TRAVERSE CITY — The Record-Eagle newsroom is expanding to handle a regional newspaper design project initiated by its corporate parent.
Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., which purchased the Record-Eagle in 2006, selected the newspaper as one of its regional design centers. As a result local newsroom staff will design and produce the Record-Eagle and 12 other daily and weekly CNHI newspapers based in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
Record-Eagle staffers’ specific duties include page layout and design for all news, business, sports and features pages for papers in its region. The “satellite” newspapers will send their local stories, photos and other content to the Record-Eagle by way of an Internet-based content management system that links Traverse City with those sites.
Record-Eagle staff will fully design the satellite papers’ pages and return computer images of those pages through the web-based system to the satellites’ printing facilities.
The Record-Eagle is the third of a projected 10 news design centers that will serve the company’s 78 daily and 50 non-daily newspapers in 23 states. The design center project will be implemented over the next 15 months, and each center will serve a cluster of strategically located newspapers, said William Ketter, CNHI’s senior vice president for news.
“Traverse City was selected as the center site because of its reputation for award-winning newspaper design, and its availability of journalists with the necessary design and news production skills,” Ketter said. “In addition, it is a desirable location for recruiting other expert newspaper designers. That’s an important factor because of the emphasis the center places on quality results.”
The centers are to be staffed by professional journalists skilled in design, layout and pagination, and are meant to ensure more equitable quality in the appearance and readability of the various papers.
“The primary purpose of the centers is to free up CNHI newsrooms from the news production chores associated with putting out a paper so they can focus their efforts on generating more and better local content for their readers, both in print and online,” Ketter said.
The Record-Eagle’s designation as a news design center, or hub, means more newsroom jobs here. The paper’s design desk already expanded from five members to 12 as the newsroom accepted design responsibilities for two weekly papers in Iowa, a twice-weekly paper in Illinois, and most recently, a daily newspaper in Illinois. Another Illinois daily paper will be added to the production schedule this week.
All 12 satellite papers are scheduled to be produced in Traverse City by late April.
Brian Steele, a 20-year Record-Eagle newsroom veteran, leads the local project as design center manager. His chief assistants are shift supervisors Mike Plamondon and Dan Nielsen.
Steele and Plamondon toiled on the design center project for a year, and guided it from infancy through numerous significant technological changes and other challenges, Record-Eagle Executive Editor Mike Tyree said.
“Brian and Mike worked countless hours on the design center project,” Tyree said. “This is a massive undertaking that required constant communication with corporate news, production and technology personnel, as well as with editors and publishers at the satellite newspapers. But our designation as a hub site is a major plus for the Record-Eagle and community. We’ll continue to produce our own paper, and we’ve added newsroom jobs.”
Perhaps the most significant challenge has been “getting our arms around such a big project,” Steele said. “It’s a big challenge just putting our paper out; how are you going to put out 10 times that many,” he said.
Technology changes, including an Internet- or “cloud”-based content management system ultimately will streamline the effort, Steele said. Each design center staff member will be required to produce an estimated 14 to 16 newspaper pages per-shift under deadline pressure, Steele said. The local design staff will cover work shifts that extend from approximately 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. each day, seven days a week.
“This allows us to expand and bring good jobs to Traverse City,” Steele said.
Ketter said editors at the satellite papers will retain control of what content appears in their publications, and they will prioritize how stories, photos and graphics are displayed. The design desk will produce news pages based on the individual papers’ directions.
“There are inherent benefits in centralizing the design, layout and pagination of newspapers,” Ketter said. “They include greater ability to share content among CNHI papers, use of a common computer cloud technology to serve our developing digital news outlets, create cost savings through efficiencies in processing news pages, and improvement in the appearance and readability of those smaller newspapers that cannot afford to employ professional designers.”
CNHI previously established design centers in North Andover, Mass., and North Tonawanda, N.Y.