UPDATE: Dallas Publisher Says Editors in Charge of Content

By: E&P Staff

In the latest memo explaining changes in whom the sports and entertainment editors report to at The Dallas Morning News, Publisher James Moroney III said the new structure does not change the newsroom’s control of content.

?Let’s be clear: In this company, the editors make the final decisions about all content we publish, up and until a dispute were to reach my office via the company’s highest-ranking editor, Bob Mong,? Moroney wrote in the memo delivered late Friday to staffers. ?That’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it is, and will be. The new organizational structure does not change this fact. We believe the new structure will help us launch new products that serve readers and advertisers better. But as we decide upon editorial content, we will always put our readers first.?

Moroney said the changes — which have the sports and entertainment editors reporting directly to newly created ?general managers? who are responsible for sales and business development in 11 business segments — are an attempt to move away from a one-size-fits-all style of delivering newspaper content.

Moroney also said the Morning News will be adding new pages of content in 2010 and creating ?a handful of new positions.?

Here is the complete memo:
*
From: Moroney, James III
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 4:18 PM
To: Everyone – Al D?a; Everyone – Denton RC; Everyone – Quick; Everyone – TDMN; Everyone-Denton Publishing; AH Belo Interactive; AH Belo Technology Dallas
Subject: Message from Jim Moroney
Importance: High

Everybody,

I’m writing in hopes of relieving any concerns you may have about our new organizational structure, because nothing is more important to me than the journalism we publish and the people who produce it.

This institution is built on excellence and integrity. Our journalistic principles are literally chiseled into stone on the front of our building, including this one: “Conduct [the News] upon the lines of fairness and integrity.”

Let’s be clear: In this company, the editors make the final decisions about all content we publish, up and until a dispute were to reach my office via the company’s highest-ranking editor, Bob Mong. That’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it is, and will be. The new organizational structure does not change this fact. We believe the new structure will help us launch new products that serve readers and advertisers better. But as we decide upon editorial content, we will always put our readers first.

The integrity of the process by which we assign, gather, write, photograph, and edit the journalism we publish is the single most important promise we make to the communities we serve. It is also the foundation of our business. If we lose public trust in our journalism, we lose our business along with it.

I’ve heard people comment: “Just wait until financial pressures mount. Then these GM’s are going to subvert the journalistic process.” There has never been more financial pressure on this company since the Great Depression. Not once during these past several years has any senior manager in this company proposed anything that would suggest our journalism is for sale. That’s because everyone in a position of responsibility, across the entire company, knows and respects our journalistic values. They know such a discussion would be a waste of everyone’s time.

So you might ask, “Then, why are we instituting this segment organizational structure?” Let me explain.

We are convinced that news and information delivered digitally needs to be disaggregated. A mostly “one size fits all” printed newspaper strategy continues to satisfy a large audience of devoted daily newspaper readers. For the core newspaper, our focus is on continuous improvement within the current business model. We’ll be adding more pages next year, for instance, and a handful of new positions.

However, the digital world offers us new opportunities, and we feel that a new structure is necessary to seize those opportunities. Most of the people who use digital devices to obtain their news and information would prefer something other than a “one size fits all” content model. They prefer to have deep, rich and engaged content experiences. We believe, based on what we have done and what we have seen at other successful digital sites, that we can best deliver those experiences by focusing on narrower niche content segments. Niche sites organize content the way most consumers prefer. Most know what they’re looking for; they want their search to be fast, easy, and productive. This customer experience can best be delivered via specific content segments.

Also, we are convinced that consumers will want different kinds of content experiences depending on both the content segment and the digital platform they are using. For instance, people using mobile devices who are interested in restaurant reviews and related content might want this content delivered in the context of location-based applications. Another group of people using mobile devices who are interested in sports content might want a customized feed of real-time game information about the teams they follow.

These needs are very specific. It takes great focus and specialization to recognize the needs, and then to meet them. That’s why we’ve created a corps of specialized general managers who will focus on the digital delivery of content to their target audiences, tailored to the digital platforms on which we might serve them.

Our basic job remains the same, whether in the analog or digital worlds: Publish important, relevant, and uniquely valuable content to local consumers, always abiding by the highest journalistic standards. We know how to do that. If we also learn how to make the most of new digital platforms, we will continue to attract and grow audiences. Those audiences, drawn to news and information they can trust, are important to potential business partners and advertisers. We are convinced that assigning GMs to the most important market segments will allow us to successfully compete in the digital space. But please rest assured that while we are partially changing our business strategy, we are preserving our values.


Jim

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