Hammering another nail in the coffin, Gannett today announced it will shutter Nashville design operations and outsource its pages to hubs across the country.
It’s a sad day for the Newsroom at large, with more jobs affected, lives uprooted, and, worse, another end of local layout to accommodate local news coverage.
In addition to having been a managing editor, I also had numerous, daily design responsibilities from news pages, to tabloids, even a book. When the parent company went to remote layout hubs in 2015, it didn’t make sense for many of us who had laid out pages in addition to writing for most of our career.
In fact, our small newsroom took it as an insult. What we did quickly and efficiently in-house, when outsourced added an average of eight more hours to the work week via negotiations, uploads, corrections and proofs between the newsroom and hub employees. There was also less time to go out and get the news.
The community at large echoed our frustrations, noting the personal touch had been removed. Some said they no longer felt it was a community newspaper.
While the new hubs were touted as a time management tool, in order to more effectively promote content development by newsroom staff, it ultimately had a trickle down effect that led to newsroom layoffs across the company, including managing editors such as myself.
The real end result was heavier, less efficient workloads for remaining staff and a severe decrease in morale.
Working with the hub, in this case particularly as former designers, also made it more difficult when our own creative contributions were commonly frowned upon in exchange for a singular style across all hub-affiliated publications.
Some argue that style and design doesn’t matter as heavily as content, especially not when it comes to the “where,” but I couldn’t disagree more.
There’s a strong argument for their equally important weight to balance the scale.
If you’re the designer of your own page, no one knows better than you where your stories should go. And even if you aren’t, then walking across the hall to collaborate with your design team is a heck of a lot easier than negotiations through instant messages and emails to someone you’ve likely never met, who isn’t part of (and is out of touch with) your community. Most likely, they’re a couple hundred miles away and in another state.
While the printed page is evolving, or rather being absorbed into the digital age, print isn’t dead yet. Neither is the layout process at a local level, and it will continue to be relevant and pertinent in PDF and HTML formats well into the future.
These current changes shaking the publishing industry are nothing more in my opinion than a rush to create change, in news coverage as well as bank accounts, and it’s slowly killing the Newsroom.
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