Tribune-Review CEO reflects on A1 editorial

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While USA Today recently felt the need to defend the value of editorials, one paper has scrapped endorsements and another may bail on the editorial concept altogether, the Pittsburgh-area Tribune-Review prominently employed the form with an A1 editorialurging readers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The editorial involved a matter "that would result in action by readers for the good of the community," according to Jennifer Bertetto, president and CEO of Tribune-Review owner Trib Total Media. The paper wouldn't have turned to a front-page editorial for "just an expression of opinion or a political standpoint," according to Bertetto.

Here’s part of a letter to readers from Bertetto that accompanied the editorial:

As journalists, we take great care to reserve opinion pieces for the opinion/editorial pages of this newspaper.

But these are extraordinary times when everything has changed, when COVID-19 has killed more than 300,000 Americans, shuttered businesses and deprived us of the chance to hug our family, share a meal out with friends or even celebrate holidays. 

We are being offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse the course of this deadly virus, to save lives, to be brave and put aside politics and philosophical differences to do something simple but selfless to stem the spread of this virus. All that can be achieved by taking a vaccine.

Today, we are breaking our own rules to put opinion on the news pages of this publication and ask that you do your part to write an end to the most deadly story of our lives.

In mid-January, Bertetto answered a few questions from News & Tech about the decision to place the editorial on page 1 and other aspects of op-ed management.

News & Tech: What made you decide to run a front-page editorial on the COVID-19 vaccine in the Tribune-Review, a departure for the paper?

Bertetto: We have watched helplessly for the last several months as COVID-19 cases and deaths have risen in Western Pennsylvania. We have worked with businesses that were forced to endure a third or even fourth shutdown during the pandemic.

Over and over again, we heard the words “helpless.” Helpless to protect ourselves from the disease, helpless against its economic impact, and helpless as we waited for relief — whether it be medical or financial.

During the pandemic, we also noticed that vaccination had become highly political in our region.

We felt it was our responsibility as a trusted news organization and part of the community. We encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated when it becomes available. In doing so, we tried to illustrate how getting the shot would change the world we are all living in right now.   

As we debated the merits of a front-page editorial, our editorial board concluded that if our editorial convinced one person to get the vaccine, who might have otherwise been unsure, it would have been worth it.

News & Tech: Has the paper ever done anything like this before?

Bertetto: We have many long-tenured employees at Trib Total Media. Going back as far as 45 years, we could not find any other front-page editorials. 

News & Tech: Did the editorial run in other Trib Total Media papers?

Bertetto: The editorial ran in our two daily editions, Tribune-Review and Tribune-Review Valley News Dispatch. We did not run it in our weeklies due to the deadlines being pretty far out. We were concerned it would be stale by the time it arrived in our readers’ mailboxes the following week.

News & Tech: Can you see any other issue outside of the COVID-19 vaccine that would prompt you to run a front-page editorial?

Bertetto: Front-page editorials are something we will be very judicious about — always. I am sure it is possible, but for a subject rising to the level of doing this again — it would need to be very significant.

This editorial was on a concrete matter that would result in action by readers for the good of the community. We would never run a front-page editorial that was just an expression of opinion or a political standpoint.

News & Tech: Have you had any feedback to the editorial?

Bertetto: We have, of course. As you can imagine, we heard both positive and negative feedback. Within the industry, many publishers reached out to me to tell me they thought it was brave. Some people who used to work in the industry but are now retired felt like more newspapers should be doing this during the pandemic (taking strong, forceful viewpoints on what we could be doing in our communities to stop the spread). 

Some readers really loved that we wrote the editorial, and some really despised it. None of the reactions were surprising. We anticipated taking this step would be polarizing.

In all, no one cancelled their subscription over it, but we did field a fair amount of phone calls.

News & Tech: Do you think newspapers' role and reporting style are changing? If so, what are your views on the changes?

