?Radical? Shakeup at ?USA Today? as Print Takes Back Seat to Mobile; 130 More Layoffs Seen

By: Mark Fitzgerald

USA Today launched a major restructuring of The Nation’s Newspaper Friday as it broke apart its newsroom management and staff with the goal of becoming a mobile-first organization.

The 28-year-old structure of reporters and managing editors working in its four sections — News, Sports, Money and Life – is being replaced by “content rings” with editors led by Susan Weiss, who had overseen the Life section and takes the title of executive editor of content.

USA Today Publisher David Hunke told The Associated Press that the changes later this fall would include about 130 more layoffs, or about 9% of the staff of 1,500.

“This is pretty radical,” Hunke told the AP. “This gets us ready for our next quarter century.”

USA Today’s announcement said the restructuring “reflects USA Today’s evolution from a newspaper company to a multi-platform media company” of print, digital and mobile. But in an internal presentation, the emphasis appeared to be on mobile.

“We have to go where the audience is,” Editor John Hillkirk told AP. “If people are hitting the iPad like crazy, or the iPhone or other mobile devices, we’ve got to be there with the content they want, when they want it.”

The restructuring also emphasizes the opportunities to monetize its sports content, with the creation of USA Today Sports, which, the announcement said, “will be distinguished as a national brand and provide a sports platform for USA Today sports content as well as multiple media content assets and products from Gannett-wide properties.”

Heading the USA Today Sports venture will be Ross Schaufelberger, who was CEO of BNQT Media Group, described as the nation’s largest digital network for action sports in key male youth demographic when it was acquired by USA Today parent Gannett Co. in December, 2007.

Coverage will be themed among content rings including “Your Life,” “Travel,” “Breaking News,” “Investigative,” “National,” “Washington/Economy,” “World,” Environment/Science,” “Aviation,” “Personal Finance,” “Autos,” “Entertainment” and “Tech.”

USA TODAY has announced a major organizational restructuring with the creation of new departments as well as key appointments in the departments of circulation, finance and news.

“This significant restructuring reflects USA Today’s evolution from a newspaper company to a multi-platform media company,” said David L. Hunke, President and Publisher of USA TODAY. “When USA TODAY first launched in 1982, we led the news and information industry in aligning our content with readers and advertisers. I’m confident these key executive appointments in new and current departments will continue our legacy as a vital, valuable media brand across print, digital and mobile platforms.” 

Five new management departments were announced: business development, product development and design, vertical development and digital development.

Here is the text of the USA Today announcement of those changes:

Rudd Davis will join USA TODAY as Vice President of Business Development, heading a department which will develop and secure new business opportunities and partnerships including brand licensing, content syndication, acquisitions and joint ventures. Davis will also assume oversight of USA Today’s retail, hotel and education-based partnerships. Davis was previously President and Founder of BNQT.

Jeff Dionise has been appointed Vice President of Product Development and Design, which will focus on research and development of new USA TODAY products across all of the brand’s networks. Dionise will also be responsible for refinements and enhancements to current USA TODAY products. Dionise was previously Director of Design for USATODAY.com, returning to USA TODAY in that position in 1995. He originally joined the company in 1988 from the Detroit News as an informational graphics specialist and was lead artist for the USA TODAY Weather Book. He also held the position of Art Director with KRT Graphics Network.

Heather Frank has been named Vice President of Vertical Development, overseeing the department dedicated to the creation and implementation of new as well as existing vertical content areas. Frank was previously General Manager of USA Today’s “Your Life” health and lifestyle vertical, which will launch in September. She joined the company in 2010. Prior to coming to USA TODAY, she led the content programming and operations teams for RevolutionHealth.com and previously held positions with Meredith Corporation and America Online.

Steve Kurtz has been appointed Vice President of Digital Development, which will focus on developing and maintaining technology and systems to support USA Today’s existing dotcom, mobile, iPhone and iPad platforms. Kurtz will also oversee the development as well as acquisition of digital and emerging platform space. Kurtz was previously Director of Digital Information Technology for USATODAY.com and joined the company in 2004 as Manager of Information Technology Development. Prior to USA TODAY, he held positions with Cavasoft, Inc.

USA Today also made the following changes in its circulation, finance and news departments:

Brad Jones has been named Senior Vice President of Circulation. Jones, formerly Vice President of Circulation Business Operations at USA TODAY, succeeds Larry Lindquist, Senior Vice President of Circulation at USA TODAY, who is retiring after more than 29 years with Gannett and USA TODAY. Jones was named Vice President of Business Operations at USA TODAY earlier this year. He joined USA TODAY in 1988 and has previously held management positions in USA Today’s Texas, Oklahoma, western Arkansas and Carolinas circulation markets. In March 2000, he was named Circulation Vice President of USA Today’s Midwest circulation region, and Vice President of the West region in 2005. Prior to joining USA TODAY, Jones worked for Redman Industries.

Myron Maslowsky, USA Today’s Vice President of Finance since 2002, has been appointed to the newly created position of Senior Vice President, Group Finance and Administration. In addition to USA TODAY Finance, Maslowsky will now also oversee USA Today’s Information Technology and Human Resources departments. Maslowsky joined Gannett in 1984 as manager of internal audit. He was named director in 1989 and vice president in 1995.  Prior to joining Gannett, Maslowsky was an audit manager for Price Waterhouse in Rochester, N.Y.

Also announced in USA TODAY Group Finance and Administration was the naming of Susan Motiff to the newly created position of Vice President, Strategic Planning, Analysis and Support. Motiff was previously Group Controller Gannett Offset/USA TODAY decision support for the finance departments of USA TODAY, Gannett Offset and Gannett Digital. She joined Gannett in 1994 as an internal auditor and went on to hold positions of Assistant Controller and Controller for the Army Times before being named Group Controller of Gannett Offset in 2004 and adding USA TODAY in 2009. In her new position, Motiff will oversee financial analysis and modeling for USA TODAY brands, including planning for and analysis of business and development opportunities.

Chet Czarniak has been announced as Executive Editor, Content Distribution and Programming for USA Today’s print, online and mobile news and information platforms. Czarniak was previously Network Managing Editor. He joined USA TODAY as a Sports reporter in 1983 and moved to USATODAY.com in 1999.

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