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Big Changes at Tribune Newspapers

  • Published on March 3, 2016
Big Changes at Tribune Newspapers

While newspapers traditionally have an editor that oversees all news operations, they also generally have a separate role as publisher managing the business, finance, and sales side of a news operation. While those roles have blurred in recent years, the distinction was just completely eliminated in some of the largest newspapers in the U.S. controlled by Tribune Publishing Co.

The Los Angeles Times has combined the roles of publisher and editor, as have eight other newspapers that are all owned by Tribune Publishing Company. There will no longer be an editor reporting to the publisher, as one person will serve in these roles as an editor-publisher.

These changes have occurred shortly after Michael W. Ferro Jr. became the largest shareholder of the Tribune Co. He didn’t need to commute far to start his work in managing his investment in the Tribune Company, as he is currently the chairman of Chicago’s other paper, the Sun-Times. Seeking to avoid conflicts by owning two papers in a single town, he announced that he is donating his ownership interest in the Chicago Sun-Times to a charitable trust, similar to what recently occurred with the ownership of Philadelphia newspapers. American Graphics Institute has provided by InDesign training and Photoshop classes to the Philadelphia papers and to those in the Tribune family.

One of the likely factors in removing publishers from these newspapers is the cost-reduction that occurs with removing one of the highest paid positions in each of these papers. These changes will reduce costs by millions of dollars annually. Yet the changes occur a time when business decisions are driving many changes at newspapers, the Tribune decided to remove business managers and replace them with those who may have little formal background in items need by modern newspaper heads such as sales, marketing, digital initiatives, and supply chain management for the remaining print product.

Along with this change, the Tribune Company is looking to launch new digital products, and has assigned a person in a role to focus on this. At the same time an executive recently brought in to the Tribune from the New York Times to run their digital strategy, Denise Warren, is being replaced after only a short time in the role.

One of the new digital initiatives is the website. The site is to be focused less on news and more on cultural interest stories surrounding film, music, food, and the arts. While Times stories will appear in the site, it appears as it will be treated independently, similar to the and Boston Globe websites, which are not related to the Tribune papers or the LA Times.

The new digital initiatives are in sharp contrast to the layoffs in the news gathering and editing side of the newspaper. Over the past 10 years more than half the editorial staff has been removed, with jobs going from more than 1,000 to approximately 500 at the present time. Despite these cuts, the LA Times did win two Pulitzer Prizes last year, as they continued to maintain a focus on quality journalism.

Publications impacted by these changes include The LA Times, the San Diego Tribune, Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Hartford Courant, the Morning Call, and the Daily Press published in Virginia.

This week Tribune Publishing announced its fourth-quarter financial results for 2015 which showed a loss of $77,000, which is less than one cent per-share. If one-time costs associate primarily with reducing staff and providing buy-outs, earnings were $49.7 million, making the firm profitable, but nearly 25% below the previous year’s figures.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.