Bertetto: That reminds me of the expression: “The more things change, they more they stay the same.” Of course, we are adapting to the new ways that people consume media. But the fundamentals apply: We collect news and information and deliver it to people quickly and accurately. We build habits in readers by earning their trust with fair reporting and engaging them with a mix of hard and soft news, essential information, sports, comics, puzzles and more. The competition for readers’ attention is brutal — but so was it, back in the day, when there might have been five daily newspapers in a city like Pittsburgh. We are fiercely dedicated to keeping local news alive and well in our region, but we have to give people a reason for coming to us.

News & Tech: Anything more you would like to add?

Bertetto: Regarding our editorial position: The job title of the person who runs the editorial page is “Community Engagement Editor.” Our position is that we want to reflect our communities and bring out their better angels — but we are not about pontificating on the grand ideas of the day, or preaching or scolding. We want to cultivate the middle ground, and we believe it exists, even in these fractious times. We are also proud of our vibrant letters to the editor section, where all points of view are represented and the facts have been checked rigorously. On some Sundays, we hold op-eds and run nearly a full page of letters. It’s gratifying to see so many readers want to be in this public square.

Yuma Sun maximizing efficiencies of NewsWay upgrade

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Horizon Publications’ Yuma Sun (Arizona) has been managing its local editions with ProImage NewsWay workflow since 2005. At that time, the paper was owned by now-defunct conglomerate Freedom Communications.

Over the past 15 years, the Sun has leveraged NewsWay for edition planning, tracking pages, load balancing RIPs, page impositioning, softproofing plates, adjusting images for fan-out and managing output to their two CTP devices. The publisher has continued to make regular upgrades over the past several years as well.

“When we were a Freedom Communications site, we started with NewsWay Lite,” Director of Operations David Fornof told News & Tech. “We operated with that as long as we could and it was time for an upgrade — I am really happy we ended up staying with NewsWay.”

The Sun upgraded to the more robust NewsWayX in 2018, adding Pitstop Server for preflighting PDF pages to reduce errors. At that time, the publisher added remote workflows using Yuma’s current NewsWayX instead of upgrading local systems at sister California papers the Appeal Democrat in Marysville and the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale. 

“These can be tailored to whatever these papers’ needs are,” Fornof said. “Some locations have remote access to release pages themselves, and some send pages to our site and we release them."

 

More recently, Horizon added remote workflows for the Santa Maria Times (California) and The Sun Chronicle (Attleboro, Massachusetts). Each of the remote sites has its own workflow and logins, enabling them to plan and manage their own editions. Pages are uploaded RIPped, imposed and softproofed using Yuma’s systems. When pages are approved, TIFFs are sent to each of the papers’ local CTP units for output.

Photo toning and ink optimization

The Sun’s most recent ProImage upgrade was in October 2020, when the publisher bought OnColor image-toning software and OnColor ECO ink optimization for all of its sites. OnColor automates both processes to improve images while increasing throughput and reducing ink consumption.

In addition to its papers, the Sun is leveraging all of its NewsWay modules for the stable of newspapers it prints commercially.

“When a page comes in, there are multiple paths for it to go through,” Fornof said. “Once pages are released, we have also automated the process of uploading PDFs to our digital edition partners, including TownNews, PressReader and Newspaper Archives.”

Fornof said the benefits of the upgrades have been significant.

Idaho daily realizing automation, waste-reduction goals

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Take a look behind the scenes at The Lewiston’s Tribune’s production center.

The Lewiston Tribune (Idaho) recently tapped manroland Goss to add inline controls automation to the publisher’s Uniset press. The 4-unit press was originally installed in 2007.

The upgrade — which The Tribune has been evaluating for the past couple of years — includes new density, register and ribbon control systems that went live in September 2020.

Publisher Nathan Alford told News & Tech that waste has been the publisher’s primary consideration. He said the longtime family-owned, generational paper remains committed to providing the highest quality at the lowest cost per copy.

Alford proudly carries on a commitment that began in 1892 to deliver honest journalism while leveraging the best technologies.

