Saturday, May 25, 2013
A man reads a copy of the state owned daily newspaper, 'The Herald' a day after President Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president of Zimbabwe in Harare, Monday, June, 30, 2008. Mugabe was sworn in for a sixth term Sunday, moments after electoral officials declared he had won the runoff. His main rival and many African and other world leaders have called the runoff a sham. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
We needed to make the tough choices in order to shore up our financial picture and to get expenses back in line. We intend to make the best of this situation by recommitting ourselves to a more focused local news report.
Due to revenue pressures from flagging advertising, we closed our four bureaus -- in Augusta, Biddeford, Bath and Washington, D.C. -- effective July 2. Bureau staffers in Maine were transferred to the central newsroom in Portland.
Those same financial pressures also prompted the company to reduce its work force. We did this primarily through a voluntary separation package -- otherwise known as a buyout. Nine members of the news staff took that offer.
Some made that decision because they were close to retirement; others took the offer because they wanted to start a new chapter of their lives.
Three other staffers were involved in the reduction: Two gave their notice ahead of the buyout offer and their positions will not be filled. And our Washington, D.C., correspondent was laid off as a result of the bureau closing.
I note their names here because you will recognize their bylines and work. Last week, our newsroom said its formal goodbyes to reporters Paul Carrier, Kevin Wack, Josie Huang, Tess Nacelewicz, Jonathan Kaplan, Anne Gleason and Seth Harkness; to editors David McNabb and Andrea Nemitz; to artist Alfred Wood; to news assistant Isaac Kestenbaum; and to copy editor Gary Christian.
Elsewhere in the company, 24 other employees were affected, mostly through the buyout process. Several were laid off and a few others left their positions earlier. The departments affected included advertising, circulation, MaineToday, finance and production.
The impact was newspaper-wide and there's no way to gloss over the loss of these staffers. Their absence will be felt and we will miss their valuable contributions. Going forward, every department is building strategies to adjust.
In the newsroom, the editors' team created a new beat plan for our reporting staff. We think this blueprint will help mute some of the impact and set us on a path for future growth in terms of circulation and Web audience.
Sound like a fantasy? To hardened critics, I'm sure it will read that way. But we believe this is a well-reasoned approach aimed at harnessing the enormous firepower of our newsroom.
And yes, with 88 FTEs (full-time equivalent) positions in our newsroom, we remain the largest news-gathering team in Maine.
Trust me, no editor or newspaper journalist covets being in the position in which we find ourselves. It is what it is, as our publisher likes to say. And we are not alone.
Nearly every newspaper in America is faced with this wrenching transformation from print to a combined print/Web future.
In this new world, there are only two options: Adapt or fade away.
We are choosing to adapt. We hope you remain with us to see what that future holds.
Our new beat plan involves all 18 reporters from our local reporting staff, including news, business and features.
We have created four topical teams: Watchdog, Public Safety, Money & Resources and How We Live.
Every reporter will be assigned to a team and each team will cover a portion of our core market area. What does that mean?
In addition to having beats with broad themes, such as the environment or consumers or police or schools, reporters also will cover at least one town in our core counties of York, Cumberland and southern Sagadahoc.
By connecting each of our reporters to local town coverage, the goal is to sharpen our focus on emerging local news developments. The aim is to get closer to our readership, to understand issues as they first begin to surface.
Some things won't change.
We still will cover the part-time Legislature in Augusta; we will assign a reporter from Portland to that beat. Additionally, we will get reporting help from our sister newspaper in Augusta.
We also will cover our Washington, D.C., delegation, again through a reporter based in Portland.
We aren't trying to do more with less; that would be foolish. Instead, we are trying to do things differently, to reinvent our coverage strategy and to use this unfortunate economic downturn to re-energize our local reporting efforts.
At the same time, we are going full speed ahead with efforts to continue growing pressherald.com and a host of other Blethen Maine Newspaper Web sites. Our Web team currently numbers seven staffers, including writer Giselle Goodman, who reports our early morning Web feature, Sunrise Herald, and Justin Ellis, our multimedia online reporter. Ellis, who writes a column, ''NXT: Next Generation,'' for the Monday newspaper and a blog of the same name, also covers online and technology issues.
Unfortunately, as timing would have it, this burgeoning area of our news organization suffered a setback last week. Our Web site was down for several days after hackers attacked our system. Despite the best efforts of our technical staff, the damage took many days to repair. I apologize for any inconveniences this caused to our Web readers and advertisers.
Today, we are on the mend and reinvigorated about our task of producing the best and most prolific Web news site in Maine.
The nut graf of this column: This newspaper is sailing through a pretty wicked storm right now. It has cost us some dear colleagues. No one knows when this unprecedented turbulence will end.
In the months ahead, I'll do my best to keep you updated with our progress through this column.
As our journey into these uncharted waters continues, please know that we are committed to besting this nasty patch of weather.
No matter how strong this gale or how foul these seas, we still hold firmly to our promise to produce the best journalism in this state.
And we will do everything within our power to deliver on that promise to you, our valued readers.
Jeannine Guttman is editor and vice president of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 390 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101.