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Consolidated production has risks, rewards

February 16, 2013

Bob Rose of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (left) listens as Ben Cunningham of Lee Enterprises and Doug Gass of Gatehouse Media talk about their design organizations. (Photo by Bryan Murley)

By Samantha McDaniel
Eastern Illinois University

Some newspapers are switching from in-house copy and design desks to centralized off-site centers whose main focus is to produce any number of papers.

Doug Gass, the content/delivery manager for GateHouse Media Design, and Ben Cunningham, the news design manager for Lee Enterprises, said these centers communicate with the papers they serve to provide a quality product.

Gass and Cunningham spoke at the Mid-America Press Institute leadership workshop about the good and bad about consolidated production centers.

Gass said GateHouse employees will read the stories and design the pages as best as they can to the what the newspaper wants, but will not always be able to comply exactly.

“The newsroom usually has an idea of how things should be played so we try to work with that,” Gass said.

He said if there is an issue and the design is not working or a headline does not fit, designers will communicate with a designated contact at the papers to get information they need.

At Lee Enterprises the focus is more on design than copy-editing, Cunningham said.
Like at GateHouse, the designers work with the paper’s staff when they have a problem with the design.

By focusing only on design, the papers can be designed faster and design quality increased, Cunningham said.

One problem with these consolidated centers is the distance from the town or even state where the paper is located.

Gass said because they are so far away, copy editors will not be as familiar with names and local events, so it is easier to miss errors.

He said they try to keep people on one or two papers consistently so they can become more familiar with these names.

“All states have their own ways of doing things,” Gass said. “If you are not sure what something means call the editor.”

Cunningham said another problem is consistency with page design.
If a new designer is working on the paper every day, there is more of a chance that the style of the paper will change.
At Lee Enterprises, Cunningham said they attempt to teach people about the designs of different papers.

“We have team leaders assigned to a certain product from the beginning,” he said. “When any designers are assigned to it, the team leader will try to give them training.”

He said they also document the process of designing for different papers the designers can access when they are unsure of something.

Gass said they have similar procedures. They archive newspapers that the designers can consult if they are unsure of a style.

A benefit of these off-site production centers is that they can still produce if there is an emergency at the newsroom.

If a newsroom losses power, the company can still access their files and produce the papers. Also, if one center has a problem, the work can be shifted to another center or, in some cases, it can be sent back to the newsroom for design.

Gass said the most important thing is to have communication with the papers.

“We have some newsrooms who are very in touch with everything we do and others that tell us to make them look good,” Gass said.



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