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November 21, 2013updated 25 Nov 2013 11:32pm

Newspapers put together by one person ‘skimming online content’ – Montgomery’s leaked Local World vision document

By Dominic Ponsford

Chief executive of the Local World group David Montgomery today sent staff a 2,000-plus word explanation of how he sees the future role of the journalist in his group.
Sub-editors and editors are largely a thing of the past under Montgomery’s plan which will see police, hospitals, schools and businesses publish their content directly to the Local World websites.

Montgomery believes that new technology will allow weekly newspapers to be put together by one person in a “small number of sessions” by “skimming online content” and dailies will be created by a “handful” of office-based staff.

Montgomery today described the current role of the journalist as being “entrenched in the industrial age as a medium grade craft”.

He said that the Local World model will “migrate journalists a million miles away from this tradition…propelled by the technology that drives every other transactional business”.

He said that each journalist will  “singly be responsible” for sourcing, collecting and publishing content across all platforms in their "segment".

Most content will be provided by “third party contributors” and the journalist, Montgomery said, “will have the task of providing attractive formats for this third party content in the first instance online and for constantly monitoring the content to instigate its promotion to a position of prominence”.

“Shifts” will become a thing of the past, Montgomery said. All journalists will become content managers working remotely “within the brief of the local publisher”.

Journalists will, Montgomery said, “embody all the traditional skills of reporter, sub-editor, editor-in-chief, as well as online agility and basic design ability”. Montgomery said that “on screen capability…is now generally present in most 12-year-olds”.

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David Montgomery (Reuters)

Talking about the “content harvesting process”, Montgomery said that journalists will invite police forces to publish all their press releases and other information directly on to the Local World websites so that “the publisher acts as the main conduit for police information of every type – not for the odd photofit in a dramatic crime but for all humdrum information like crime prevention that the police seek to promote”.

Montgomery said this arrangement “does not make the police or any other institution immune from scrutiny or criticism but the depth and breadth of the relationship with the local publisher will be insulation from the inevitable stresses and strains between the media and the public services”.

According to Montgomery the same model will be applied to hospitals, schools, businesses, sport, education and culture.

Editors will largely be replaced by “content managers” who may or may not come from a journalistic background, Montgomery said.

The role of “editor” will be retained to describe an “editor in chief” in charge of content across all platforms, but Montgomery said these individuals should really be seen as a “director of content”.

Montgomery said these content directors will be concerned with “high level decision making – the content strategy, the distinction of the different platform products, the quality and breadth of the content and setting the general tone and style in tune with the community served”.

Montgomery believes new content management systems will enable each content director, or content manager, to assemble “highly templated” newspapers single-handed.

So on a small weekly newspaper, a single content manager will “skim largely online published content to create the newspaper in a single session or small number of sessions”.

Local World's daily newspapers (which include titles such as the Hull Daily Mail) will be put together by “a handful of content managers who will be office bound and will orchestrate all products across the platforms”.

When it comes to training new journalists, Montgomery said that no attempt should be made to “standardise reporting” but instead there should be a “tolerance of individual styles and an emphasis on comprehension in line with the culture where people are communicating successfully with each other on their personal devices minute by minute”.

Local World was created at the end of last year by the merger of the Northcliffe and Iliffe regional newspaper groups. It has 16 daily newspapers, 38 paid-for weekly titles and 40 free titles.

You could read David Montgomery's letter to staff in full here.

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