Friday, December 4, 2009

And Now: Reporters Reporting to Salesmen?

Here’s the most worrisome news of the day, for anyone who cares about traditional media. The Dallas Morning News – the only newspaper, in the nation’s eighth biggest city, with a daily circulation of more than 250,000 – seems to be placing its news staff under ad sales managers.

The weekly Dallas Observer just published an internal memo to the Morning News staff from the editor, jointly signed by the senior vice president of sales, announcing the restructuring. It divides the newsroom into 11 “business and content segments,” with each segment reporting to a newly created “general manager” whose responsibilities will include sales and business development. The rationale: “to better align with our clients’ needs.”

An Observer blog features an interview with the News’ editor, Bob Mong, who insists that the paper is still a “journalism-first company” and that the lines between advertising and news content will not be crossed.

Let’s all keep an eye on the News. Will this experiment be a model for other newspapers to follow? Or will the relationship between news and the business needs of the paper become so evidently cozy that others will be scared off. Stay tuned.

(Full Disclosure Dept.: I’m from Dallas, and in college I worked as a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, which was then the afternoon competitor to the Morning News. So don’t expect total objectivity . . . )

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