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Archive for March 8th, 2009

Here is my Monday column:

When I was editor of The Gazette, people would frequently send me complaints, suggestions or praise dealing with advertising or circulation.

I had nothing to do with the matter in question, but I still felt responsible for responding to people who went to the trouble of contacting me. My response was to thank them for their feedback and to explain that I was not responsible for that particular issue but that I was forwarding it to the right person, who would address the matter.

I will be doing a lot more of that, because some changing roles in our changing organization will result in more confusion among the public, for a while at least. Lyle Muller has taken the role of editor, though it’s not the same role as when I was editor. And I have taken the role of information content conductor, which isn’t the same as editor or as any role in any media organization. (I explained that new role last week in my blog and will write more about it later in the column and blog.)

Lyle is responsible for editing and production of The Gazette, the newspaper that nearly 180,000 adults read each day in Eastern Iowa (more than 220,000 on Sundays). If you have suggestions, praise or criticism about The Gazette, you should call or write Lyle. He is ultimately responsible for the changes to The Gazette that you will see starting Tuesday, though the changes are the result of a companywide planning process in which I was closely involved. (To share your reaction to those changes, we ask you to e-mail feedback@gazcomm.com or call (319) 398-8333 or 1-(800) 397-8222.)

Unlike other newspaper editors, Lyle doesn’t supervise a single reporter or photographer. The reporters and photographers still work for me. However, we’ll simply call them all journalists now because they will perform more roles than they have in the past. (I’ll explain more about those new roles in the coming weeks.)

It has been clear for years that newspaper companies needed to transform their organizations. We were structured for decades as newspaper factories. Though we staffed our newsrooms with skilled professionals who became experts at specific tasks such as reporting, photography, editing or graphic arts, we were focused on producing a manufactured product each day. We had strict production deadlines and the amount of content we could publish was determined by the space available, which was heavily influenced by the price of a raw material, newsprint.

Reporters and photographers always gathered more information and images than their newspapers published.

As newspapers started publishing content online, we had to change some of our work in the newsroom. We added new positions specializing in operations of the web site. We started publishing breaking news online. We published new kinds of content, such as videos, blogs and slide shows. We started covering some events live as they happened and interacting live with the public. We also started niche products such as Edge Business Magazine, Hoopla and IowaPrepSports.com.

But our organization remained structured and focused primarily on the newspaper product.

We have decided that we can best meet the challenges of the future by changing our company completely. We will have an independent organization which I lead focused exclusively on developing content from our professional journalists as well as from the community. We will publish this content digitally without editing and without the limitations of products. Another organization will plan and edit products, such as The Gazette and GazetteOnline, using content from my organization as well as others. As editor, Lyle has one of the key leadership positions in that organization.

We will tell you more about our changes as our transition to the new structure continues. You will see some of the changes first in our coverage of sports, starting soon.

Please tell us what you like and what you don’t as we make changes. And don’t worry if you tell Lyle or me about something that isn’t our responsibility. We’ll pass your feedback on and make sure the right person responds.

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