The newsrooms in the Baltimore Sun Media Group are going through a company-wide reorganization that will integrate teams of reporters, photographers and social media personnel, according to a memo released today and obtained by the Baltimore Fishbowl.
Among the biggest changes: Layout of the print edition will now take place in the Chicago offices of The Sun‘s parent company, tronc. A similar move was announced for another tronc paper, the New York Daily News, in February.
The changes emphasize a digital-first approach, with current senior visuals content editor Emma Patti Harris being elevated to the title of “director of content/editing and design studio” overseeing audience engagement and social media.
And Kalani Gordon, currently the digital products editor, will serve as “senior content editor/analytics and digital products,” a job that will use data analysis to “provide feedback across the newsroom as we move in real time to increase digital subscriptions and audience.”
Local papers underneath the flagship, such as The Capital and Carroll County Times, will be overseen by Jay Judge, currently the senior editor of visuals. His position will make sure the paper’s coverage “has an enhanced digital focus and build on collaboration.”
“Some jobs will change. Some titles will change. Some processes will change,” wrote publisher and editor-in-chief Trif Alatzas in the memo. “What will not change is our commitment to deliver local news to Baltimore and the region better than anyone else.”
Alatzas later wrote that digital stories will be “focused on how readers want that information delivered, whether it be through social media, visuals, text or other means.”
Environmental reporter Scott Dance, the unit chair for The Sun‘s bargaining unit with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said the union has not been notified about how these changes will directly affect employees in its ranks.
“They’re not trying to cut down on content producers, I think,” he said. “They’re trying to be more strategic about the layers above us.”
But the plan to move design work to Chicago is concerning, he said, and the hope is that anyone whose positions are sent there would be offered a new position within The Sun.
A spokesperson with Baltimore Sun Media Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment about any possible layoffs. Full disclosure: As an editor at City Paper, I was once a Baltimore Sun Media Group employee.
This news comes during a recent period of seismic changes for tronc. Controlling owner and chairman Michael Ferro announced today he will be stepping down (though maintaining a consulting job with tronc that includes a salary of $5 million a year through Dec. 31, 2020) once the sale of the Los Angeles Times has been completed. His departure was pitched just this morning as Ferro wanting to “go out on a win,” but a breaking report from Fortune details allegations from two women of inappropriate advances by Ferro.
The sale of the Times, one of the company’s biggest papers, came after the ouster of publisher and CEO Ross Levinsohn, who NPR reported had been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and a successful unionization effort by the newsroom.
Perhaps most troubling for staffers at The Sun is the recent round of layoffs at the Chicago Tribune that a spokesperson for tronc said “is reshaping its newsroom and making important steps in an ongoing effort to become more a digital enterprise.”
As NPR media reporter David Folkenflik tweeted this afternoon:
At Tronc’s Chicago Tribune, I’m told the re-org means that reporters are effectively re-applying for jobs, sometimes against former editors, creating incredible upheaval. Been described like a Tronc Hunger Games.
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) March 19, 2018
The Tribune‘s crime reporter, Peter Nickeas, shed more light on the process.
You go in and ask for your job, or for a new job (and hope you aren’t jamming someone else up), and we’re in a period right now where we don’t know what our new jobs / supervisors will be. https://t.co/11XB0DnOsK
— Peter Nickeas (@PeterNickeas) March 19, 2018
But Dance said there hasn’t been any indication newsroom employees at The Sun will have to reapply for their jobs, noting the paper is a union shop while Tribune is not.
The suburban papers at Baltimore Sun Media Group are not unionized, however.
Among the other masthead changes: Anne Tallent will move from the features desk to head up breaking news, and metro editor Eileen Canzian will lead investigations and enterprise reporting.
Current editorial page editor Andrew Green will have an expanded role. In addition to overseeing the editorial board, he will also “develop new efforts to expand our analysis from throughout the newsroom and to identify more community voices to highlight opinion on our platforms.”
All editors being given new roles will report to managing editor Sam Davis. The editorial board will report to Alatzas.
“Key leaders will be meeting with their teams during the next few weeks to discuss next steps,” Alatzas wrote.
The Sun is set to move all of its operations to the company’s Port Covington printing plant this summer.