It's been a while since Buzz checked in with Belo. Maybe that's because the new, well-received managing editor at the The Dallas Morning News, George Rodrigue, has so far impressed newsroom naysayers. (Note to them: You know Buzz appears every week, don't you?)
Finally, though, word comes of recent unrest at the DMN as managers start thinking about next fiscal year's budget. "Word is starting to spread that revenue is not just flat but 'running behind plan,'" a newsroom source said a few days before Friday's earning announcements to Wall Street. True enough, even though Belo as a whole met earnings expectations, DMN revenue was reported as flat to marginally profitable. People are wondering if that means reductions in head count.
Part of this, Buzz knows, is standard newsroom nervousness. But even with the reported success of Quick, the paper's free daily news-in-brief tabloid, other costly expansion efforts give more weight to these rumors. As does the fact that Belo announced it would close its cable-news TXCN stations in Houston and San Antonio and lay off 190 folks. And if you'd lost more than $18 friggin' million on the venture, you'd shutter 'em, too.
Meanwhile, across the metroplex: Insanity, someone once said, is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Buzz therefore would like to congratulate Jim Witt, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's senior vice president and executive editor, for demonstrating that he is not crazy. Last week, Witt sent a memo to his staff announcing a revolutionary change in the paper's design. In mid-August, the paper will begin printing just one long story that continues inside the paper on its Sunday front page, using the rest of the page for touts to stories inside. On Mondays, the paper will have no front-page stories, instead offering brief summaries of important stories inside.
It's a radical departure from the way most daily newspapers package the news, but then most daily newspapers are slowly bleeding readership, so maybe "radical" is another way of saying "not insane."
"We're going to experiment with it a couple of days a week," Witt says. "The readers are going to determine whether it's a success." If not, the nice thing about a daily is you always get another shot at getting it right tomorrow.
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