Rumor has it this will be a difficult week at the Tribune, with staff cuts that could reach 20 percent. The rumor has been circulating for several days inside the Tower, and editor Gerould Kern seems to have addressed it in this recent staff memo. What Kern meant by “inaccurate information” isn’t clear, but his description of the new Tribune he’s fashioning is. Aside from its digital dimension, it reminds me a lot of the old Sun-Times. Chicago will be lucky if it turns out to be as good — but it should mourn the loss of the old Tribune, a paper with a global perspective serving a global city.
From: Kern, Gerould W.
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 12:01 PM
Subject: Update/Organizing for the future
Two weeks ago, I told you that the newsroom management team is working on a plan to reshape editorial priorities and organization to meet our strategic goals. We are taking a fresh look at what is required to fulfill this mission and structure the newsroom accordingly.
At the time, I said we would be a smaller organization that matches what the business can now support, but that we also would invest in our digital capabilities, watchdog reporting and Chicago-area news.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of inaccurate information circulating now about the nature of the reorganization and its implications for staff reductions. We continue to work on the plan and will tell you more as soon as we can.
I have included here the message I sent you on March 30 that explains our approach in greater detail. We ask for your patience as we work through these issues.
From: Kern, Gerould W.
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:55 AM
Subject: Organizing for the future
In a series of town hall meetings a few weeks ago, Tony Hunter and our leadership team outlined a new strategic vision for the Chicago Tribune.
Since then, you may have noticed that Jane, Bill, Joyce and I have been meeting frequently with other editors. We are working on a plan to reshape newsroom priorities and the organization to meet that strategy and position us for success in the future.
We’ve asked ourselves: If we were starting fresh today, what kind of news organization would we create? The time has come to imagine an editorial department built for today, rather than just chip away at a newsroom created in a different time in response to conditions that no longer exist. This is an update.
It is important to restate the central ideas of the strategy, which I’ve distilled here.
- Win locally — Be the dominant news and information destination for the Chicago region.
- Create value, offer solutions — Deliver on thee editorial mission: local relevance, watchdog reporting, personal utility, emotional engagement and compelling stories that fuel conversation.
- Digital first — Think and act first as a digital operation that also publishes newspapers.
- Invest only where we can win — Focus on contennt and activities that are differentiating and help us grow.
- Leverage our capabilities — Be resourceful,, efficient and entrepreneurial.
So, what does that mean for us?
We will be more sharply focused on reflecting what people in the Chicago region care about and what they want and need to know in order to live their lives here. Chicago-area news, sports, entertainment and economics are at the core and so is investigative reporting.
We will invest our staff, money and energies only where coverage is central and meaningful to people here and where we can add real value ourselves. If we can’t meet those standards, we either will acquire content from elsewhere or shift priorities to other areas.
When Tony describes “right-sizing,” he emphasizes that it means more than economizing and staff cuts. Overall, we will be a smaller organization that matches the economics of the times, but some areas will grow to achieve our goals.
We are investing in digital news and will build audiences through those channels. As you know, our new digital staffing is growing rapidly, and you can expect more in the weeks to come. At the same time, we will improve our capabilities in watchdog reporting and Chicago-area news and information…