We’ll take ‘design hubs’ for $400

Let’s play J-Parody: Society for News Design edition! This is the journalism game where I give the answer and a few hints, and you guess the question.

Today’s category: Design hubs

The answer is:


Lee Enterprises: 395.
GateHouse Media: 247.
Gannett Company: 209.
The McClatchy Company: 147.
Civitas Media: 87.
Advance Local: 29.
Digital First Media: 20.

What is the number of newspapers and newspaper products designed in centralized design hubs operated by these seven news organizations?

Let’s play again, same category.

The answer is:


Gannett Company: 6.
Digital First Media: 4.
Civitas Media: 4.
The McClatchy Company: 3.
Lee Enterprises: 3.
Advance Local: 3.
GateHouse Media: 2.

How many news and advertising design hubs do these seven companies own and operate?

We’ll take a break here and return to the game in a few moments.

Why would newspaper editors in more than 34 states turn over the design of their daily, weekly and monthly print products to strangers in another city or state, who may have never visited their town or know anyone in it?

Here’s the answer, paraphrased from an editor whose paper is designed in one of these hubs but is not owned by the hub’s parent: “In these fiscally challenged times, if I have to make a choice between content production and content creation, I choose content creation.”

Consolidation of production in the newspaper business is not a new concept.

More than 15 years ago Thomson Newspapers was an early proponent of buying groups of small papers in contiguous or nearby counties — creating a cluster — and combining all the printing in a single printing facility within that cluster. Thomson’s papers in Ohio were an early example of that. Printing consolidation continues today. The Washington Missourian south of St. Louis publishes more than a dozen other print products. And Phillips Media Group publishes dozens of print products in its Springfield, Missouri, plant. The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman (owned by Cox) is printed by the Dallas Morning News. The Oklahoman is printed at the Tulsa (Okla.) World, both owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Let’s return to our game, staying with the same category.


How many people do these hubs employ?

It’s time for another break.

Numbers aren’t available, but it’s likely these 1,134 newspapers had corresponding reductions in staff, including those assigned to content production. Does that mean they are all unemployed? No. Some may be unemployed or retired, others have moved on to other industries, and many now work for the design hubs.

Michael Donnelly, who heads up the Lee design hubs, offered this anecdote during a design hub panel discussion at the recent annual SND workshop: Lee’s small design hub in Lincoln, Nebraska, was closing, moving the design work to Madison, Wisconsin, and Munster, Indiana. Managers from another company’s design hub learned of the upcoming closure and sent a team to Lincoln that set up a recruiting effort in a hotel across the street. Lee employees facing separation would cross the street on their lunch break and bring back doughnuts to the office, courtesy of the visiting design hub team.

Five of the design hubs mentioned above were represented on that SND panel. Three of the five panelists have worked for, or are now heading up, the Gannett design hub operation. Most of these design hubs are still growing and hiring. GateHouse owns and operates more than 400 print products and is taking on outside clients (Dallas Morning News, Berkshire Hathaway’s The Oklahoman), so its Austin, Texas, design hub continues to grow. Digital First recently added its St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and will soon add its Denver Post to its design hubs. Gannett will add the North Jersey Media Group.

Our final answer in this category:

Digital First: 10

Gannett: 6

GateHouse, McClatchy, Lee, Civitas: 5 each

Advance: 1

How many years have these companies operated design hubs?

That’s all for today. To play real Jeopardy, ask Alexa.


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