Dean Singleton, Denver Post publisher, shoots down rumors of national copy-editing center

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MediaNews Group
In an interview last month about stepping down as CEO of MediaNews Group, Dean Singleton talked geographical expansion and consolidation. These words echoed after MediaNews bought the Longmont Times-Call's parent company days later -- and fears of job losses were heightened by rumors that the firm would be starting a national copy-editing center. But Singleton wants everyone to calm down.

The concerns were based on more than whispers. On Friday, Jim Romenesko's industry-news page at Poynter.org shared a press release from the Newspaper Guild with the ominous headline "MEDIANEWS APPROACHES GUILD ABOUT POTENTIAL PRODUCTION CONSOLIDATION." It reads:

WASHINGTON, DC -- MediaNews Group Executive Chairman Dean Singleton has contacted national leadership of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA) to discuss a potential national consolidation of the company's copy desks, pagination and front-end production.

We are seeking additional information from MediaNews to better understand what is being considered. At this point, we have no information to assess the timing of such a change, how many newspapers might be affected, or what such a radical shift in production would mean for current employees.

A union task force is being established consisting of leaders from all the Guild-represented work sites at MediaNews, including locations in Denver; York, Pa.; Northern and Southern California; and St. Paul, Minn. We hope to reach out to newsrooms at non-represented MediaNews operations as well. Our goal is to preserve jobs and quality journalism while engaging constructively with MediaNews.

We will keep our members and communities informed as we learn more details

Hours later, Singleton attempted to put out the fire with a memo from San Jose Mercury News editor Dave Butler that he shared with MediaNews Group editors and Romenesko. As you'll see below, the note is capped by a statement from Singleton:

Fellow MNG editors:

FYI. I spoke to Dean Singleton this afternoon about the statement put out by the Guild regarding a national copy editing center. Below is his response to their press release. I would further add that we have two projects going on that fly in the face of any "national" center. We have consultant Ken Harding working with editors in Denver, Salt Lake and St. Paul to figure out ways to make local news production more efficient at each paper, and just yesterday a group from BANG went to LANG to exchange ideas on how we might streamline our regional desks. We also have some mini-regional desks around the company and may, at some point, consider more. Like most other newspaper companies, regionalization -- where appropriate -- seems to work well. Would we rule out doing something else? Nope. But the capital costs of one center and the challenges involved seem pretty daunting to me. Please share this information as is appropriate.

-- Dave

Dean's statement:

The Newspaper Guild on Friday issued a press release referring to a casual phone conversation I had with Bernie Lunser, president of the Guild, concerning the future of the newspaper industry and how newspapers can better serve their readers in print, online and on mobile products.

Contrary to the assertions made in the release, there are no plans for "national consolidation" of MNG's editing processes.

While we constantly assess better ways to serve our readers in this changing and uncertain world, including the Guild in these considerations are not a part of those assessments.

The irresponsible Guild press release is a perfect example of why we don't.

There is no future for any of us if we continue to live in the past. Someone should tell that to the Guild.

-- Dean

Careful readers will note that although Singleton points out that there are "no plans" for copy-editing consolidation right now, he stops short of pledging never to consider such a project. As such, copy editors at MediaNews Group papers from the Denver Post to the Longmont Times-Call should breathe easier for the moment -- but they should understand that the national copy-editing-center concept could rise again.

More from our Media archives: "Q&A with Dean Singleton, MediaNews Group CEO and Denver Post owner."

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8 comments
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lynn
lynn

I was in the room in 2006 when Singleton promised the staff of the Contra Costa Times that no jobs would be eliminated as a result of MediaNews' purchase of the newspaper. Fast forward to today. Copy editing functions for all of Singleton's Bay Area newspapers are now handled under one roof. I would estimate the collective staff of his Bay Area papers has been reduced by 30 percent. And much of this happened BEFORE the economic collapse of 2008/2009.

Singleton will do whatever saves him the most money. Period, end of story.

Robert
Robert

The notion of the Denver Post taking on the task of editing news stories on a national basis is amusingly absurd -- its own editing seems the least competent of any large newspaper I've ever read.

Diane
Diane

Why the long dash? The correct punctuation would have been a semicolon, or, better yet, a period. "Ever" only contributes wordiness and redundancy, as do "The notion of," "the task of," "its own" and "amusingly absurd," since absurdity, by definition, is amusing. Ditto with "its own."

That's a lot of damage for one sentence, Robert, but I guess you're an expert on copy-editing, so you tell me.

Robert
Robert

You're right about the dash and "ever", but "its own" seems to me a permissible redundancy by way of emphasis. An absurd notion is not necessarily amusing; that connotation is way down the list. The online OED defines "absurd" as "(of an idea or suggestion) wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate" -- precisely the qualities I would attribute to the idea of the Post establishing a national copy-editing center, but amusing too. Your attempted exactitude is completely alien to whatever review copy at the Denver Post is subjected, and the proof is on display daily. I make no claim to perfection, and any cogency my writing does achieve must serve as its own reward.

Diane
Diane

Ok, how about this: I pointed out five mistakes, or at least things a careful copy editor would flag, not counting "amusingly absurd," even though you're making the same point twice and could have just said amusing or absurd.

I read the Denver Post every morning and I, too, sometimes see one or two things I would have done differently, but nobody's perfect. My challenge to you is this, Robert. Pick up today, or tomorrow's paper, and share with us a minimum of five copy-editing mistakes.

You speak so confidently of your point, that I'm sure it will be no problem.

Guest
Guest

There's copy-editing, then there's killing any creativity in the writing by nitpicking a sentence to death. Apparently you fall in the latter camp.

Robert
Robert

No, no -- Diane may pick my nits. I recognize and respect the rhetorical mode of goading the pompous, though I reject the insinuation.

Fred
Fred

So now Dean Singleton can censor his reporters on a national basis? Just when you think the newspaper business can't go further into the hole, count on Dean Singleton to lead the digging crew.

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