More grief for the Indianapolis Star

Dateline: Mon 26 Jul 2010

The tyrannical tightwad tycoons who run Gannett are taking the local daily newspaper down yet another peg.

Thanks to Indianapolis Business Journal for busting this story (which has been in the talking stage for some time at the Star) and for a reader for sending it this way,

Go ahead and comment away. I have plenty to say but will have to wait for a bit to weigh in, except for the resolute: greedy bas----s" :

Indianapolis Star to be laid out in Louisville; local jobs likely lost

Anthony Schoettle
July 24, 2010
Virginia-based Gannett Co., the Star’s parent company, this month informed employees of a plan to move layout and design work for its 83 dailies to five regional design hubs.

The Indianapolis Star soon will be designed and laid out in Louisville—a move that has sparked outcry from union leaders and concern on the part of observers who fear the shift could eliminate the paper’s local flavor.

Virginia-based Gannett Co., the Star’s parent company, this month informed employees of a plan to move layout and design work for its 83 dailies to five regional design hubs at its newspapers in Asbury Park, N.J.; Nashville, Tenn.; Des Moines, Iowa; Phoenix; and Louisville.

There had been rumblings for several months about Gannett’s design regionalization plan, and Indianapolis was rumored to be in the running to become one of the design hubs. Instead, the Star’s 12 designers could lose their jobs. Staffers said they’ve been told by management to expect at least some layoffs in the coming year.

Papers that become design hubs, meanwhile, will add as many as 35 to 60 positions, Gannett sources said. But union officials representing 180 Star employees called them “bottom-of-the-pay-scale” jobs.

Star officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Sources within the Star said Gannett executives flew in this month to tell newsroom employees about the plan, which will be rolled out in the next two years. Those same sources said they believed changes wouldn’t be implemented here until late 2011, after the current union contract expires, though some design centers will open early next year.

Star staffers said while Gannett executives emphasized the company’s progress in digital news delivery and its overall solid footing—Gannett on July 16 said it more than doubled its profit during the second quarter, to $195.5 million—the mood among news employees nevertheless was somber.

Indianapolis Newspaper Guild President Tom Spalding, who called the design hub announcement a “bombshell,” said he fears regionalizing design will make hitting tight daily deadlines more difficult, and that the Star—one of Gannett’s three largest newspapers—may be too big for the regional design approach to work here.

“This is a cost-cutting measure, pure and simple,” said Jim Brown, executive associate dean of Indiana University School of Journalism at IUPUI. “It will lead to a homogenization of design among the Gannett papers, and will strip out the individual design and personality that Star designers with knowledge of this local community bring.”

Brown questions how designers in Louisville could incorporate local landmarks such as Monument Circle into the newspaper’s layout to maximize the impact for local readers.

“They simply wouldn’t know the local significance and how to play these graphic elements within the context of stories,” Brown said. “Maybe for smaller papers where copy editors double as designers, this could potentially help, but the Star has good designers with real institutional knowledge of this community, so I see this as a big loss.”

Union leaders and Star graphic designers, Spalding said, were told by Star Editor Dennis Ryerson at a July 13 meeting that he hopes to keep as much of a “design presence” as possible in Indianapolis.

Ryerson did not return phone calls from IBJ. His administrative assistant referred questions to John Kridelbaugh, Star vice president of market development, who also did not respond.

“The designers were encouraged to continue doing the kind of high-quality, one-of-a-kind, award-winning work they’ve been doing despite the frustratingly pitiful amount of detail about Gannett’s plans here,” Spalding said. “We hope to show Gannett that the cookie-cutter approach to cost savings won’t work here, is shortsighted, and is illogical.”

Spalding said the union will fight any attempts Gannett makes at outsourcing the design jobs, and he emphasized that the union’s current contract stipulates the Star can’t lay off staff as a result of using non-union personnel to handle design work. The contract expires Aug. 30, 2011.

“Gannett tried to get the right to outsource certain types of Star newsroom [and] building services jobs during negotiations in 2009 and we rejected and resisted that, and they relented,” Spalding said. “We ended up with the unpalatable wage freeze and 10-percent pay cut, but we at least kept the contract in place that gives us power to fight. We will defend our turf.”

IUPUI’s Brown said there are still many unknowns about Gannett’s plan that will have a big impact on the local paper. Advertisers, for example, may be concerned about who will handle ad design and placement, he said. From readers’ perspective, Brown said, the most important unknown is how much direction will come from Gannett’s Virginia headquarters.

“Will these design centers maintain some autonomy and level of creativity?” Brown asked, “or will templates be pushed from Gannett’s headquarters? From a cost-cutting measure, templates might be the best way to go. From a journalistic standpoint, I think it’s the worse-case scenario.

“If that’s the case, the local character of this newspaper as we know could be completely erased.”•

 

 

Comments

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hmmm. I thought they'd already squeezed all the local flavor out of the paper.

