Media

Dallas Morning News To Lay Off Entire Staff, Outsource All Reporting, Writing

The hits keep coming.

Dallas Morning News headquarters. (photo: Antonio Campoy/Flickr)
Photo: Antonio Campoy/Flickr

That headline is a lie. Sorry. They are outsourcing only their design and print layout. You know, the people who actually make the paper. An Austin firm will now do the work. Twenty people will lose their jobs. And so it goes.

UPDATE (11:53) Here’s the memo sent to the staff from editor Mike Wilson:

Colleagues,

For most of last year, our company’s Management Committee studied ways to ensure that A.H. Belo is continuously profitable for the next five years and beyond, just as it has been in every year of its operation. Jim talked at the all-employee meetings in November about the need to continue to build new and diverse sources of revenue to compensate for the ongoing declines in print-related revenues, continuing a theme he has been discussing for more than five years.

While we have managed to keep our year-over-year revenue declines lower than most publicly reporting newspaper companies, our total revenues are still declining. So I need to tell you about some difficult but necessary changes we’re making in the newsroom in order to help the company continue to align its revenues with its expenses.

The Management Committee has had an ongoing assumption in its strategic planning efforts for the past five years: Newspaper advertising revenues will continue to decline. That’s been the case here and across our industry. To make up for it in the long term, we are building our marketing services business and putting new emphasis on direct-from-consumer payments. I came here because I believed in A.H. Belo’s innovative, industry-leading approach to the revenue challenge, and I still do.

But until revenues begin to grow again, we need to reduce expenses to align them with our available revenue. The challenge for the newsroom is how to do that while still providing outstanding journalism to our readers.

I believe our priority has to be reporting and telling stories. Our whole purpose is to do journalism for our North Texas audience. The more people we have digging for investigative stories, poring over data, creating graphics, taking photos and curating stories, the better.

Like most newspaper newsrooms, we have employees dedicated to the creation and editing of journalism and employees dedicated to print production responsibilities like design and pagination.

When faced with the challenge of reducing our expenses, I am going to prioritize reporting and editing over production. Both are important and necessary, yet the former is the very heart of our journalism.

That is why we’ve decided to contract with an outside company, GateHouse Media, to do the design and layout work for our newspaper pages. GateHouse has created a production hub in Austin where it produces pages for dozens of newspapers at a lower cost than any single paper can manage by itself.

As part of this change, we are restructuring the print team. We are eliminating the roles of copy editor and designer and instead creating a team of multi-platform editors who will produce stories for the web in addition to copy editing and writing headlines for print. Moving forward, we need as many people as possible contributing to our our websites.

I met with the print team today and explained that everyone affected by this change will have an opportunity to apply for those newly created positions.

Still, the arrangement with GateHouse will result in about 20 fewer production jobs overall. That will mean saying goodbye to colleagues who have done nothing but make The Dallas Morning News better. That will be hard and I won’t pretend otherwise.

The print team jobs will be phased out between early May and early June as we gradually move work to GateHouse. To encourage people to stay through the transition period, we will offer retention bonuses as well as severance.

At the same time, we are eliminating five other positions in the newsroom. We have talked to the people affected and will give them severance and outplacement services.

Tomorrow, Robyn and I will be in the newsroom at 10 a.m. and the print team area at 4 p.m. to talk to anyone who wants to talk. You can also see us individually by setting up an appointment with Sandra Smith.

I know this is a difficult thing and I want to thank you for your patience and understanding.

Mike

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