Dold revamps Tribune newsroom to be ‘more nimble, more entrepreneurial’

Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune unveiled plans today for a sweeping reorganization of its newsroom, aimed at becoming what publisher and editor-in-chief Bruce Dold called “more nimble, more entrepreneurial, more responsive to our readers’ current interests and permanent passions.”

Dold outlined the changes, including the addition of a second managing editor and expansion of the newspaper’s “audience insight team,” in an email to the staff.

Bruce Dold

“We have to change the way we work and challenge our assumptions about how we create stories and relate to our readers,” Dold wrote. “We must put the audience at the center of what we do. A strategic goal for this newsroom is to produce digital journalism so meaningful, habit-forming and essential that people are willing to buy digital subscriptions.”

Christine Taylor, vice president of digital publishing for the Hartford Courant, will join the Tribune in the new role of managing editor, audience. (Both papers are owned by tronc.) Peter Kendall, who has been managing editor since 2015, will continue as managing editor, content.

As part of the companywide reorganization, Kurt Gessler, deputy editor for digital news at the Tribune, will be promoted to director of editorial operations for tronc. He will report to Colin McMahon, who recently was named senior vice president of editorial operations.

Here is an excerpt from Dold’s email to staff:

Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the senior leaders who will guide the Chicago Tribune, and to provide more detailed information on the next steps in our newsroom reorganization.

Christine Taylor, vice president of digital publishing for the Hartford Courant, will join the Tribune as managing editor, audience.

Peter Kendall will serve as managing editor, content.

I’m also pleased to announce that as part of our company-wide reorganization, Kurt Gessler will be promoted to director of editorial operations and join the tronc central team. Kurt will work with all markets, including the Tribune, on audience engagement and development. He will report to Colin McMahon.

Chrissy and Peter will be full partners in the leadership of the newsroom, reporting to me. Both will drive all aspects of creating our journalism, from how we conceive of stories to how we execute them and present them to our audience. Through local and companywide initiatives, they will lead our efforts to expand our content and products and attract a wider audience.

The directors of local/breaking news, sports, life and culture, public interest investigative reporting and city at work will report to Peter.

A new audience insight team, a trending desk, the director of visual content and the new position of marketplace editor will report to Chrissy.

Some of you have worked with Chrissy. She is a digital innovator and dynamic leader who can help us think in new ways about our journalism and our reach. She has served as the head of digital publishing for the Courant since March 2013, leading audience engagement strategy, managing new product and platform development and creating innovative approaches to revenue generation.  She has worked at the Courant since 2004, holding several roles including home page editor, online community manager and lead web producer for Metromix Connecticut.

She’s returning to her Midwest roots: Chrissy grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She has an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Colorado.

Please welcome Chrissy when she visits the newsroom on Tuesday. She will formally join us on March 19.

Peter Kendall has, of course, worked with nearly all of you.

Peter has headed the Tribune’s newsgathering departments as managing editor since 2015. He has helped to lead our transition to a digital newsroom and a cultural shift to make us all more focused on the reader. He believes in great stories and is driven to find new ways to tell them and to make our journalism even more relevant to our readers.

More, now, on how we will be changing.

The Tribune has an unequaled role as a provider of quality journalism and as a leader in the community. Every day, we publish thousands of words and images that live up to our mission:

  • We inform, entertain and provoke thought
  • We break news
  • We stand up for the community and speak for those who can’t
  • We help shape the public dialogue
  • We help people navigate their daily lives
  • We capture the diversity and richness of life in Chicagoland, with all its opportunities and challenges

We won’t fulfill this mission if we don’t become more digitally relevant and establish ourselves as an essential part of people’s lives. We have to change the way we work and challenge our assumptions about how we create stories and relate to our readers.

We must put the audience at the center of what we do.  A strategic goal for this newsroom is to produce digital journalism so meaningful, habit-forming and essential that people are willing to buy digital subscriptions.

As you know, a separate print team will be tasked with putting out an excellent newspaper built around the content this newsroom produces.

This newsroom has risen to extraordinary challenges before, and we have gone through remarkable change in the last decade alone. All the while, we have created superior journalism that has had an impact on our readers and this city. Now we are called by a digital imperative to work together to make another transformation.

We must be more nimble, more entrepreneurial, more responsive to our readers’ current interests and permanent passions.

We must put into the hands of every person in the newsroom strategic information about our audience, so we think beyond the mass audience page views and focus on what wins and retains digital subscribers.

In this plan, there are far fewer titles and classifications, and the new job descriptions spell out skills needed to succeed in a digital newsroom.

You will see new departments with new names, but you will recognize the core values that we know our readers and our community expect to be reflected in the Chicago Tribune.

We are committed to growing our digital audience by better serving the diverse communities across the region. To do that, we will improve newsroom diversity to develop more relevant and meaningful journalism. We will invite staff to help us define better ways to recruit, retain and develop our journalists. And we will improve our outreach to various communities.

To grow, our new newsroom must have a culture that puts the audience first. All other newsroom changes flow from putting the audience first:

An Audience Insight Team will have an expanded role in the newsroom.  The team will be responsible for developing tools that put information about the audience and engagement into our conversations and decision-making.

We will more strategically deploy analytics, helping us understand what makes readers spend time with our journalism, share our stories in social media, and return to our site again. We have some of this data now and have begun to make decisions that take it into account.

We all have a part in growing our audience. We will give reporters and front-line editors expectations, goals and frequent feedback.

This memo is just one part of the ongoing conversation, and we look forward to continuing it. Here are some of the ways we will meet with staff in the coming weeks:

  • Group gatherings with Bruce, Peter and Chrissy
  • Department level meetings
  • Office hours held by Bruce, Chrissy, Peter, and the content directors
  • Staff Meeting in Campbell Hall to discuss the future of our digital presentation

Over the next week, consider how you would like to contribute and where your skills fit best. You should discuss this with your supervisor and let your department head know, too. We want this to be an open process. We want people to consider new opportunities as well, so we encourage you to reach out to other departments if you wish.

This challenge is as great as any generation of Tribune journalists has faced, and we know you are equal to the task.

Thank you for the great work you do.

Bruce