First, and it’s harsh but true – I’d cut loose the staff who don’t provide value for money. That includes the ones who find any reason to not take on responsibility, as well as the ones who work the bare minimum hours and never want to work the weekends or the weird shift every now and then. I’d put people in the places best suited to their skills. Not where the previous owner promised them a cushy spot so they can cruise to retirement. If a journalist isn’t interested in working online, then they’re not interested in the future of journalism and they’re not interested in being in the business beyond the next five years.
I wouldn’t waste time, money or resources on things like a glossy saturday magazine or an entertainment magazine. There is nothing in those that isn’t done better, bigger and with more chance of drawing advertisers in a million other publications. If the stories are local, run ‘em in the main part of the paper or online. It’ll work if done right. There are more useful places for those writers, layout artists and subs.
There are three things we can do better than any other publication in the country. First, local news — particularly courts, crime, council, politics — hyper local issues that no other paper either gives a rat’s ass about or has the resources to cover. Second, local sport. I can’t tell you how unbelievably neglected this area is. NOBODY is covering local sport — nobody else wants to or cares that there’s a market for it. Only we can do it. It will work for the paper and for the online product when we go behind the paywall. Will they pay for local sport news they can’t get anywhere else? Hell yes, they will. Third, online local news, weather and sport. Nobody else in the country cares enough about our local issues to provide the resources to to do online well. We have the lock on the market, IF WE DO IT RIGHT.
Double the sports staff. Double the online staff. Increase the general news staff by a third. Spend real money on an iPad/iPhone app developer to give the paper a mobile devices presence with real power and class. Do not do this half-arsed.
Spend real money on getting smartphones and tablets to the editorial staff. Spend real money and get the newsroom a wifi network.
Get advertising sales reps who understand online advertising revenue models, such as they are.
Double the number of police reporters. Double the number of video journalists and give them the right equipment to do the job in a timely manner.
Show real commitment to servicing the community in a way that no other media organization can do. Real. Commitment.
At least, that’s what I’d do if I owned a local newspaper in the digital age.