Reorganization at Tampa Tribune

This just came in my e-mail from someone inside the Tampa Tribune:

Do you know about the reorganization they’re doing here at the Trib? They herded everyone into a conference room today to tell them about 21 layoffs that will happen tomorrow (effective immediately) and a new reorganization of the newsroom’s hierarchy. [Update: The newspaper said it will lay off 11 newsroom staffers this week and eliminate 10 other news jobs “by early fall.”]

It’s going to be like this:

  • Managing editors
  • 5-6 audience editors — keep in touch with what the print, TV, online audiences want/need
  • 5 sections of reporting (all the reporters for print, TV and Web are mashed up together in these groups):
    1. Deadline — for breaking/daily news
    2. Data — specifically for database stuff
    3. Watchdog — for investigative reporting
    4. Personal journalism — stuff for people’s every day lives like weather, health, entertainment
    5. Grassroots — citizen journalism

Outside of these groups are three “finishing” groups for print, TV and online to determine what stories should be covered and with what medium.

All the reporters will be trained in gathering news for online in case there’s a need for it. They’ll be training them on the go. The focus will now be on immediacy and using mediums appropriately. The print product is going to be more enterprise and in-depth, the Web is for breaking news, etc.

They’re also straying from the beats system. They want reporting to be more fluid. Like, if the reporter who usually covers city hall has to work on an investigative piece, someone else (like an education or religion reporter or anyone) could step up to cover daily stories.

The idea is that with a drastically reduced staff, they can’t force people to do more, but they have to do things differently. It seems that they really don’t have a choice but to shake things up and try something new. Personally, I think this setup is so crazy that it might actually work. They admitted they don’t really know if this will work, but they’re willing to try. And if it doesn’t, they’re not going to force it to; just hit the drawing board and come up with a new idea.

… Everyone here is kind of freaking out about the change, but what else is the Trib to do? Sit back and let profits continue to drop and keep laying off employees? At least they’re doing something and trying to figure it out. That’s more than what a lot of news organizations can say.

This is a single-source report without backup, so feel free to confirm or correct it if you know something.

Some more info here.

23 Comments on “Reorganization at Tampa Tribune

  1. I realize there will be a massive amount of “who moved my cheese” from this, but kudos to management for realizing that keeping the same structure while constantly shrinking staff and revenue wasn’t going to work.

    What they’ve done is radical but logical: Have journalists cover the news. Take that news and package it appropriately for each platform.

    It won’t work perfectly, of course. There will probably be a lot of pain in the transition. But it’s just a matter of time before some variation on this structure becomes the norm across the country.

  2. That’s the story we were given at the meeting today.

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  5. Mindy, just wondering what you tell students these days when they consider newspapers as a career?

  6. Hi, Izzy. I tell them what I’ve been telling them for years — the future of journalism is all online, so make sure you know how to report with tools such as audio recorders and cameras; make sure you are comfortable with new and unfamiliar technologies; know how to teach yourself the next new thing, as needed. And if you “only want to write,” then get out of journalism. Writing clearly and well remains important, but there has always been much more to journalism than writing.

    Newspapers are a medium. Some newspaper companies will transition into news and information companies. Some will not.

    Maybe people who think of “newspapers” as a career are not thinking very practically. What is a newspaper? Maybe it’s like a vinyl record. We still buy recorded music, but most of us do not buy it on vinyl.

  7. @Aaron
    They should have restructured how they sell ads, too.

    With all the talk that is given on journalism blogs about restructuring newsrooms, changing how we tell news, etc., I don’t see much talk about changing the way we sell ads. Granted, for many of us that’s a different department. But what are those folks doing to pick up the slack?

  8. @Aaron and @Nick

    Just a heads up from the inside, they ARE restructuring how they sell ads. They just haven’t announced the new structure yet. Sales takes longer to do than news because entire comission plans have to be restructured. Keep your eyes peeled in the upcoming weeks. Sales will follow the “convengence bandwagon”, just as news has done and marketing has done and every one else has done.

  9. Mindy,

    The last couple of years have been interesting in the newspaper world. I have conversations daily with reporters speculating on the future of the physical newspaper. Many wonder if papers will simply die and pin their hopes on an economic upswing. Scary!

    People once relied heavily on newspapers for information, but put 10 people in a room and you would probably get 10 different answers on how they attain their news (newspapers, surfing the Web, PDA/iPhone, TV, radio, direct mail, Podcast, RSS feeds, Google, e-mail). The silver lining is that all of them still have a hunger for news. Now if we could just identify the right vehicles to deliver to each one of them, that would be something.

    I also agree reporters need to be willing to bring more to the table than simply writing or shooting, etc. I’ve spent the past two years blogging, posting audio, editing and shooting video, doing just about anything and everything to become a well-rounded journalist. I wish I would have done more during my days at UF. Still, it’s hard to convince yourself 1,000 page views of your blog is making a dent when the circulation of your paper is more than 300,000. But I look at all of this as laying a foundation. Many of us recognize circulation declines versus increased traffic on the Web. But it can be difficult to see the big picture.

    I believe in 20 years people will look back at this point in journalism and marvel at the people who stuck with it.

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  12. In regards to comments 9 and 12 —

    The buzzword I heard tossed around my old shop was “convergence.” Knowing the future would probably revolve around being a jack of all trades, I began learning all aspects of video production and working as a still photographer beginning in 2002. This often made for some grueling work days, since coverage of one story involved preparing the written 25-inch piece, cutting and editing some soundbites for video/podcast use and occasionally constructing a photo gallery/essay along with it. This work — which frequently forced working weeks of 70-plu hours — earned me a promotion, annual raises and nothing but positive performance reviews.

    Then, after several years of this work, I was laid off, being told my salary was a major factor. I was replaced by a trio of interns.

    But before I damn the merits of learning all the skills for “convergence journalism,” I must add a postscript — that less than 48 hours after being laid off, I was called by another outlet in another major market.

    Five weeks later I was hired for a similar job — albeit with much more reasonable hours — at a 20 percent raise.

    Learning skills we never thought we’d need might not keep us from being dismissed if times are rough … but it might keep us from having to leave the business entirely.

    If you’re a photog and asked to write … if you’re a writer who’s asked to learn how to shoot video … do it. It might save your career.

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