Thursday, October 27, 2011

AJC to outsource copy editing, design to sister papers

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 6:23 PM

This afternoon, AJC publisher Michael Joseph announced to his staff another in a long series of restructurings, but this times the jobs are not necessarily going away, they're moving to other cities.

Joseph didn't release details, saying the company had yet to figure out exactly which jobs are going where, but he laid out a broad plan to consolidate copy editing, design and other functions between Cox's four remaining dailies, the AJC, the Austin American-Statesman, the Dayton Daily News and the Palm Beach Post. It's estimated that about 30 positions in Atlanta — um, I mean Dunwoody — will be affected, either moved to other cities or eliminated. None of the changes appear to affect reporters or other editors.

Consolidation, aka "internal outsourcing," has become a fairly common cost-cutting measure among media companies with several papers, allowing functions to be centralized under one roof. In this case, the Cox Media Group has decided to centralize copy editing and page design in Dayton and West Palm Beach — meaning if you're a copy editor or designer at the AJC or the Statesman, you'll likely have to find another job unless you're willing to move.

In the case of staff illustrators, Joseph's email suggests that only those now working in Austin and West Palm Beach will be retained, but the wording's a little unclear. There are other changes listed that affect marketing and ad production, but the only thing likely to impact readers is that customer service — the people you call when your paper hasn't been delivered — will be based in Atlanta.

Apart from the loss of more local jobs, what's the bottom line here? Well, in this age of outsourcing, consolidation can make a fair amount of fiscal sense where some functions are concerned. CL's previous owner, for instance, thought it was a good idea to centralize page design in Atlanta. I'm sure the move saved a few shekels, but it made the editors in other cities justifiably resentful that they weren't able to sit down face-to-face with their designers. When our company changed hands, that structure was one of the first things to be scrapped.

Consolidating copy editing is likewise a money-saver, but the downside is that someone living in Texas or Florida is less likely to catch, say, the misspelling of an Atlanta street name or an error having to do with a local high school. Obviously, it's a calculated trade-off designed, in Joseph's words, "to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible" so the AJC can "stay competitive." The days when Cox would sit by and allow its flagship newspaper to bleed a million dollars a week are long since over.

From now on, Joseph says, the next 18 months of changes at the AJC will be determined by the New World Order — er, I mean the New Operating Model, or NOM, as he repeatedly calls it. Interestingly, he tells staffers in a list of helpful FAQs not to talk about Fight Club — er, I mean NOM:

What should I do if I am contacted by the media?
If you are contacted by member of the media about the NOM announcement, please let them know that you are not authorized to speak on behalf of the company and ask them to contact Morieka Johnson, AJC Communications Manager at 404-526-5253.

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