Rumors have been flying for the last day about some manner of change at the Herald-Sun, which has gone through its share of turmoil in the last several years since the hometown paper's sale from local ownership to small-market chain Paxton Media.
Today's H-S confirms further reorganization -- read, cost-cutting -- in both the operational and newsroom aspects of the paper. Still, it's not quite clear exactly what these changes will mean for readers of the paper.
Here's what we know at this point:
First, the Herald-Sun will be laying off staff, "fewer than 10" positions company-wide, according to editor Bob Ashley's column today. These layoffs include newsroom as well as non-newsroom staff... though Ashley goes out of his way to note that the paper will be "reploy[ing]" some staff to fill vacant newsroom positions and to add a reporter slot.
Ashley describes these changes as part of an effort to "restructure our editing and production," which implies to this observer that Paxton may be cutting back there and moving staff from that arena to the reporting team.
Second, the paper -- already thin on some days -- looks to shrink even further, likely a reflection of the shrinking advertising revenue and demand in the print world. Thursday's Healthy Living section and Saturday's Faith and Family section are axed, replaced by condensed or merged versions of same in those days' Metro sections.
And there's this worrisome bit: while noting that the paper is working to "produce more local stories," Ashley implies this is a change to add breadth, not depth:
Frankly, we'll be looking to some folks to rethink their jobs so that we'll produce more local stories - and concentrating on how best to present information, with more sidebars, informational boxes and other devices supplementing stories that themselves will be shorter.
Less-length, more-info? Sounds to this outside observer like a way to cut newsprint and ink costs, allowing the paper to condense editorial content into a slightly leaner form. (And hopefully not a reflection on the perceived level of desire in the community for analytical, insightful reporting.)
It's clear from the phraseology in the article that Ashley's announcement reflects at best a high-level introduction to what's changed here. Worrisome phrases abound in the piece, like "asking more of our editors," "rethink the way we approach our work," "avoiding extraneous information," "innovative ways" to meet challenges.
Sounds like a call to work smarter and work harder -- not exactly the kind of clarion call one hopes to see in one's hometown paper.
We'll have more on this one as we learn it. Update: The Indy's Fiona Morgan has more details.