The shrinking Saturday Tribune

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A new memo from editor Gerould Kern to the Tribune staff:

Dear fellow owners:

We told you last week about The Guide (TV listings) moving from Sundays to Saturdays. Today I want to let you know about more changes in store for the Saturday paper. One of our 10 key initiatives for 2009 is to increase day-to-day profitability. Toward that goal, we are creating a new approach to the Saturday news experience for readers. Beginning April 4, the Saturday edition will be reconfigured with a new, tighter section lineup that right-sizes the edition to match consumer and advertiser needs.

Here’s what it will look like:

Ø      Section 1. News from Chicagoland, the nation, world and business. These content areas will not be in separate chapters, but instead will compete for space in the front pages based on news value and relevance to readers.  The Talk, including the celebrity column FaceTime, will appear on Page 3.  Live!, books, editorials and op-ed will follow the news.

Ø      Section 2. Sports will start on the cover, followed by obituaries, paid death notices, comics and puzzles. Weather will be on the back page.

Ø      Section 3. The Guide will fall here.

Ø      Section 4. Auto classifieds.

These changes will make the Saturday Chicago Tribune a quicker news update between the Friday edition and the Sunday bulldog that appears on the newsstands on Saturday. This fits what readers tell us about their Saturday habits and helps us respond to the current economic climate.

Gerry Kern

So an already small paper gets smaller and Books, not long ago a stand-alone section on Sunday, gets even less significant. And imagine, having local, national, and world news compete for space on the basis of news value -- it sounds like an old-fashioned newspaper!

Times are tough,  but must the language of bad news be Orwellian? Shrinking is right-sizing. It's matching consumer and advertiser needs. And of course the staffers still clinging to jobs at the Tribune are Kern's dear fellow owners.

That goal of increasing day-to-day profitability sounds ominous, as though nothing's off the table -- and I'm sure nothing is. One possible way to increase the profitability of, say, the Monday paper is to stop publishing it. That's the new Detroit model.

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