June 18, 2009

'Nifty content' not enough so Advance Publications closing weekly newspapers in Ohio

Getting the neighborhood to pitch in its news may not have helped a chain of weeklies in Ohio as much as hoped.

In December, a published letter from the editor invited more reader participation of the Sun Newspapers, which now publishes 22 weekly publications serving 72 Cleveland area communities on Thursdays.
"We want - more than anything - for you to feel that this is your paper. You will drive the direction, and we're counting on you to help us make big strides toward becoming a more localized paper.

"Has your local Cub Scout troop received accolades for a nifty service project? Let us know, and send us some pictures. Have you or a family member received an award or promotion? We want to know about that as well. Do you have a new baby in the family?" :
In January, the Advance Publication's weekly chain's three satellite offices were to centralize editorial operations in one office.

In early June, the reorganization and slashing of newspapers moved south from Michigan into Ohio. Sun Newspapers will publish under 11 mastheads when the reorganization plan is complete, according to a post on cleveland.com

The June 11 announcement had some talking on Twitter:

  1. Tim McKenna
    ItsThePlumber @j_conner Wondering if the plain dealer is trying to cut out some competition and keep the PD afloat?
  2. Jessica Conner
    j_conner @ItsThePlumber I think it has more to do with Advance Publications, who owns both & that the Sun readership in some comm is really lacking.
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

The Cleveland Plain Dealer will handle Sun's accounting, payroll and retail sales departments and all home delivery, the announcement said. It already was handling some production and art work, according to the Cleveland Free Press.

The newspaper chain's editorial staff also will be reduced, according to the announcement. No details on the numbers were available.

The blog post says President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Mathis plans to complete the reorganization within 60 days. One commenter on the post suggests how he can do that.

The Cleveland Scene had predicted doom for the weekly newspapers in a January post Sun setting? Sun Newspapers Turn To Readers For 'nifty' Content? after the editor's invitation to readers to submit their news. (In the original post, I said the The Cleveland Free Press because that's the site I found Sun setting? Sun Newspapers Turn To Readers For 'nifty' Content? The Daily Derelict pointed out that newspaper closed.)

"Isn't turning over the front page to community newsletters like getting rid of Brady Quinn - because, you know, the guy makes a lot of money and times are tough - and replacing him with a guy from your softball team who can throw a nice spiral?"

The Cleveland Scene expressed concern about changes already implemented:

"The Sun papers were once autonomous and formidable. In recent years, overlapping content has increased, and many papers now share features. Their front pages still run hard news, but now alongside easy-to-generate items like Person of the Week - a glowing profile, complete with a grinning picture, of a local scout leader, outstanding student or swell parent."

The Scene also said:

"In recent months, Sun brass have preached a mission of making the papers "hyperlocal" to cover issues and events on a small scale. If the December 25 Suns are any indication, they're looking for cheap, easy and non-controversial filler about hot issues like a high-school Renaissance Christmas Madrigal Dinner and a local deer's struggle to remove a plastic jar from its snout."

It ended its post with an explanation of why small communities need watching and this:

"In the push for cheap content, the Sun editorial shot-callers could be filling their papers with news that's not worth paying for. It seems like a cost-saving measure that could cost the papers everything."

In Michigan, Advance Publications will eliminate its daily Ann Arbor News in July. It already reduced the printing of the Flint Journal, Bay City Times and Saginaw News to three days a week. Those three newspapers are sharing an increased amount of articles and photos. The Flint Township News, a weekly newspaper, was eliminated in June.

Related update:

Muskegon Chronicle's Paul Keep is not the only publisher with good news. Derek Dunn-Rankin of the Charlotte Sun answers his own question - Do we have a future - with a loud yes.

Other posts about the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

I've written about the Cleveland newspaper before.


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