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Economy necessitates changes at Empire

Modifications will be gradually introduced in the next few weeks

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Starting with today's newspaper, Juneau Empire readers will begin to see a series of changes that will be gradually introduced to print editions in the next few weeks.

These changes are necessary as the Juneau Empire grapples with an economic climate that affects the entire newspaper industry and is causing some of the nation's most storied publications to struggle for their very survival.

To weather this economic downturn the Empire must reduce both the size of its papers and its work force. In the last year, we've experienced a reduction in our newsroom staff, with some jobs being eliminated through attrition and others through layoffs.

These realities have forced us to rethink, quite literally, everything we do and how we do it. In the process we've renewed our commitment to serving Juneau with more and better local content.

To do this we'll be reducing the number of pages and size of the news holes in our papers and using national wire news as sparingly as possible. We'll be introducing a new section while reducing or dropping others.

For example, we'll no longer publish the Thursday Hooligan as a stand-alone section in favor of a new in-paper arts and culture section to appear on Fridays. Hooligan will, however, continue on as ClubHooligan.com, providing our online readers the same irreverent coverage they've come to expect from that section. Meanwhile, the new section will have a different look and feel, with more of a focus on Juneau's arts and cultural community.

We also will be moving our Friday Neighbors section to Sundays to accommodate the new Friday section. We think Neighbors will make an excellent addition to our largest paper of the week.

To make room for Neighbors, we will drop our Sunday Outdoors section. We will continue to cover the outdoors, but it will be folded into our regular coverage.

Our Wednesday Neighbors section will also go away, but much of its content will be incorporated into our Friday arts and culture section or the Sunday Neighbors section.

Perhaps our most dramatic decision is for us to reduce the number of days we have a sports section from six days to three, and those will now be Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. This will allow us to focus our limited resources on producing a quality hyper-local section that eschews national coverage for community sports.

In an age where collegiate and professional sports fans can turn to the Internet, cable television and the radio to get their global sports news, it makes sense that the Empire would differentiate itself by focusing on local sports - not just high school sports, but middle school sports as well as coverage of youth and adult recreational leagues and other sports that rarely get any ink at all.

And we'd like to remind readers that we'll be updating our sports section daily on our Web site even on days when we won't have a print sports edition.

The recrafting of our paper will be done gradually. Today's paper no longer has a Wednesday Neighbors section. Hooligan will continue for another two editions, with the last print issue coming out Dec. 18. We will continue to publish Friday Neighbors until Dec. 26, when we will debut our new arts and culture section. This Sunday will see the debut of the Sunday Neighbors section and the discontinuation of Outdoors. Starting Monday, we'll be dropping sports from Monday, Tuesday and Thursday editions.

The Juneau Empire values its relationship with its readers and we welcome your feedback. Call 523-2265, e-mail editor@juneauempire.com or comment on this story at www.juneauempire.com.

• Michael Plett is the managing editor of the Juneau Empire.



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