Amid job cuts, Star Tribune announces ‘major’ website redesign

As promised, here are the two memos Star Tribune leadership sent to workers this morning about 100 job cuts. The first is from the Strib board and executives to all employees; the second is from editor Nancy Barnes to the newsroom. Management isn’t commenting beyond the documents.

Some jobs will die to help fund the biggest potential news nugget in the memos: that the Strib plans “a major effort to redesign StarTribune.com in ways that will improve both usage and commerce.” 

It will be extremely interesting to see how the Strib can “deepen our commitment to world-class journalism” and “expand the amount and types of information that we make available to our readers” with a smaller staff.

Efficiency experts will be watching, not to mention Twin Citians worried about the fate of their biggest news outlet.

MEMO #1
TO: All Employees

FROM: Board Chair Mike Sweeney and the Operating Committee: Steve Alexander, Nancy Barnes, Chuck Brown, Kevin Desmond, Scott Gillespie, Randy Lebedoff, Jon Ochetti, Ben Taylor, Helen Wainwright, David Walsh

Since emerging from our restructuring process at the end of September, we have been talking with you about our need to be fully efficient in the way we run the Star Tribune and about our need to innovate as we evolve our business strategy. For us to be a healthy, growing organization, efficiency and innovation must become a way of life. We are hard at work on both.

Regarding innovation, the Operating Committee and the Board of Directors are now discussing the variety of strategic issues that all news organization must face. We recognize that we live in an information-driven world. For the Star Tribune, the most important subset of information is news. We have the largest reach, by far, of any information organization in Minnesota. It is a position that gives us a remarkable opportunity and a significant responsibility. While you will see us deepen our commitment to world-class journalism, you will also see us expand the amount and types of information that we make available to our readers. There will be more to come on this as we refine our thinking.

As we expand our information offerings, we also must find new ways of growing revenue from both advertisers and readers. Today, most of our revenue comes from carrying advertising messages in our paper and on the internet. In the future, our opportunities will be more profound. During 2010 you will begin to see us branch out, and you will see a major effort to redesign StarTribune.com in ways that will improve both usage and commerce. We will report back to you on a regular basis on the progress of these initiatives.

Regarding efficiency, we are looking deeply at how we do things and how we can do them better. The cracking of our historical economic model and the current Great Recession have forced us to move quickly to make meaningful and difficult adjustments over the next few months. While we have not yet finalized our plans, it is apparent that there will be job losses as we redefine how we operate. Based on current analysis, we will eliminate about 100 full-time equivalent positions. We recognize the impact that these changes will have on the lives of very good people. We wish they were avoidable, but they are not.

These changes are necessary if the Star Tribune is to have the resources necessary to innovate and compete in a world that is more challenging than ever. The bankruptcy process was financially very expensive, but its greatest cost was lost time and distraction from pursuing growth strategies. Now we must get on with our work of rebuilding and innovating the Star Tribune to ensure that we remain a sustainable, economically viable part of our community.

Thank you for your patience and your commitment to the critically important mission of the Star Tribune.

MEMO #2
The newsroom
Barnes, Nancy

All:

As you have just heard, we are expecting to eliminate 100 jobs across the company, as we continue to restructure the business. I expect about 30 of those jobs will come from the newsroom and editorial. (We now have about 290 positions.)

As in the past, we will put a premium on protecting the breadth and depth of our content because we believe that to be a strategic strength in today’s environment. Our competition intensifies every week, in innovative ways, and goes far beyond the competition from the Pioneer Press.

As I’ve looked at this, it is clear that the only way to protect our content and reduce costs is to restructure and reorganize the work that we do, as is happening in newsrooms across the country. For that reasons, the cuts in the newsroom will not be immediate. [Managing Editor for Content] Rene [Sanchez] and [Managing Editor for Operations] Duchesne [Drew] will head up a small team of managers and skill leaders to look at all of our editing, management and workflow. They will confer with every department, and may test different workflow systems, before making their final recommendations.

I expect this work to take about 30 to 60 days. At that time, we will outline a buyout plan for the newsroom. I know this is not what you want to hear, especially after all the sacrifices you’ve made for the company in the past year, but I wanted to tell everyone exactly what we are looking at. This process will require some very difficult choices, but we are not going to diminish any coverage we give our readers in the newspaper or the website.

Some of you may be asking yourselves when life around here is going to settle down. I don’t think we as a business will ever be “settled” the way we were in the 90s, but I strongly believe that we will succeed in reinventing our business and, in doing so, protect our core mission in which we all believe. Please feel free to talk to your department head, or me, if you have questions, concerns or suggestions to share as we work through this. Thank you for your help.

Nancy

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tom Weyandt on 11/09/2009 - 03:22 pm.

    Hopefully the restructing of the website will mean that they actually post new content once in a while. I am amazed that there are stories posted that are 3,4 and 5 days old. And the same headlines are repeated several times on each page. If they expect anyone to read it, much less pay for it, they better staff it properly and pay attention to their science page once in a while.

  2. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 11/09/2009 - 05:15 pm.

    I’m surprised at how many “blogs” they have which appear to go unread. I think there are 30 blogs, with Lileks and Kersten being the most popular by far. The other ones have dismal postrank and alexa data, being beaten by a large number of unpaid amateurs like myself. I wonder if these will survive?

  3. Submitted by Don Jacobson on 11/11/2009 - 10:58 am.

    I think they should also abolish the anonymous comments feature and require actual names. They are missing out on an opportunity to promote real, reasonable dialogue and instead have a free-for-all of name calling and rubbish.

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