Not dead. Reborn.
That's the state of the shifting newspaper industry as it continues to battle ink-and-paper journalism. As the Patriot-News is set to shrink delivery days next week, Editor Cate Barron argues that their print edition has more life than ever.
Traveling through a maze of truth-seekers and stacks of court documents, the Patriot-News newsroom smelled of ink, coffee and change. Barron described herself as a 'radio gal' and opened up while talking about the news industry. Within the past few months, Barron has been faced with cutting print staff, expanding web staff, and facing the question of “Why?” for each decision.
When the Patriot-News and Pennlive.com merged to form PA Media Group in late August, Barron told abc27 that tough decisions would be made.
“I'm not gonna sugar coat it. There will be some cutbacks for sure,” she said.
Barron painted an unclear picture on how deep the cuts would go. Patriot-News reporters we talked to months ago said they had no hard information on what would take place going forward.
Last weekend, the Carlisle Sentinel reported 19 Patriot-News journalists were eliminated (full disclosure: abc27 and the Sentinel are media partners). The writer cited an “inner-office memo” that was obtained. The article listed most ousted reporters by name.
Barron told abc27 on Thursday that the information in the article was incorrect.
“That was wrong,” said Barron referring to the Sentinel article.” I'm not going to get into how [The Sentinel] cover their news. We have to watch our own shops obviously.”
Sentinel editor George Spohr said Barron's criticism comes down to semantics.
“When a reporter is told their position is
going away and they have the option of taking a severance package or
taking a new position at half their salary, we call that a job
elimination. They say otherwise. At the end of the day, though, this is
about readers. And The Sentinel is looking forward to serving those
readers online and in print seven days per week.”
When asked how many were let go, Barron responded.
“I'm not going to get into those numbers,” she said. “But, I will say that we've had some people who we've offered jobs decided to take severance and go do something else. And, good luck to all of them.”
Barron did explain that the photography staff was down two positions for a total of six. She said there is one freelance photographer. Reporters also take their own photographs and freelance content will cover the difference.
Barron said while the print staff has been downsized, the web department, focused on producing content for Pennlive.com, has expanded. Barron said seven new reporters have been hired. Two positions are still available.
After the New Year, Barron explained that her newsroom's “boots on the ground” will increase from 49 to 51. While not all are reporters, she explained her forces are a combination of correspondents, freelancers, photographers, social media gurus, feature writers, and sports writers.
Currently, accessing Pennlive.com and the companies' mobile apps are free. While some local newspapers require a subscription to view online content, Barron promised one wouldn't be coming to the Patriot-News.
“You never say never in this business as you well know. But, I know we have no plans for the future right now to put up a pay wall.”
Barron was also present for the Evening News and morning Patriot merger in 1996. She said even then people fought the change and believed it wouldn't work.
As newspapers across the nation have shut down, Barron saw this merger as an opportunity to not die but rather get a new lease on print life.
“We got tired of managing the decline in print,” said Barron. “We want to manage our growth and when we see those kinda numbers especially like we see in the past year … we would really be foolish not to follow it.”
The Jerry Sandusky trail and Penn State University fallout attracted many viewers worldwide to the Patriot-New's website's.