May 26, 2010

Newsroom begins work in new room

The Press Herald/Telegram takes over a large floor at One City Center that will enhance teamwork and communication.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — If anyone had mentioned “server problems” when The Portland Press Herald last broke in a new newsroom, in 1923, they likely would have been talking about someone in a West End mansion having issues with the household staff.

click image to enlarge

The new Press Herald/Telegram newsroom on the fifth floor of One City Center allows all of the reporters, editors, photographers and online staff to work on one large floor. Until this week, the news had been gathered from a seven-story building at 390 Congress St.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Ann Walsh answers the phone Tuesday in the Press Herald/Telegram reception area, which has four video monitors for viewing by visitors, including some that will display the media company’s websites.

See our special historic move coverage (slideshow, video and more).

On Monday, when the paper’s reporters, editors and other workers moved from their longtime home at 390 Congress St. to One City Center, server problems meant copy editors had to go to the printing plant in South Portland to find computers they could use to assemble the edition that hit doorsteps Tuesday morning.

It was like having to stay in a hotel after moving into a new house, instead of sleeping under the new roof.

Today’s paper was produced in the Press Herald’s new home.

“It’s really, really good to be here, and it’s very good not to be (at the plant in South Portland),” said Steve Ericson, copy desk chief for the Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram. He said editors did good work to get the paper out over the weekend and Monday, using a makeshift copy desk.

The move had been in the works since June 2009, when MaineToday Media bought the state’s largest media company from Blethen Maine Newspapers. The new owner sold off the downtown real estate that came with the deal – 390 Congress St., parts of which date to 1923, and 385 Congress St., where a printing plant was built in 1965.

The sale was driven by a desire to pay off some of the debt incurred to buy the newspapers and websites in Portland, Augusta and Waterville.

This week, the Press Herald/Telegram moved to a new newsroom on the fifth floor of One City Center, to save money and consolidate the staff.

At 390 Congress St., operations were spread out over seven floors. At one point, some news staffers worked in one section of the second floor, others worked in a separate section and the rest worked on the fourth floor.

The new newsroom puts all of the reporters, editors and photographers on one large floor, along with the people who produce the online report. Elsewhere in One City Center are the offices for the advertising department and human resources. Other operations were moved to the printing plant in South Portland.

Richard L. Connor, editor and publisher of the papers, said the new layout is designed to encourage better teamwork and a more collaborative atmosphere among the various sections.

He also said that even though the move covered only a few blocks, the newspaper moved closer to the heart of downtown Portland. Connor said he never seriously considered moving the newsroom outside of the city.

“I think that the Portland Press Herald should be in Portland,” Connor said. “I think it’s a mistake when newspapers leave the city that is their home base.”

The newsroom has 17 video monitors, including four that visitors see as they enter the reception area. Those monitors now show cable news channels, but some will soon be converted to carry websites of the Maine newspapers and others.

Scott Wasser, executive editor of the Press Herald/Telegram, said that will enable the paper’s staff to track what interests readers on the papers’ websites. One monitor, he said, could track how many readers are clicking on particular stories, which could help editors and reporters with decisions on what needs to be covered more closely.

Wasser said he likes the fact that the newsroom layout will let employees communicate directly, rather than relying on e-mail or the telephone, as they did when they were spread over several floors.

“We’re in the communications business, and this makes communication between people so much easier,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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