It happened a year ago at the Naples Daily News. Print reporters and photographers were all told that they no longer worked for the paper, says Phil Lewis, editor and vice president of naplesdailynews.com/Naples Daily News. They were all transferred to dot.com–which the company now sees as a kind of local wire service–and they file their stories first online. The newspaper staff is now 75 percent smaller, made up primarily of copy editors, designers and layout people. And the company’s approach to the news has changed dramatically as a result, Lewis told the Future of Journalism Jobs conference at the University of Maryland.
In the past, hurricane planning was always about how we would get the newspaper printed. Where will we print if we had no power? Where will we move the copy desk? This year, it was about how to tell people what is happening in real time. Our readers will evacuate to Orlando, they’ll be in a hotel room online on their laptops and we have to get them information.
Lewis wants naplesdailynews.com to become THE source of information for all of those people, wherever they are. “I think our site should post our stories and [link to] what everybody else has too,” including local television and social networking sites. That’s causing some angst in his newsroom, but it sounds like smart business to me and it could actually improve the quality of the journalism. As Lewis points out, if you’re going to make it easy for your users to see what else is out there, “we’d better be doing it best.”