More evidence is not needed. They are greedy bastards.

FWIW, Louisville's paper was always better-laid-out that The Star. If it has to go somewhere, that may be best place.

2010-07-26 13:31:27

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Next step from the corporate goofball suits?

Maybe outsourcing Star reporting and editing work to New Zealand.

2010-07-26 13:39:55

hendy [Member] said:

Now *that's* supporting your community.

2010-07-26 13:48:38

Former "Valued Employee" [unverified] said:

Well, I've been hearing rumors to this effect. As a former "valued" employee who was recently downsized after nine years, I must say this doesn't surprise me. It's a sad state of affairs the way this beloved newspaper has been dragged through the dirt the past few years, all for the almighty dollar. I hope these greedy assholes can sleep at night.

2010-07-26 18:28:50

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Several years ago the adbiz tried outsourcing ad design and makeup to India.

It quickly became clear that Anerican idioms and images were not quickly grasped by the folks in Mumbai.

One of the ads that ran showed an infant riding a garden tractor.

The Louisville Courier colleagues, good in their own neighborhood, will not be up to speed on what matters in Indpls.

To paraphrase,"All politics, and newspapers, are local."

2010-07-26 21:47:59

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

What Tom wrote reminded me of something I saw on a local TV news segment many years ago.

One of the channels - I believe it was 13 - had an early-morning news/chat/entertainment program hosted by two women.

This was during the time of IU's basketball glory days. One of the women began to read an article from a wire service about IU's game the night before.

It was readily apparent that she had no understanding about even the most basic aspects of college basketball.

But what was worse, she butchered the correct pronunciation of nearly every player's name on the team.

The other woman/reporter almost literally grabbed the wire service article from the other woman's hands and re-read the entire thing - correctly pronouncing all of the IU players'names.

Moral to this story: if you don't know the territory, stay off the home court.

2010-07-27 13:01:42

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

BTW, to my mind there is a distinction between "design" and "layout." The former is the overall look of the newspaper, the Big Picture, something not susceptible to the day's news. Layout is what happens with each day's edition(s), within the overall design.

If they are going to redesign the Star in Louisville, that's one thing, and not a big thing at that; if they are going to do daily layout for the Indianpolis Star in Louisville, that will come a cropper.

2010-07-27 18:20:24

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"Indianapolis Newspaper Guild President Tom Spalding, who called the design hub announcement a “bombshell,” said he fears regionalizing design will make hitting tight daily deadlines more difficult...."

--------------
"Hitting tight daily deadlines more difficult."

Tom, unless I am missing something, that sounds to me like they plan to do daily layout for the Star in Louisville. Not just a re-design.

2010-07-28 12:42:40

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"Tom, unless I am missing something, that sounds to me like they plan to do daily layout for the Star in Louisville. Not just a re-design."

Guess this means they won't know why a picture of Tony George with his arm around Robin Miller deserves to be on page one above the fold.

Next they will be printing the Star in Louisville...like they print the Pal-Item in Indy. Am I going to have to buy one of them Kindling things to read the newspaper?

2010-07-28 19:28:05

Nicolas Martin [unverified] said:

Would the Star survive without this? Over the weekend I noticed that the Richmond Pal-Item was down to about 6 or six pages. The deadwood faithful just don't seem to grasp that newspapers are mostly history.

2010-07-28 20:11:08

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"Would the Star survive without this?"

Alas, the Star did not survive.

What is there now is ZombieStar.

2010-07-29 07:14:09

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

I heard Gannett's future plans for Ths Star include using reporters based in Des Moines for local Indianapolis coverage. They will upload their stories to both of The Star's copy editors who will then send the text to designers in Louisville. Also under discussion, though the brain trust in McLean, Va., hasn't arrived at a decision is whether to outsource story assignments and page one meetings to editors in Wilmington. DE. Gosh, those guys are so smart and it was so visionary of Myrta and Russ and family to sell it.

God, I am glad I am gone so I don't have to experience this.

2010-07-29 12:27:29

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Ah, George, but those of us with Central Newspapers stock made out like bandits when Gannett bought it.

2010-07-29 16:03:26

Oldtimer [unverified] said:

Design in Looieville? What's the difference, The Star is pretty much toast anyway. I rarely read it any more. Next step: Downsize all the journalism schools and redirect all the kiddies to accounting or something.

2010-07-30 11:07:09

Dave [unverified] said:

This perfectly fits a decades old template; unionized "news" for dues. Destination China?

Agenda burdened advocats have for too long clawed the face of truth; turning the heads of readers, refreshed by a new mainstream (including Ruth's Blog), and properly seated as its editor & chief.

2010-08-01 08:21:49

Wordpress Themes [unverified] said:

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2010-08-04 20:10:41

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