“It’s a difficult process. I’m not getting around it,” said Dave Morgan, the editor-in-chief for USA Today’s sports group in an interview Friday morning.
A total of 15 sports staffers were trimmed this week, including Michael McCarthy, who wrote on sports media, Tom Weir, Tom Pedulla and Mike Dodd.
Morgan said the moves were made as part of a reorganization of the USA Today sports group among its many platforms, and that includes a dramatic upcoming renovation and upgrade of its website.
“This is about us resetting our priorities and redefining our roles going forward,” he said.
Among key points, Morgan stressed, “This isn’t a cost-cutting exercise. We’re probably adding 20 positions over where we started.”
He said this move isn’t a case of dumping old, expensive journalists in favor of young, cheap journalists.
And finally, reacting to Pedulla’s disappointment in an interview with me yesterday that he didn’t receive a face-to-face interview, Morgan said others were hired who also didn’t get a face-to-face interview.
Here’s my Q/A with Morgan:
What was behind what you did this week?
It’ll show itself with how we’re defining new jobs going forward. I’m basing a lot on breaking news with a specific level of expertise. You look at the NFL. We’re looking to break news in a (highly) competitive setting. We want people setting the agenda for the sport they’re covering.
How did you base your decisions?
Nobody had to reapply for their job. What we did was create 90 news job titles and classifications. If you look at every one person at the paper, their job didn’t exist anymore. Portions of it, but not the entire job. So if you were based in Seattle and covered the NBA and colleges, that’s not a job I have going forward. You’re either going to be NBA or colleges. As part of redefining our news organization, we’re reducing generalization and increasing specialization. We’re creating centers of expertise.
How do you respond to people who say this is a cost-cutting measure and that you wanted to get rid of higher-priced veteran staffers?
If you look at the make-up of our staff going forward, that’s not true. USA Today long has been a destination job. The people we interviewed all had talent. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been at the company. We trying to project people who best fit in with the broader terms of what we’re building. We’re going to add positions where we don’t have anyone right now. We’re going to do more with web, mobile, video, tablet, audio. People see this as an either-or thing. It’s all.
How do you respond to Pedulla’s point about not getting a face-to-face interview?
He wasn’t the only one who didn’t get a face-to-face interview. And I want to say there were people who didn’t get face-to-face interviews who did get hired. We did 150 interviews and every candidate got interviews with the same executive team. It was a long and thorough process and we learned from it.