Friday, March 06, 2009

N&O’s Williams To Head Merged Features Dept

There was internal news yesterday for staffers at NC’s two largest circulation newspapers – The Raleigh News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer – both owned by the financially troubled McClatchy Co.

N&O senior editor Linda Williams who in March 2006 was lead editor of a deliberately fraudulent Mar. 25 front page story the N&O said was about a Duke lacrosse party that ended in “sexual violence,” will now head a N&O and CO newly merged features department.

What follows is the full text of the papers’ announcement memo followed by my comments below the star line.

TO: Observer and N&O staffs

FROM: Rick Thames [CO editor] and John Drescher [N&O executive editor for news]

RE: Features merger

We are pleased to announce that the features departments in Charlotte and Raleigh will merge and work together as one department. The editors in each department will plan together, communicate daily and assist each other in editing. Each staff could take the lead in planning and executing certain coverage areas or certain days of the week (or certain sections). We will explore the possibility of sharing copy editing and designing. When it comes to reporting, we will seek to expand our reach by avoiding duplication. We want to preserve as much local content as possible. But some stories, if reported in a certain way, could be effective in each paper. Each paper will have full access to the reporters on each staff. In an era of retrenchment, this effectively enables each department to expand its number of regular contributors.

There are many issues to be worked out. We will build on the lessons and successes from the merger of our sports departments in July. That merger has benefited each paper by avoiding duplication and enabling readers in each community to read the best work from the other paper. That merger has made our sports pages better. The features merger will do the same.

The merged features department will be led by The N&O’s Linda Williams. She will work daily with The Observer’s Michael Weinstein and The N&O’s Debra Boyette to build upon the strengths of each paper. Linda is The N&O’s senior editor/news; she oversees news, sports, business and features. Linda, who was reared in Fayetteville and is a UNC graduate, joined The N&O in 1974 as a reporter. She also has reported for The Oregonian, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. She returned to The N&O in 1997 as capitol/state editor and later served as metro editor. She will spend several days a week in The Observer newsroom. She will visit The Observer Monday.


My Comments:

Yes, I agree, it is a very wordy announcement.

Is this a new assignment for Williams which will mean she gives up some of her news and other editorial responsibilities at the N&O?

I’ve talked to people I trust at the N&O. They say they don’t know. They’re expecting to hear more in the next few days.

Two N&O staffers this morning said their understanding is the decisions to merge the features sections and assign Williams to head it were made at McClatchy’s Sacramento corporate headquarters.

In separate interviews each said it was possible Thames and Drescher themselves don’t know yet just what will be the full span of Williams editorial responsibility.

"We never know from one minute to the next what's going to happen here," one added.

There’s the news I have. I’ll update you when I have more.

Now a few “guesses:”

McClatchy is cutting it’s work force every week in an attempt to free up enough money to service it $2 billion in debt and avoid bankruptcy.

So it’s a very safe guess this merger is a step toward eliminating positions in the features section of one or both papers.

I doubt Williams’ appointment means she’ll lose editorial oversight in any of the areas she’s now responsible for at the N&O; heading features will be an add on.

Time is short today so I’m going to wrap up and say more in a few days.

I’ll close with this – I’m sorry for the fair, able journalists at the CO who'll now be working under Williams. They deserve better as do their fair, able colleagues at the N&O.


Anonymous said...


"I’m sorry for the fair, able journalists at the CO who'll now be working under Williams."

I suspect their pain will be short-lived. We are already in the end game for MNI.


JWM said...


When there's a bankruptcy (assuming President Obama doesn't add McClatchy to his gift/bailout list we'll pay for), what do you think the creditors will demand of McClatchy?