Thursday, 18 October 2007

Local news edict

A new online edition of Quebecor's Phoenix newsletter announces Sun Media editors-in-chief will now "focus on local coverage."

In other words, focus and logic appear to be returning to Sun newsrooms, thanks to Michael Sifton, Sun Media's new president and CEO.

The Phoenix newsletter reads:

"Editors-in-Chief will be making adjustments to our overall approach to creating content that focuses increasingly on local coverage in the communities served by all our news gathering operations.

Sun Media President and CEO Mike Sifton discussed with EICs at a recent meeting in Toronto the need to better reflect local communities, while continuing to generate benefits from common content wherever possible.

Watch for changes to emerge soon as areas such as opinion comment on local issues are rebalanced with opportunities for national comment.

“Our comment pages must continue to be thoughtful but the important point is to ensure we are thought leaders in our respective communities,” Sifton told EICs.

“The fundamental directions are all right since change in our industry is a fact of life,” Sifton said. “Now we need to make sure we are adapting the concepts to local markets because that is where we will succeed, that’s what we do best and that’s where we distinguish ourselves from competitors.

“Some content works well across the entire organization, but not all content is right for every market. We need to have the flexibility to make the best use of the people in our organization who understand the local markets and interests.”

For Glenn Garnett, Executive Editor-in-Chief for Sun Media, that means “we need to make better use of centralized content while counting on editors to make decisions about how best to tell local stories and the best use of space and resources.

“We’re definitely ahead of our competitors generally in creating our own multimedia content, while others are just using CP and AP videos, for example,” says Garnett. “What we need to do now is refine the model and build cohesion in the broader team.”

Adjustments will be showing up soon in the way we encourage newspaper readers to check out online content, probably by integrating online links more thoroughly and in context within print reports. The regular online feature that has been appearing on page two of the urban dailies will be adjusted to make content more relevant and generate more cross promotion between our print and web markets.

Says Sifton: “We simply cannot succeed if we try to be all things to all people – that’s dangerous since our success everywhere depends on doing local coverage well, while providing the right balance of national news and features.”

Noting that the Sun’s urban dailies have a stronger male audience while 24hours has more of a female skew, Sifton says “we have to think about the roles of our paid and free newspapers to make sure we can offer advertisers the most complete reach of the key demographic groups.”

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