Merging Newsrooms p.14

By: Mark Fitzgerald Indianapolis Star, News to combine reporting staffs sp.

BEGINNING SOMETIME THIS September, 92 years of competition will end between reporters from the Indianapolis Star and its sister afternoon paper, the Indianapolis News.
Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. announced plans to merge the editorial staffs of the two papers. No longer will each paper send out separate reporters and photographers to compete on the same paper, the parent company said.
However, the company, a unit of the Pulliam family-owned Central Newspapers Inc., emphasized that it intends to continue publishing two papers, each with its own look and tone.
While news stories and photos will be shared by both papers, the company said, each paper will have a separate editorial page staff and its own local and syndicated columnists. The papers will share staff-written features, but will have different comics and other syndicated features.
The smaller afternoon News will continue to emphasize local news, Indianapolis Newspapers said.
"We remain committed to serving our readers with both morning and afternoon newspapers. Merging our two staffs will allow us to use the reporting staffs to improve content in both the Star and the News," said Eugene S. Pulliam, who is publisher of both newspapers.
Indianapolis Newspapers president Malcolm W. Applegate said there would be no layoffs as a result of the newsroom merger, which he said would take place before the end of September.
No decisions have been made on who will run the combined staff. A front-page Star article May 18 quoted Star managing editor Frank Caperton as saying all staffers, including top managers, will be asked to reapply for specific assignments.
Indianapolis Newspapers president Applegate said that although rising newsprint costs ? and declining News circulation ? were factors in the recent decision, the merger is intended primarily to improve product quality.
"This is a move driven primarily by a belief on the part of our management team that we needed to do something to improve our products. It's impossible to go out and hire 20 or 30 people to do it, so we looked at ways to do it internally, and merging the two staffs seemed to be the most logical way," Applegate said.
One possible complication in the plan is straightening out the union status of the two newsrooms.
The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild represents the 160 editorial employees of the Star, while the approximately 100 editorial staffers at the News are not unionized.
Guild leaders have said they want all employees of the combined staff to be covered under the Star contract.
After the newsrooms are combined, about 40 editorial workers will be available for reassignment, the newspapers said. About half of these, executives said, will be used to produce local zoned editions.
Though there is a strong tradition of competition between the two staffs, there has been more cooperation over the past year or so as the newsrooms have produced combined editions on holidays.
Indianapolis Newspapers said it expects to lose some circulation after the newsroom merger. In the latest FAS-FAX from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the papers reported a combined daily circulation of 309,770. Indianapolis Newspapers said about 17,200 subscribers take both papers.
Of the two papers, the morning Star is bigger by far. The Star reported a daily circulation of 226,562 while the News put its circulation at 83,208. News circulation has been on a steady decline for years. For example, 10 years ago, in September 1985, its circulation was 130,757.


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