More Asheville Citizen-Times copy editing from 400 miles away as Gannett consolidates workflow

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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gannett_2014Gannett, the parent company of the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Greenville News and some 80 other daily newspapers across the U.S., recently began testing (and implementing) a new workflow that further consolidates copy editing work. The copy editing function at local Gannett newspapers like Asheville and Gannett has slowly been consolidated in regional “design centers.” For Asheville, that means tasks such as page layout and design happens in Louisville, Ky.

The goal, of course, is to save money by cutting jobs and having one pool of people perform the task for multiple newspapers. Over the past five years, Gannett has steadily consolidated the various functions, from page design to accounting and human resources.

In Asheville, there are really only three, maybe four, copy editors left in the newsroom. Editors and reporters are expected to read over pages and fact-check stories, but that’s in addition to their regular duties.

What will likely be the result? First, any remaining copy editors in Asheville will be reassigned to different jobs (or, God forbid, be out of a job.) Second, more mistakes. People living 400 miles away, without the knowledge of subtleties on the ground in Asheville, will be editing the stories written here in Asheville.

Here’s the Gannett memo explaining the changes:

Booking workflow

1. Newsroom assigns cover-story packages to appropriate cover (1A, Local, Opinion, Business, Sports, Real Estate, Etc.). Newsroom ranks cover story packages in NewsGate using the ranking function with a number 1-5 (1 being the most important story on the page).

2. Newsroom assigns inside-story packages to “No page,” making sure they have selected the appropriate desk as well (News, Business, Features, etc.). Newsroom ranks the inside-story packages as Must Run, Must Run Late or Can Hold. Must Run Late stories will be booked on a designated “late page.”

3. Newsroom assigns packages for any templated or standardized pages to the appropriate page. A comprehensive list of these pages is being compiled and will be distributed.

4. Newsroom includes any special instruction in the Package Instructions field.

5. Newsroom alerts Design Studio by email when the budget is set and they can begin booking pages. a. Newsroom updates rankings and package instructions as necessary and alerts the Design Studio by email when there are updates.

6. Designer books stories based on rankings provided by newsroom, as well as the overall print strategy developed by the top editor. a. Designer communicates any booking questions to the newsroom. Designer lets newsroom know if there are too many must-run stories or if there are not enough stories. b. Designer assigns inside-story packages to appropriate pages and article shapes. c. Designer designates articles as Design Done when they are ready for finishing.

Finishing workflow:

1. Newsroom informs designer that story is publication ready and includes an SEO headline.

2. Designer places story on page.

3. Designer/Finisher makes trim.

a. Trim should be done by “noting out” content or trimming in news director in order to preserve ENG best practice.

b. The Designer will build page based on site’s print tactics and story lengths provided in the daily budget. i. Once copy has been placed on the page, the Designer/Finisher will take efficient steps to attempt to match the actual length with available space on the page. ii. Designer will build page based on strategy that visuals and layering are critical and when considering trims will be conscious of those critical assumptions. iii. Once those adjustments, if any are possible, have been made, the Designer/Finisher will trim the story at the nearest paragraph or period.

c. Newsrooms should be aware of this trimming philosophy and ensure that budgeted lengths and actual lengths are in accordance with each other.

4. Designer/Finisher adapts SEO headline to fit designated count.

5. At peak times, the Designer/Finisher may call upon other Designer/Finishers or Wire Copy Editor/Finishers for support in order to meet page-flow and deadline obligations.

6. Upon completion of a page, Designer/Finisher will have a colleague proof headlines, proof captions, ensure stories are properly fitted and typeset page. 7. For cover pages, Designer/Finisher will inform print captain at site that cover is ready to be approved for typesetting.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Planty Hamchuk August 5, 2014

    A shoutout for the solid work being done over at Asheville Blade – – run by David Forbes, who was formerly at MountainX (and rated the #2 journalist in WNC by their readers).

    He’s trying out a crowdfunding platform to keep the lights on.

  2. jzara July 29, 2014

    I just figured the paper was built by robots because I can’t remember ever seeing them list an Art Department, designers or the like in the staff box/page. Dido for the Scene.

  3. Angie Newsome July 29, 2014

    Thanks for mentioning Carolina Public Press, FT. You’re right: media organizations ranging from Ashvegas to The Charlotte Observer to the Asheville Citizen Times, WLOS-TV to WCQS pick up our news, interview our reporters and use our original reporting and research in their own news reports. We’re also an “official” nonprofit — and our reporting is funded supported by individual donors and foundations. Check us out if you haven’t already!

  4. cbaltz July 28, 2014

    Sigh. I’ve been through this with WashPost Company and Charlotte/McClatchy. Total disservice to the readers (not sure any of the higher-ups care any more, to be frank). Total disservice to great employees. Sucks.

  5. Zep July 28, 2014

    Jason- why don’t you offer more hard news coverage on your blog? It’s obvious you have the experience and interest, and that the Citizen-Times offers less of it everyday.

    1. Jason Sandford July 28, 2014

      zep, the short answer is – time. i’m holding down several freelance gigs in addition to the time spent on the Ashvegas website. that’s because advertising on Ashvegas doesn’t bring in enough money to cover my expenses at this point. interviews, research and writing all take time, which is limited for me at this point.

  6. Cwaster July 28, 2014

    We really need an actual local Asheville-based newspaper to compete with these guys.

    1. FT July 28, 2014

      If you get the chance, check out They’ve made mark in only a few years and many of the local news outlets are starting to pick up pieces from their site. “Public interest reporting is critical to an informed, engaged electorate and to ensuring government accountability. Carolina Public Press, a nonprofit online news service, provides Western North Carolina with unbiased, in-depth and investigative reporting as well as educational opportunities to journalists, students and others.”


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