At Gannett newspapers, hreader metrics will drive coverage and journalists will work with dashboards of data to guide reporting. After years of layoffs, many staff members were immediately told that they had to reapply for jobs when the split was announced. In an attempt to put some lipstick on an ugly pivot, Stefanie Murray, executive editor of The Tennessean, promised readers “an ambitious project to create the newsroom of the future, right here in Nashville. We are testing an exciting new structure that is geared toward building a dynamic, responsive newsroom.”
The Nashville Scene noted that readers had to wait only one day to find out what the news of the future looks like: a Page 1 article in The Tennessean about Kroger, a grocery store and a major advertiser, lowering its prices.
If this is the future — attention news shoppers, Hormel Chili is on sale in Aisle 5 — what is underway may be a kind of mercy killing.
So whose fault is it? No one’s. Nothing is wrong in a fundamental sense: A free-market economy is moving to reallocate capital to its more productive uses, which happens all the time. Ask Kodak. Or Blockbuster. Or the makers of personal computers. Just because the product being manufactured is news in print does not make it sacrosanct or immune to the natural order.
It’s a measure of the basic problem that many people haven’t cared or noticed as their hometown newspapers have reduced staffing, days of circulation, delivery and coverage.
Will they notice or care when those newspapers go away altogether? I’m not optimistic about that.