Here in Cleveland, we’re still waiting to see the shape of the new Plain Dealer. But changes at the Post-Standard in Syracuse may give local readers a clue. On February 1, the paper officially cuts its daily publication and becomes a digital-first product. Stephen Cohen of the Poynter Institute just published a long story about the change. Folks interested in the Plain Dealer might want to note these observations from Cohen’s story:
- “Nearly 30 percent of the Post-Standard’s 393 employees received layoff notices on Oct. 1.” The Plain Dealer management announced plans to cut 58 newsroom the positions this spring. Some reporters have already resigned and headed to new jobs. If the paper follows its siblings in Syracuse, New Orleans and Alabama, those folks could be replaced with new hires who are more digitally savvy – or at least more hospitable to working in a digital realm.
- “Leslie Ross is a 52-year-old mother of two who has delivered the Post-Standard … for over 11 years. …But what’s most upsetting to Ross is the lack of communication regarding the shake-up.” Advance Publications has been quite stingy with details of its newspapers’ futures. But a Plain Dealer employee told me the company likes to do everything the same way. If that’s true, odds are strong the Plain Dealer will mimic Syracuse, with three-day-a-week home delivery and smaller newsstand editions on the other days.
- “What I worry is if newspapers become more like television stations where ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ They’re just going to cover the easy stuff like crime and sports. That’s what I worry about.” This quote from Joel Kaplan, who is the associate dean of professional graduate studies at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, echoes other industry observers concerned about the survival of quality journalism as the newspaper industry goes digital. What institutions will cover the hard stories that might matter – even if they don’t generate dozens of comments or clicks?