Design-editing consolidation in N.C.

This just in from Romenesko:

Features departments at McClatchy’s Charlotte and Raleigh papers to merge

The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer editors write: “The editors in each department will plan together, communicate daily and assist each other in editing. Each staff could take the lead in planning and executing certain coverage areas or certain days of the week (or certain sections). We will explore the possibility of sharing copy editing and designing.”

Why chain papers haven’t moved more aggressively in this direction, long ago, is beyond me. (Oh, wait, I know why – local ego and turf.) Sure, where it pertains to local coverage such as events listings or profiles of local personalities, each paper may warrant some features editing/design staffing. But anything features-related on a national/international level should be consolidated – Oscars coverage, ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, “fall TV and movie previews,” travel coverage and many more – could be packaged in advance and sent out to the chain papers, in pre-designed pages or packages that can be quickly reassembled in the local style or alternate shapes. (Obviously, the same could be said for Super Bowl, national elections, and many other topics.)

For years I’ve wondered, when looking at the SND award winners, why smaller or regional papers waste staff time and energy on these topics, at the expense of stronger local features coverage. I’m sure the argument has been: “many readers rely on us for a broad range of coverage …” Now that debate should be over – people can and do get generic, national/international topics from other sources. If those readers who STILL have no access to web or TV need you to cover the Oscars, the wires or your chain mothership should do just fine.

Focus local resources on LOCAL stories, already.

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  1. Module madness

     /  March 6, 2009

    It’s happening at TribCo, and fast. Turkey is one thing: Will Chicagoans want to read about preparing soft-shell crabs? Will Southern Californians want to read about the best deep dish? The end-product is going to be decidedly LESS local, not more.

  2. I think the key is, modules, and as you say, use where appropriate. Obviously this debate has to be measured against the question, what local commitment can a newspaper maintain while hacking away at the staff? (Whether design and editing, or reporting.) You can’t format a whole features section or it becomes PARADE magazine.

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