By paulgillin | January 16, 2009 - 9:24 am - Posted in Fake News

globalpost2Tribune Co. and the New York Daily News* are looking at closing their foreign bureaus and outsourcing international coverage, The Wall Street Journal says. The beneficiaries would be the Washington Post and a Boston-based startup called GlobalPost. Under the arrangement being discussed by Tribune Co. and the Washington Post, Tribune would contract with the Post for international stories to be delivered to its portfolio of newspapers and would close dozens of foreign offices, saving the bankrupt company millions each year. There’s no word on how much of that coverage would be unique to Tribune, but that’s presumably an issue in the talks. The two companies have long had an alliance via a joint news service.

The New York Daily News deal has Mortimer Zuckerman’s paper contracting with GlobalPost for its international coverage. The deal is the first big win for GlobalPost, a venture funded by deep-pocketed investors, including former Boston Globe publisher Benjamin Taylor. The co-founders are Charles Sennott, a veteran Globe foreign correspondent, and Philip Balboni, former president of New England Cable News. You can read all about the site’s mission and dive into two of the longest biographies we’ve ever seen on the site’s mission page.

Like The Politico and Politicker, GlobalPost is attempting to create a new publishing model leveraging online efficiencies, reader involvement and diversified revenue. Part of GlobalPost’s revenue is to come from syndication deals like the one with the Daily News. Stories will mostly be contributed by local stringers and embellished with reader input and reports from other online resources. GlobalPost thus hopes to deliver quality journalism at a fraction of the overhead cost of a foreign bureau. The Daily News deal will clearly put it on the map.

Blogger Lisa Williams has an interesting take on GlobalPost which Amy Gahran embellishes upon on the Poynter Blog. Williams suggests that news publishing may be moving toward an on-demand model similar to the one emerging in the computer industry. “Cloud computing” is all the rage in IT right now, with Amazon’s EC2 service blazing the trail. EC2 enables businesses to rent computer power only as it’s needed, outsourcing the expensive and specialized task of maintaining corporate data centers to specialists who serve multiple clients. Williams suggests that a similar model could provide news at a much lower cost than full-time staff. It’s kind of a super stringer model made more efficient by the Internet.

Gahran likes the idea, although she differs with Williams’ theory that this could spell the end of beats. General assignment reporters will still be needed, she says, but much of the specialty reporting could be provided by independent journalists and organizations of journalists, the latter scenario being The Politico and GlobalPost models. “You could have a situation where various kinds of organizations could purchase reporting capacity to make sure the stories or communities that matter to them get covered — whether that’s a town, a government agency, a business trend, legislation, a water quality issue or sports,” she writes.

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the New York Post instead of the Daily News.

Star Tribune Files for Bankruptcy

Add the Minneapolis Star Tribune to the list of newspaper publishers now dwelling in the purgatory of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing “was necessary to reduce our operating costs, restructure our debt and create a financially viable business for the future,” Publisher Chris Harte wrote in a note to readers. Last month, the Strib said it needed $20 million in union concessions to sustain operations. But talks with the union broke down last week. The union appeared surprised that management did exactly what it said it was going to do. “The unions at the Star Tribune are conscious of the newspaper’s financial plight and the state of the industry nationwide,” said a union official said in an account in the Kansas City Star. However, consciousness apparently wasn’t enough.
The value of the Star Tribune has collapsed since McClatchy paid $1.2 billion for it in 1998. Its balance sheet currently lists assets of about $493 million and liabilities of $661 million. Chapter 11 gives is the chance to shed some debt and restructure is assets under court protection. In practice, companies rarely emerge from Chapter 11 looking anything like they did when they went into bankruptcy.

Layoff Log

  • The Boston Globe will furlough 50 employees through a buyout and layoffs, if necessary. This is the fifth staff reduction at the paper since 2001 and the first to be limited to the newsroom. The cuts will reduce the Globe’s editorial staff to 329 people, down 39% from its peak newsroom employment of 552 in 2000. The local Guild boss said future cuts should come from the management side, as the worker bees have already given more than their fair share.
  • Gannett’s announcement earlier this week that it would require all employees to take a week off without pay in the first quarter sparked a frenzy of media coverage, but we found the furor surprising. Manufacturing companies have used this tactic for years to preserve jobs and the modest 2% across-the-board pay cut seems bearable compared to the alternative of idling so many people. We agree with Alan Mutter’s take: By sharing the pain, Gannett avoids having to cut 600 jobs. Isn’t that a more noble objective?
  • The Christian Science Monitor will cut its editorial staff by 15 or 16 people, which the mangled math in a Boston Globe story calculates to be 7%. Since the CSM employs 90 editors, our calculator says that’s more like 16%, but whatever. The Monitor is preparing to go from weekday to weekly print frequency in April and adjusting it staff size accordingly.
  • The Schenectady Daily Gazette will cut 16 positions in its fourth round of layoffs in a year.
  • The publisher of Vermont’s Rutland Herald and the wonderfully named Barre-Montpelier Times Argus will lay off 14 people, or about 9% of its staff.

And Finally…

Nick Christensen of the Hillsboro Argus has tongue only partly in cheek as he makes a somewhat persuasive argument for a government bailout. Give me my billions, he says. It won’t influence me. Christensen does point out correctly that judges and district attorneys are among the government watchdogs who are also paid by the institutions they monitor.

If you need another indication that citizens can be important sources of news coverage, you only need to consider yesterday’s crash of a US Airways jet in the Hudson River. The first report of the crash appeared on Twitter at 3:28, just two minutes after the plane took off. Twitter was also the first outlet to carry news that a flock of geese was probably the source of engine troubles that forced the pilot to ditch the plane. The photo below is from CNN’s iReport citizen news service. A video featuring more images taken by witnesses can be seen here.



This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 9:24 am and is filed under Fake News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on Outsourcing the News


  1. January 16, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    Hi, Paul!

    Thanks for the expansion on the conversation Amy and I have been having. Many of the comments on Amy’s piece bring up good points too.

    It’s worth noting that the idea of EC2 for journalism doesn’t sound like it comes with a job and a dental plan for a working journalist. I think it will take a long time for journalism to regain equilibrium, and I’m not sure what that state will look like. It could be good, if by good we mean enough information for people to be able to make rational decisions about their public life and that some proportion of the people providing that information feel that they’re adequately compensated for it. Or it might not. As Donald Rumsfeld said, ya got your known unknowns and your unknown unknowns. The fate of journalism is the latter.

    Posted by Lisa Williams
  2. January 19, 2009 @ 5:07 am

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