Detroit papers work to explain operation changes

DETROIT: The Detroit Media Partnership, which operates the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, is conducting an explanatory effort for its decision to expand online content but cease home newspaper delivery of the two titles four days a week.

DETROIT: The Detroit Media Partnership, which operates the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, is conducting an explanatory effort for its decision to expand online content but cease home newspaper delivery of the two titles four days a week.

The group, which plans to cut home delivery on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, hired Detroit-based Bassett & Bassett for the effort, and has “been working with them for several months during the planning process of the transformation,” according to Rich Harshbarger, VP of consumer marketing at the partnership.

“We are recognizing the tremendous importance of digital communications with a focus on maintaining and strengthening two strong independent newspaper voices for Detroit and for Michigan, when others are incrementally cutting back,” added Leland Bassett, chairman and CEO of Bassett & Bassett. “What is being cut is the cost of printing, and driving 300,000 miles a day [for delivery].”

The organization launched a Web site explaining the business decision on December 16. It contains a letter, frequently asked questions section, and a page for advertisers, which includes quotes from some of them that commend the paper on its decision. The site also features video content, including the press conference explaining the changes, which are scheduled to take place in March 2009.

The Web sites of the two newspapers – www.detnews.com and www.freep.com - also printed letters from publishers alongside their coverage of the announcement.

The effort also contains an internal aspect, as the organization's business staff is conducting a series of meetings with employees, emphasizing that the changes should allow the media outlets to avoid newsroom layoffs, Bassett said.

Bassett added that the group's management met on December 16 with unions and representatives of delivery drivers affected by the changes. He declined to comment on the specifics of the agency's relationship with the partnership.

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