“We aren’t publicly traded or hedge-fund owned and we’re one of only a small number of family-owned, generational papers left,” Alford said. “Moves like this for smaller companies like us are significant, and this proved to have value.”

Production Director Jay Brown told News & Tech The Tribune has been looking at automation and waste reduction since 2018.

“Some press crew members are nearing retirement, and consumables prices continue to rise, so those were certainly considerations,” Brown said.

The install has been very customized, and the controls were built and configured in Germany to meet The Tribune’s specifications.

Benefits of system integration

Ease of integration with the existing press system was also appealing; however, the systems were still customized to meet The Tribune’s specifications.

Controls were configured and built in Germany over a six-month period following the original contract signing in December 2019. All of the hardware arrived in crates and was assembled one press unit at a time.

“We now have press operators running 22- and 24-page sections independently,” Brown said. “We have a dayside crew of three, five days a week and a nightside crew of two to four people, seven nights per week.”

So far, The Tribune has realized waste savings near 50 percent, and Brown said several jobs that were requiring 2,000 copies are now down to 1,000.

“The more complex the job, the more spoilage you have, but with paper prices it’s really nice to cut that down,” he said.

In addition to The Tribune, the site prints the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, which serves the higher-education communities of the University of Idaho in Moscow and Washington State University in Pullman. It also prints more than two dozen commercial jobs.

Alford credits the success of the upgrades to a mix of good people and the right technology.

“At the end of the daily newspaper cycle, the readers that are enjoying our journalism at a higher level are among the biggest winners,” he said. “They’re the ones who pay our subscription bills and allow us to keep doing this work.”

Wave of newspapers outsourcing printing

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As the new year gets underway, a host of newspaper companies are moving to outsource their printing operations. A number of the papers making the change are owned by Gannett. 
These recent changes come on the heels of printing moves or planned moves at the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant and elsewhere.

• The printing facility of the Gannett-owned Courier-Journal in Louisville will be shuttered in March, the paper reported. Printing of the paper will take place at the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star and Knoxville News Sentinel, the paper said. The change will mean 102 jobs lost, the paper said. 

• The Gannett-owned Jackson Sun (Tennessee) and sister paper the Memphis Commercial Appeal are moving printing to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, starting Feb. 1, the Jackson Sun reported. Around 23 workers will be affected in the move. With the addition of these two papers, the Jackson, Mississippi, plant will handle seven dailies. 

• The Gannett-owned Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon) is moving its printing to the Columbian Publishing Company in Vancouver, Washington, and is shuttering its production facilities in Eugene, the paper reported. The change is happening in March and will affect 49 full-time and part-time workers. 

• Times Publishing, publisher of the Tampa Bay Times, is outsourcing printing of its papers beginning in March, the paper reported. The company will shutter its production facility in St. Petersburg. 
Times Publishing has a deal with Gannett to print the Tampa Bay Times at Gannett’s plant in Lakeland, Florida.
Some 90 full-time and 60 part-time employees will lose their jobs in the move, according to the paper. Gannett said it plans to add jobs in Lakeland, which could go to some of the Times workers, the paper said.

• Forum Communications is moving printing of The Forum, The Jamestown Sun, Grand Forks Herald and Agweek from The Forum building in Fargo to the Forum Communications plant in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, the Jamestown Sun reported. The shuttering of The Forum’s press will affect 21 full-time and 14 part-time workers, the paper said. 

More news
• Alden Global Capital is angling toward total ownership of Tribune Publishing, The New York Times and others reported. Not everyone is welcoming the effort, the New York Post and others reported

• Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics is closing three printing plants, in Oklahoma City; Nashville, and Fernley, Nevada, Milwaukee Business Journal reported Dec. 18. The closings will affect 650 employees. In 2020, Quad closed plants in Taunton, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon; and Riverside, California. Those closures resulted in 1,100 job cuts.

• The Chesterton Tribune (Indiana) has ended its print run. A note from co-publisher David Canwright offered perspective and thanks. The paper’s website future was under discussion as of mid-December, CBS Chicago said

• More happenings were reported in the ongoing legal battle between the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun.
Do you have news? Email us at editors@newsandtech.com.

