How many journalists does it take to edit a piece of wire copy? I saw this question asked on an American website last week. And it brings stories from both sides of the Atlantic into stark contrast.
Here the Telegraph is cutting jobs for its new multi-media newsroom and the Financial Times has moved to an integrated newsroom with the loss of 50 jobs, mostly in production, from the 500-strong editorial staff (see my previous post).
In California the Los Angeles Times’s owners, the Tribune Company, has ousted the publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, for refusing to cut jobs. The parent company wanted to cut 100 from the 940 strong editorial workforce, according to the New York Times.
While the FT and the LA Times are very different newspapers, there is still a question over why it takes nearly twice as many people to produce the LA paper as it does the pink’un.
British editors have long looked enviously at the levels of staffing on newspapers in the US. It does mean that they have been able to do much more of the expensive and important investigative reporting.
In the UK, particularly on the regional and local papers, job cutting has gone too far. It is affecting the quality of the news that is printed and put online.
But in the US there is fat that can be trimmed. There is not a lot that can be slimmed in the UK but the FT and Telegraph believe they can achieve greater productivity by integrating of production processes.
In the transition from paper to paper-and-online, cost control is going to be vital for the publications that survive and prosper. High costs compared with new online-only media will only help fulfil the prophesies of those who predict the end of newspapers.