Dubow's memo (see below) links to an internal Gannett site. Here's the information center FAQ. It's a longish document, but well worth reading as it expands considerably on the brief description of the "seven desks" I posted last night.
Q. What is an Information Center?
A. The Information Center is a new way of transforming the process of gathering and disseminating news and information. It is the evolution of the newsroom, focused on gathering the information our readers and viewers want using words, images and video and distributing it across multiple platforms: the daily newspaper, online, mobile, non-daily publications and any other media possible to meet our readers’ needs. Creating an Information Center means retooling the newsroom, expanding into multimedia, embracing community interaction, shifting resources and rethinking the way a community is covered. Gannett’s Newspaper Division, which has conducted a series of pilot programs to create and test the Information Center concept, organized the Center around seven key information gathering areas: digital; public service; community conversation; local; custom content; data; and multimedia. (More about each desk below). Information Centers can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual operations in each division.
Q. Why is Gannett making these changes?
A. Gannett adopted a Strategic Plan in early 2006 that called for the creation of the Information Center as a way to become more customer-centric and innovative in the way we gather and disseminate news and information. Gannett’s mission under the plan is to provide must-have news and information on demand across all media, ever mindful of our journalistic responsibilities.
Q. What is the purpose of the Information Center?
A. The Information Center will enable us to gather and disseminate multimedia news and information in a way more suited to the needs of our customers today. We will deliver the content our audiences want at any time, anywhere and to any device. As print newsrooms were geared to the scheduling demands of the daily newspaper, the Information Center will be geared to the 24/7 demands of our customers. We will provide more hyper-local information, more databases (restaurants, entertainment, schools, local sports, etc.), more interactive opportunities, more video and more breaking news than we ever have before. And we will deliver it on multiple platforms. The Information Center also is designed to make even better use of the exceptional resources we have. We will make wiser and more strategic use of our employees to do more of what our customers want.
Q. Why is it called the Information Center and not the newsroom?
A. Increasingly, we are realizing that our customers are interested in much more than news from our products. While news remains our preeminent mission, other information – especially local information – is increasingly in demand. Calendars, recommendations, lifestyle topics as well as neighborhood level stories are all new elements that will have ongoing coverage across platforms. We are also embracing community interactivity in our sites with increased involvement. Changing the name acknowledges this additional responsibility and emphasizes that we are gathering news and information for websites, mobile devices and other products as well as for our daily newspapers.
Q. How does the Information Center work?
A. The Information Center works by focusing on gathering news and information in multiple media for rapid digital dissemination rather than solely building a newspaper every day. The key is redeploying our resources to gather, process and publish news and information on a multitude of platforms focused on community needs and involvement. Each of the primary jobs of the Information Center represents key information-generating areas important to the emerging media environment. It changes the structure of newsroom to unleash more expansive coverage.
For example: Formerly we would cover sports to fill a once-a-day sports section in print. Now we concentrate on getting game scores posted online and mobile as fast as possible, providing constantly updated staff blogs and inviting the community to discuss the latest sports news.
Each location would tailor the Information Center to fit its particular needs – larger sites would create “desks” or teams to do particular functions while smaller operations would be more likely to incorporate multiple functions into a smaller number of combination desks. But in either case, publishing becomes a 24/7 enterprise using multiple media across diverse digital and print platforms.
Q. Will the information Center replace newsrooms at all of our newspapers?
A. Yes. Every newspaper will be expected to fulfill the Information Center’s goals. All newspapers are expected to fulfill the seven primary jobs outlined in the Information Center. Larger sites will create actual desks to accomplish these tasks while smaller papers will combine multiple jobs into various areas.
Q. Will there be Information Centers at Gannett TV stations?
A. The goal is for all Gannett properties to adopt the concept of the Information Center. That is, TV stations need to revamp their newsrooms to be able to gather and disseminate local, local news and information across all platforms around the clock.
Q. Does that mean jobs will be changing?
A. Many jobs are transforming to allow for immediacy, multi-platform coverage and greater interaction with the community. People will be asked to perform many new and different functions than they are used to. Schedules are changing as the Information Center becomes a 24-hour operation. Some types of jobs, such as reporter and editor, will continue but the way they are done may change to focus on more local news. The role of the copy desk is shifting to reflect the audience expectation of continuous news coverage and strong headline writing needed on mobile devices, for example. Photographers are becoming videographers, reporting stories and creating new storytelling techniques through multimedia projects. Many of the changes will occur as needs arise during the rollout phase of the Information Center.
Q. Who decides what jobs change and what the Information Center will look like?
A. The overall framework and strategy is being set across Gannett in consultation with local editors, but of course the specific decisions to implement the strategy will be made locally based on the needs of the community and the desk positions that need to be filled. An in- depth study of the community’s needs is accomplished at the outset. Based on that study, a decision on how to structure the primary jobs will be made locally in consultation with the roll-out team at headquarters. Headquarters and other Gannett divisions also provide essential multimedia support – for example, our Broadcast and Digital divisions are providing essential video training and infrastructure support. In the Newspaper Division, the seven primary jobs will form the starting point.
Q. What are the seven primary jobs?
A. Public Service. Digital. Data. Community Conversation. Local. Custom Content. Multimedia.
Q. What is the goal of Public Service?
A. This area expands our very important First Amendment and watchdog functions. It encourages community participation at each step of the journalism process. Public Service coverage examines government issues, investigates wrongdoing, uses Freedom of Information standards and applies watchdog techniques. Journalists producing Public Service efforts connect all forms of electronic delivery, the print newspaper and reprinted summaries. Searchable databases, interactive elements and community engagement are frequent components of Public Service journalism. Crowd sourcing – the use of the community in developing information for investigatory journalism -- is part of this.
