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March 11, 2011 / Gina D.

Breaking news in the age of consolidation

While rounding up a post for the SND Region 2 Facebook page, I kept thinking about how the ins and outs of consolidated news desks might have detracted from getting big stories into the paper.

The first paper I ever worked for had a midnight deadline. The second paper I worked at had a similar deadline. It was also similar at The Sun when I started there (back in 2003).

But since then, I’ve seen deadlines creep earlier and earlier with each step of consolidation. First, when we paired with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and then when that combined desk was pulled to West Covina to become part of the larger Los Angeles News Group’s universal desk.

From midnight… to 9:30 p.m.

Flipping through today’s pages on Newseum, which displays the day’s front pages from around the world, it struck me that none of our LANG papers had a mention of Japan’s 8.9-magnitude quake on their front pages — but a lot of their competing papers did: The OC Register, the Ventura County Star, the (Riverside) Press-Enterprise

Granted, two of those competing papers are — or are about to become — part of a larger consolidated production effort. The Ventura paper, for example, is actually put together in Corpus Christi, Texas, if I’ve got my facts straight. They have the quake front and center with a large two-deck main headline and large photo of the devastation.

The (Palm Springs) Desert Sun, a Gannett paper, will soon join the ranks of off-site production. Though a smaller presence, the quake did make it onto the front of today’s edition. Would they have still been able to manage that if their design desk was already in Arizona?

I should also note that we are able to get later press starts when we see these things coming, like for Election Day and such. And it’s also worth noting that the consolidated copy desks might not play as large a role in this as, say, the influx of extra printing jobs our papers are taking on to maximize the money their presses are making.

I’m not making a judgment; merely an observation. An observation of events that may or may not be coincidental… but are definitely worth pondering. I’m sure some of our more savvy subscribers are.

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