The New York Times said yesterday it would combine the news staffs of its print and digital arms, a significant step in an industry struggling with big changes in the way people get their news.
The news operation that puts together the Times Web site, about 40 people, will be combined with the far larger print newsroom in an effort to better meld the cultures and operations of the newspaper and its digital cousin, the Times said in a memorandum to staff members.
The move erases a dividing line the Times created a decade ago, when it first embraced the Internet. It is not the first news organization to take the step, but it is the most prominent. Other newspapers, such as the Tampa Tribune, have gone even further, adding television to a portfolio of news operations managed from a single building.
Publishers are struggling to adapt to an era when traditional print newspapers are suffering large declines in paid circulation, while millions of consumers are embracing free Internet sites as their major or only source of news. The Times hasn't suffered heavy circulation losses, but its print readership is static and aging, while readership on the paper's Web site has grown rapidly.
John Morton, a Silver Spring consultant who has analyzed news-industry economics for decades, said the trend toward integration was an obvious, if not tardy, step for an industry that needs to find a workable business strategy.
"It's inevitable, I think, that over time, more and more people are going to gravitate to the Web," Morton said. "For a decade, our school systems have been training the youth to go to a keyboard to get information. That's only going to grow."
The Washington Post Co., like the Times, set up a separate newsroom a decade ago to manage its Web site. Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., publisher of The Post, said yesterday the company has no plans to combine the operations, but he added that extensive cooperation between print and electronic staffers was already the norm. "The constant collaboration between the two organizations here is working well for us in producing a dynamic news Web site," he said.
The Wall Street Journal also has a separate Web newsroom, the managing editor of which reports to the newspaper's senior editors on journalistic issues. Unlike the Post and Times, which offer free Web access to most of the journalism that they sell in print form, the Journal has exploited its special focus on business news to build a paid subscription base for its Web edition.
Leonard Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, the paper's Web division, said yesterday's move would not mean physically combining the two staffs immediately, since space is tight in the main Times newsroom. But some people will be moved now, and when a new building is ready in two years, the others will follow, he said.
The integration does mean that a single set of editors will be responsible for both digital and print versions of articles, which should improve planning and lead to creative new ways of presenting information, he said.
Barry Lipton, president of the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents employees in both Times newsrooms, said negotiations would be required on some issues, particularly pay differences between the two operations. But he added that the union had no opposition in principle. "It's a logical thing to do and makes good business sense," he said.