Q. What is the role of Digital?
A. The Digital nerve center accelerates the speed and volume of news and information posted on multiple digital and print platforms, creating a minute-by-minute local news report. These postings are generated by the news staff, citizen journalists or by people in the community. Database work has a central role in the Digital nerve center. The Digital nerve center provides a continuous stream of information leveraged across all platforms that exist now and new ones developed in the future. The Digital nerve center is the cornerstone of The Local Information Center.
Q. How is the collection of data expanding?
A. This key job involves acquiring and managing deep local information, including calendars, entertainment, school information etc. The Data initiative results in extensive and rich calendar listings and an increased amount of deep local information that readers find useful. The Data team is responsible for pushing the data gathered out to readers through various products and platforms.
Q. What is Community Conversation?
A. This desk extends the concept of the editorial page and manages staff commentary including editorials, blogs and columns. This desk also encourages community participation online, not only in structured forums and comment sections on stories but also in empowering readers to create their own forums for discussion of essential community issues.
Q. What is the Local desk?
A. This desk expands local coverage and reestablishes sports, business and feature reporting into hyper-local areas.
Q. What is Custom Content?
A. This desk specializes in finding ways to connect with identified target audiences and looks for efficiencies in repurposing content across all platforms.
Custom content adapts magazine-like approaches to lifestyle and trends issues and focuses on a growing number of magazines and weeklies targeted to specific audiences and topics such as health, entertainment, parenting and pets.
Q. What is Multimedia?
A. Multimedia uses video and audio, rich graphics and other visual presentation techniques across digital platforms. Graphics and photography staffers work together to produce visual content such as video, Flash presentation, audio and newly emerging electronic forms. Most Gannett newspaper sites have or will be trained in video and are posting video news stories online. Some sites have local newscasts.
Q. Did Gannett run pilot programs to test the Information Center concept?
A. The Newspaper Division created Information Centers at three sites – Des Moines, Brevard and Sioux Falls – and tested the various desks at eight other locations. They found enthusiastic acceptance of the concept among employees and appreciation by the public of the improved products – more local newspapers, more timely Web sites and more community involvement. This local audience appreciation was reflected directly in increasing page views on our Internet sites.
Q. How will the Information Center be implemented?
A. In the Newspaper Division, sites that are not already up and running will submit plans by December for switching to the Information Center with the change expected to be fully implemented by spring. The schedule is very aggressive but achievable based on our experience in test markets. Before submitting a plan, sites are expected to perform a thorough analysis of their community and their newsrooms to determine the best way to organize the Center. Other divisions are studying the Newspaper Division’s results.
Q. Will there be additional hiring done to fill the Information Center jobs?
A. The Information Center transforms, repurposes and refocuses the resources that exist now. Newspapers are training for new skills in multimedia, assessing needs for library science and archiving expertise and updating job descriptions. There is no need to hire for new positions, but many sites are assessing, updating and training to ensure all employees have the right tools and expertise to transform.
Q. Will this mean layoffs?
A. There won’t be any layoffs as a direct result of implementing the Information Center. This concept is a tool for better serving our communities, not a tool for creating layoff opportunities. There will be many changes in the jobs people have, however. As a result, some employees may be unable to or decide not to participate in the Information Center process. In that case, they will be reassigned or asked to leave. In our experience in 11 test markets to date, that is by far the minority.
Q. Is the Information Center designed to save money for the company?
A. The Information Center is designed to innovate and make better use of the resources we have: to gather more and better local news and deliver it to more and changing platforms. So it’s designed to be more cost-effective. The improvements created by the Information Center are designed to expand audience and bring in more advertising dollars. A more accurate description of the Information Center’s goal is to expand readers and grow revenues.
Q. If I’m not sure I will fit into the new Information Center structure, to whom should I talk?
A. First, talk with your supervisor. Also, your Human Resources representative is knowledgeable about the Information Center changes and should be able to help you sort out the issues. Finally, find out about the process and what it means for your location before you make a final decision. During the test process, many employees who expressed skepticism at the outset, were pleasantly surprised and eventually excited by the changes.
Q. What is the connection between the Information Center and advertising?
A. Concurrently with the creation of the Information Centers, advertising sales forces at each location will be getting training in how to make the most of the changes happening as a result of the Information Center. As we strengthen and grow our local products, there will be more opportunities to sell ads around these products and to find new advertisers. The Information Center is designed to make us more customer-centric – that is appeal to a broader base of customers. If we are bringing in more and happier readers, viewers and users, we will be able to make our advertisers happier. Through our Audience Aggregation project, we will be able to take the products produced by the Information Center and get better results for our advertisers.
Q. What is Audience Aggregation?
A. Audience Aggregation is a way to show the depth and breadth of our reach in our communities by combining the audience reach of our multiple publications – our daily newspapers, our non-daily publications, our Internet efforts and our mobile efforts. Our studies have shown we reach as many as 85% to 90% of the people in our community with our suite of products. We are now refining those studies to show the ways we reach different audiences within the communities. As a result, we are becoming able to show advertisers how our offerings can directly reach the audiences they want.
Q. How will sales people be able to find out more about these changes?
A. Training programs are being developed company wide to help sales associates and executives. In the next few months, programs will be rolled out that changes sales departments in much the same way as the newsrooms are changing.