Revealed: Gannett 'Content Priorities' Include Watchdog Journalism, Sunday Readers

By: Joe Strupp Gannett's daily newspapers are being urged to improve watchdog journalism, reposition web sites for breaking news, and better engage young readers and Sunday readers, according to a list of priorities issued last month during a meeting of some 40 newspaper editors.

One of the directives states it is time to "get our swagger back."

These "content priorities," were presented by Kate Marymont, vice president/news for Gannett's community publishing division, which includes all of its daily papers except USA Today.

"These were intended to be the key strategies that we believe are important, for them to use in the key decisions about how to use resources," Marymont said of the priority list, obtained by E&P. "We have asked [editors] to use them as a guide as they develop their strategic plans. It is almost a statement of philosophy rather than a template they have to fill out."

The list of priorities, provided to the editors during a three-day gathering Sept. 15-17 at the company's Mclean, Va., headquarters, is below:

1. Improve Watchdog Journalism: Recognize the value of unique, revelatory journalism; review resources to ensure adequate allocation to watchdog work; experiment with delivery systems; and look for partnerships and other creative sources of watchdog content.

2. Reposition the Daily Newspaper: Recognize that the newspaper is not a breaking-news medium; Develop unique content tied to community interests and focused on delivering depth, context, analysis, perspective; Produce local content that differentiates us as a media organization; and "get our swagger back."

3. Reposition Our Web sites: recognize that our Web sites are the primary medium for breaking news; ensure the Web site is distinct from the newspaper; Address Web design, content, functionality and utility; Leverage the strengths of the medium; and explore consumer response to various paid content models and possible vendor partnerships.

4. Sunday Readership and Engagement: Create a content strategy to attract younger readers; Protect high-value content for loyal Boomer readers; Invest in sales and marketing resources to grow engagement in key demographics and geographic audiences: Leverage advertising opportunities around the special value of Sundays.

5. Be Strong Community Leaders: Protect our long tradition of helping our communities solve issues, set visions, right wrongs; Preserve strong editorial voices in print while reflecting our changing audiences; solidify our role in the center of digital community conversations by leveraging all possible platforms; Be forces for positive change, when appropriate.

"Each one will do it differently, "Marymont said of the chain's 84 daily papers. "What we ask of editors is that they understand their local communities."

Marymont said the content priorities were one of three such lists developed in recent months following a July strategic planning meeting of editors, publishers and other Gannett supervisors. She said the two other areas involve strategies related to revenue and content distribution, but had no details on those.

"We were meeting as a group on the strategies that will most distinguish us going ahead for readers' time and attention," Marymont said. "We have to make decisions on what to do and not to do."


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