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USA Today is going to make some beat reporters very rich; publisher letter to staff

Clearly, this isn’t going to be your father’s USA Today.

USA Today publisher Larry Kramer has sent out a note to staffers in the wake of several veterans being let go last week in the sports department. The memo appeared in the Gannett Blog, an independent blog not connected with the main company, via Romenesko.

Clearly, Kramer wants USA Today sports to be a player among the major sports sites. Breaking news is the mantra. He writes:

As we recast ourselves into a multi-platform sports organization, it is clear that we must be more aggressive and proactive about how we cover breaking news. While the newspaper remains an important source of news for our sports consumers, we can no longer operate with a print-first mentality. Stories move 24-7 and we need to move at that same rapid pace. The USA TODAY Sports Media Group intends to be the conversation starter, breaking news in Sports faster and in greater depth than anyone else.

Since breaking news is such a priority, it will be interesting to see what high-profile sports beat reporters USA Today adds to its roster. I’m figuring on at least a couple of additions at premium prices.

Here’s the entire note from Kramer:

USA TODAY has earned a reputation as a trusted source for the news and information that matters most to consumers, as well as for its legacy of innovation. One of the things I am most excited about is what the USA TODAY Sports Media Group is doing to help us aggressively reinvigorate that legacy. This team is bringing a whole new approach to the way we cover sports, and today I want to address the realignment of the USA TODAY Sports Editorial group which has been completed this week.

Over the last two weeks, I have spent time with Tom Beusse and his leadership team, getting further up to speed on what they have been working on over the last several months to transform USA TODAY Sports and to, once again, become a true sports powerhouse. As we recast ourselves into a multi-platform sports organization, it is clear that we must be more aggressive and proactive about how we cover breaking news. While the newspaper remains an important source of news for our sports consumers, we can no longer operate with a print-first mentality. Stories move 24-7 and we need to move at that same rapid pace. The USA TODAY Sports Media Group intends to be the conversation starter, breaking news in Sports faster and in greater depth than anyone else.

To get there, the USA TODAY Sports Editorial team has been restructured to emphasize specialization around several different areas of expertise. Work shifts, publishing cycles and priorities are all changing to ensure we are relevant across all platforms.

A careful and exhaustive process was followed, working extensively with Human Resources. More than 90 new job descriptions within Sports were created to meet the needs of a digital organization. Dozens of new positions were made available to staff. This involved an extensive interview process. We were 100% committed to putting the right people in the right jobs. In the end, 16 of the top 21 positions were filled by internal candidates. Also through this process, we were able to uncover previously untapped or underutilized skill sets that further enabled us to create new opportunities for many people within the group.

This process was about redefining and re-imagining our considerable Sports franchise and the roles our people assume within it to create a center of excellence and build a great sports franchise. With this new structure, we are now well-positioned to operate in a 24-7 digital environment. This is a major step forward. We are proud of what we have accomplished to date — in fact, our sports content has already improved significantly over the last 5-6 weeks alone – and, we are excited for what is yet to come. A much more urgent approach to news gathering will sharpen all sports products and allow USA TODAY Sports to compete on a much larger and more meaningful scale. I firmly believe no one is better positioned to play to win in this space than we are and we have the talent necessary to do it.

Larry

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