The News & Observer will continue printing communitypapers such as The Chapel Hill News, but for the most part will stop inserting them into daily or Sunday editions of the main paper, N&O editor John Drescher said Wednesday. And as the N&O concentrates more on its digital offerings, additional changes may be coming the main newsroom as well as to the community papers, Drescher said.
The Chapel Hill News staff has moved to the newsroom of the Durham-Herald Sun, a publication that the N&O’s parent McClatchy Corp. purchased in December. Journalists Mark Schultz, Tammy Grubb and Virginia Bridges, who had put out the Chapel Hill News from an office in Chapel Hill, are working out of the Herald-Sun newsroom, Drescher said. “We’re still publishing the Chapel Hill News,” Drescher saidin a phone interview. “I’m sitting here looking a copy of the Sunday edition.”
Even so, the publication isn’t the same as it once was. The Chapel Hill News and the N&O’s nine other community papers will now be distributed free to homes as part of an industry practice known as total market coverage, or TMC. These publications typically contain editorial copy, but are also used to contain advertising inserts. (Most of the copy that appears in the community papers will be stories that originated in the N&O’s Raleigh newsroom.)
And in the main newsroom, significant changes are around the corner, the editor said.
“We are in the process of doing an overall review of all beats in the newsroom, so there could be some changes in the next few months,” Drescher said, adding that the newspaper will be announcing changes when they occur.
The newsroom’s emphasis has been rapidly shifting from the print paper to online journalism. Community reporters such as Henry Gargan in Cary, Aaron Moody in eastern Wake, and Drew Jackson in Johnston County have moved into the South McDowell Street newsroom, but will continue to contribute stories from their assignment areas, Drescher said.
In an interview with Raleigh & Co.’s R.L. Bynum last month, Drescher alluded to some of the other changes on the horizon.
“Nearly all of the content in our 10 community papers already has been published in the print News & Observer, the print Herald-Sun or at our websites,” John Drescher, the executive editor of The N&O, said via email. “For that reason, we are not inserting our community papers into all home-delivered copies of The News & Observer or The Herald-Sun.”
The N&O discontinued sports pages in the community newspapers in November, eliminated the sports editor positions and laid off two sports editors and a reporter.
“As more and more readers get their news from newsobserver.com and heraldsun.com, we will continue to review our print community papers and how we can best serve local readers,” Drescher said.