent A.H Belo has already successfully implemented for Morning News siblings such as the upscale magazine FDLuxe and its Spanish-language weekly Al Dia.

FDLuxe, he said, “is a very credible monthly publication, especially when you look at our competitors, which do trade-outs. You can trust FDLuxe as a journalistic product, but it’s very much a segmented approach to the business. The journalism is uncompromised, as it should be.”

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