LLOYD GRAY: Marshaling all our forces will benefit readers

If you pay attention to bylines in the newspaper – the writer’s name at the top of a story – you may have noticed some different ones lately in the Daily Journal.
It’s not that we’ve hired a lot of new folks, it’s just that we’ve intentionally set out to use more effectively the full news-gathering capacity of our company.
Journal Publishing Co. has a daily newspaper, eight weekly newspapers, one regional and six community Web sites in Northeast Mississippi. We have by far the largest news staff in the region.
But in the past we’ve operated largely as separate entities, even sometimes in competition with each other. Oh, we’ve had occasional cooperative efforts but nothing really sustained. We’ve come to see the need to change that approach.
What sense does it make, we asked ourselves, to duplicate effort with two reporters from the same company at the same event or covering the same story when one would do, thereby freeing up the second person to cover something else? When we stood back and looked at it, the answer was clear.
So we’re now consciously looking for the best way to cover events for all of our products, print and online, by breaking down staff and turf barriers. Journal Publishing’s media operations have been more than a daily newspaper for 18 years now; we bought our first weeklies in 1991 and launched the state’s first newspaper Web site in 1995. Yet we’ve never really operated as a single news staff until now.
That’s why just in the last week you saw three different front-page bylines in the Daily Journal by writers at two Journal Publishing weeklies, the Monroe Journal and the New Albany News-Exchange. They were major stories – the tragic events surrounding a teenager’s drowning in Monroe County, vote fraud in New Albany – and it made sense to have those stories worked by the reporters closest to them. In the past, we would have had a reporter at the Daily Journal and a reporter at the weekly both chasing the same story.
It’ll work the other way, too. Daily Journal writers have already contributed unique stories to some of our company’s weeklies, and we’ll look for more ways to have our daily writers support their efforts. We’ve also already been sharing photographers and photos much more intentionally lately.
Of course, a development that makes this more natural – and necessary – than in the past is the stepped-up news cycle. Daily reporters now are on more than a 24-hour cycle; they’re filing big breaking stories for our nems360.com site as they happen and updating blogs, sometimes several times a day. Weekly staffers, meanwhile, now have a daily means of breaking news with their own community Web sites. They no longer have to wait until the next weekly print publication cycle, though they can prepare a more complete and detailed story for print.
Elections are an example of how this consolidated news-gathering effort will benefit our print and online readers. On Tuesday night, as municipalities throughout Northeast Mississippi count their general election votes, daily and weekly newspaper staffers will be feeding the results to our online staff, which will post them immediately, then send them along for publication in the morning paper. We had by far our most successful election nights in years in the May primaries in terms of the timeliness and completeness of results because we had so many more people dispatched in the field.
Ultimately, that’s the point – to serve you, the reader, with more and better information.
Does this mean that our individual publications will lose their separate identities? Not at all; they’ll still be focused on the distinct needs and concerns of their local audiences, in print and online. Does it mean that Daily Journal reporters won’t venture into counties where our company has weeklies? Hardly. We’ve got daily reporters who because of their special skills and subject-area expertise will be covering stories in those counties, and occasionally we’ll duplicate staffing because we know that a weekly reporter can do a better job of tailoring a story to the most pertinent concerns of the local audience.
What it does mean is that Journal Publishing Co. – whose products reach 71 percent of the households in our core Northeast Mississippi market – now sees itself as one team bringing you the news. We hope and expect that will be good for everybody.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662)-678-1579 or lloyd.gray@djournal.com.

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