UPDATED on 6/20/2013 @ 5:03 p.m. PT – What to do something to help? Higgins, a restaurant and bar across the street from the Oregonian’s headquarters in downtown Portland has opened up a bar tab for the paper’s writers and editors to drown their sorrows tonight. So far, well-wishers — including yours truly — and contributed $1,600. If you want to make a donation, call Higgins at (503) 222-9070 and be prepared to give them your credit card info. — MVR
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The tagline of this blog is “Freelancing in the digital age.” Most of the time, the focus of this site is on the “freelance” part of that slogan.
Today, it’s on the “digital age.”
That’s because the digital age of news hit home big time this morning, when my home-town paper, the Oregonian, announced massive changes and layoffs that the owner of the newspaper is undertaking to move it away from the “paper” news business to the online news business. This is the innocuous sounding headline they used to make the announcement (which led media blogger Jim Romenesko to say the writer should be the first one to get the boot):
But the photo — taken by Oregonian reporter Kimberly A.C. Wilson — says it all. “Pin drop quiet in newsroom well after announcements,” she tweeted from the staff meeting. “Few were surprised but the weight of change is on us.”
Changes with the Times
Advance Publications Inc., which owns the Oregonian, announced Thursday morning that effective this fall, the 163-year-old paper will drop daily home delivery in favor of deliveries four times a week – Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A print paper will still be published seven days a week — I guess that means single copies will still be available at newsstands and wherever else single copies are sold.
In addition, the Oregonian is laying off an uncertain number of editorial staff starting tomorrow (Friday, June 21). A local freelancer who wrote for the paper told me she got word yesterday that her services are no longer needed.
On top of that, the paper is moving out of its iconic HQ building on SW Broadway in downtown Portland, according to at least one report.
The downsizing comes as Advance remakes the paper, one of the biggest in the West, into a digital media-first news entity. At the same time the Oregonian announced the cuts, Publisher Chris Anderson announced the creation of a new company called the Oregonian Media Group that will run the Oregonian and the paper’s existing website, OregonLive.com, as well as other current — and conceivable future — print and online media properties. In addition to the Oregonian, Advance also owns surburban papers in Hillsboro and Forest Grove.
The company is spinning off administration operations into a separate group. The second company will oversee “HR, production, circulation, information systems and technology, strategic sourcing and accounting,” according to the paper’s own announcement. Sounds to me like a financial move (and possibly one that Advance has made in other markets where its papers have dropped to less than daily deliveries? Maybe someone who lives in those markets knows).
Along with other announcements Thursday, the company rolled out an e-edition of the daily paper called MyDigitalO.com. Who’s in charge of coming up with that name? The jokes are already flying:
— Danny Willis (@DannyJWillis) June 20, 2013
I have no idea whether non-subscribers can see the entire MyDigitalO.com issue (I subscribe and can).
Social media response to the announcement was fast, and more sad than furious. Local TV station KGW rounded up a bunch of responses that you can see here: Social response to Oregonian 3-day delivery (someone needs to tell them they got the facts wrong in the headline, the paper’s switching to 4X/week delivery).
I’m not naive. I figured along with many others that this day would come eventually because Advance has done the same thing in New Orleans, Cleveland and other cities where it owns (formerly) daily newspapers. You can read more about what could be behind Advance’s decision to split the business in two in Ryan Chittum’s June 19 post to the Columbia Journalism Review‘s The Audit busienss press blog: The Advance Publications Name Game.
Still, it’s a sad day for journalism, and for journalism in Portland and Oregon in particular. While I’m a true believer in progress and the place online news has and will have in it, I love getting that print newspaper every morning.
I’m especially feeling so bad for all of those Oregonian reporters and editors, some of whom I know, and more of whom I know only as a reader. It can’t get a good day for any of them.
And in case you’re reading this and work at the Oregonian, or you know somebody who does — if you end up getting laid off and thinking about freelancing, get in touch. I’m happy to help in any way I can.
Here’s an Advance-written FAQ about Oregonian Media Group.