This is bad news for the Star-Telegram and for the city of Fort Worth. The paper has just been decimated, and much of the editorial control has been ceded to McClatchy editors who don’t live in Fort Worth — some of whom think that Fort Worth is part of the Midwest. I am hearing that of the eight newsroom editors, three were laid off yesterday. Here is the bonkers doublespeak memo issued late yesterday from Mike Fannin, editor of McClatchy’s Midwest region, and Steve Coffman, editor of the Star-T:
Over the last month, the top editors in Kansas City, Fort Worth, Belleville [Ed: where is Belleville?], and Wichita have been meeting to figure out how to work together better in McClatchy’s Midwest Region. [Ed: hang on. Are these folks trying to work together better, or are they trying to save money? And, as stated before, Fort Worth ain’t in the Midwest, people!]
More than 200 journalists in the region are working very hard every day, committed to doing journalism that is essential to our communities. Individually, there are many success stories. [Ed: collectively, there are none.] And collectively, there is so much potential. [Ed: oh, sorry.]
As a region, we have powerful resources to call upon to meet the challenges we face. [Ed: so powerful that those resources must be dialed back a skosh.] It’s also clear that we can do more to realize the future faster. [Ed: shuttering all the papers or just the Star-T?]
Today, we are announcing the formation of several regional teams in the Midwest [Ed: Fort Worth: “Where the Midwest now begins in the minds of corporate overlords tasked with slashing costs.”] that will work across markets:
Audience growth. This team will focus on growing our reach and finding innovative ways to help build deep engagement and loyalty around our journalism. The team will work to improve social engagement, headline and search optimization, homepage management, alerts, newsletters, and analytics. [Ed: what about “stickiness” and “blue ocean” opportunities?] They will be scheduled to work across all four Midwest newsrooms seven days a week, giving us greater coverage and flexibility. This team will be led by Eric Nelson, Kansas City’s audience editor and a veteran of newsrooms like Politico, the Dallas Morning News, and the Wichita Eagle. [Ed: quick, Eric, what was the last thing Bud Kennedy wrote?]
High impact journalism. No work is more essential to our mission than investigative and accountability reporting. To ensure that we consistently and effectively produce this important journalism across the region, we have asked Belleville’s Gary Dotson to ensure that investigative reporters and editors in all four newsrooms are communicating and looking for opportunities to collaborate. [Ed: that is a lot of ensuring. I feel ensured.] Gary has been editing award-winning projects for the News-Democrat for 25 years, including stories that won a McClatchy’s President’s Award each of the last three years as well as the Polk Award, IRE awards, the RFK, and others. [Ed: Gary is basically the Steph Curry of Belleville.]
Real-time news. We are separating the work of aggregation and breaking local news. A regional real-time news team will work closely with the national real-time team to tell the most interesting stories happening right now in the Midwest and to serve a wider range of readers more consistently. [Ed: got it. Clickbait.] This team will include many current real-time reporters working in their home newsrooms and will be led by Adam Darby, the regional real-time editor based in Kansas City. Breaking local news will continue to be covered in each newsroom by reporters supervised by local editors.
Video production. With our visual journalists focused on generating original local content, it has become clear that we need a team aimed solely on aggregating interesting videos in our communities, producing social and informational videos and helping to ensure that we are capitalizing on spikes that come with breaking news. [Ed: from The Atlantic: “So many media companies in 2017 have reoriented their budgets around the production of videos that the so-called ‘pivot to video’ has become an industry joke. Today, the pivot seems less like a business strategy and more like end-of-life estate planning.”] In the Midwest, this small team of producers will be led by regional video lead Todd Feeback, who has worked with all the markets in the region for some time now and helped all of us.
What’s ahead? [Ed: a fucking disaster! Oh, sorry. That wasn’t fair. Go ahead.] Local reporters, columnists, and visual journalists working with local editors is one of the most critical relationships in our company, and those will continue to operate at the market level. We are, however, examining other areas of opportunity for regional cooperation. [Ed: dude. “Regional cooperation” is the most b.s. euphemism ever for “more layoffs.”]
These changes will mean new or revised roles for staff members in every Midwest newsroom. [Ed: “Revised,” as in “working in PR.” And there’s nothing wrong with that!] Some will be joining new regional teams and will work closely with editors and staffers in other locations. We will be hiring a few new team members to fill critical roles. The changes also mean that we are parting ways with some terrific employees, and that is incredibly difficult for all of us. Everyone affected has been notified. [Ed: have the readers been notified?]
We know many of you might have questions. Steve and Sean will host two meetings — at 4 p.m. today and 10 a.m. tomorrow — in the newsroom conference room.
Progress is hardly ever easy, but every day we see a lot of compelling evidence of the impact we are having on the communities we serve. We have a responsibility to readers and to the business that we all love to keep it moving forward.
Thanks and let’s keep fighting for what matters.
Mike and Steve
Snarky comments aside, in situations like these, a little candor goes a long way. I see no candor in this memo. These moves are not “progress.”
Here’s the truth: McClatchy announced its first quarter results on April 27. The company reported a net loss in that period of $38.9 million, compared to $95.6 million in the first quarter of 2017. Not all the news is bad. But it’s hard to see how McClatchy’s ownership of the Star-T has been or will be good for the city of Fort Worth.
The Bass brothers have famously poured much of their fortune into that town, making it in some ways the envy of those of us who live to the east. Why not buy the Star-Telegram? Better yet: why not hire away the seven people remaining at the paper and start a nonprofit news organization? I don’t know. Something. Anything is better than what McClatchy is doing.
I’ve emailed and called Steve Coffman, the Star-T editor. I will update this post if I hear from him.