Goodbye to five Tribune Publishing newsrooms

As foreshadowed in its quarterly earnings report and call last week, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing has moved to shrink its real estate costs. 

The company is shuttering five of its newsrooms, at the New York Daily News; the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland; the Carroll County Times in Maryland; the Orlando Sentinel in Florida; and The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The papers will go on publishing, the company said. Staff were informed they will be laboring at home until January 2021 at the earliest, the Chicago Tribune reported

“As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices,” a company spokesperson, Max Reinsdorf, said by email, the Tribune reported Aug. 12. “We will keep employees informed of decisions as they are made.”

In a June filing with the SEC, Tribune Publishing said it had held back three months of rent for “a majority of its facilities and requested rent relief from the lessors in various forms,” including the ending of leases, the Orlando Sentinel reported

CNN media reporter Kerry Flynn writes: “It's no surprise to see Tribune cut real estate costs. During the company's earnings call last week, CFO Mike Lavey said 'reducing our real estate footprint' was among the priorities to 'sustain ourselves for the long term.' Gannett CEO Mike Reed made similar remarks in its earnings call last week, noting that the company planned 'to sell $100 million to $125 million of property by the end of 2021.’”

In February, Tribune Publishing sold The Virginian-Pilot's Norfolk office building and the paper moved its operations to the Daily Press in Newport News.

In 2017, Tribune Publishing bought the New York Daily News for $1 from media and real estate mogul Mortimer B. Zuckerman.

Maryland’s Capital Gazette was the site of a 2018 shooting in which a gunman killed five employees.

McClatchy, Advance

Sacramento-based McClatchy, meanwhile, is also making changes. It's exiting leases on seven newsrooms as it works to move out of bankruptcy, with spots in California, South Carolina, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte involved, Poynter reported

McClatchy is selling its Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky) building as well. The Fayette County Board of Education voted in June to buy the building for $7.5 million, Lex 18 reported

Advance Publications’ Staten Island Advance is selling its building, Poynter also pointed out.

Paywall goes up at Detroit papers

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Some content is now behind a paywall at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The paywall went up Aug. 12.

The subscription push was put into motion by Michigan.com, a partnership between the owners of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. 

Alden Global Capital’s Digital First Media owns the Detroit News. Gannett owns the Free Press.

“Most American newspapers have some sort of paid digital requirement today. The Wall Street Journal has required paid digital subscriptions since the inception of wsj.com almost 25 years ago. The New York Times has almost 6 million digital subscribers. And about three-quarters of newspapers in the country now charge in some way to digitally access their content,” said a post from Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president of the Free Press.

Most Free Press content will stay free on freep.com. “‘Subscriber-only’ stories will be the unique, revelatory, in-depth stories that are not available elsewhere,” said the post.

Much of the Detroit News’s breaking news content will stay free, but some of the in-depth and original stories will be available to subscribers only, the paper said. This represents the first time in the 25-year existence of the Detroit News website that it will charge for content, the paper said. 

The papers are offering a $3 deal per paper for the first three months for full digital access and the e-edition.

More news

• The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California) will shift its print operation to Gannett’s Phoenix facility in September, the paper reported. Gannett owns the paper. The Desert Sun has been printing at the paper's Gene Autry Trail headquarters in Palm Springs since the late 1980s.

Around three dozen employees were cut in the move. “I personally will miss wandering back to ‘the factory,’ smelling the ink, and watching a stream of newspapers cascade down a conveyor belt to the mailroom floor,” said an online letter from Executive Editor Julie Makinen.

• Starting Oct. 12, the Albuquerque Journal and The Santa Fe New Mexican will print their papers at The New Mexican’s production facility, the Albuquerque paper reported. As many as 70 staff members in the Journal’s printing operation will lose jobs, according to William P. Lang, president of the Journal, the Journal said. 

Journal Publishing Company owns the Albuquerque Journal. Robin Martin owns the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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