"We could easily fail just as badly, but at least we're going out trying something, in my opinion trying something rather bold and different. There's a lot of people watching and I think there's a whole lot of people waiting to see what happens even in a month or in the course of six months."
Dorsey in conversation with the MGP, spring 2009
Written for the MGP by Liz Gelardi at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, 2009
The Detroit Free Press is rethinking what it means to be a daily metropolitan newspaper.
On March 30, Freep (as it's commonly known) stopped home delivery of their paper product except for Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Instead of their front steps, readers can now pick up a copy at news stands, or their favorite Internet browser. After years of treating the Internet as an afterthought, emerging multimedia technologies have been placed on the front burner at Freep, and every aspect of production, including the daily news cycle and how stories are packaged, has been affected.
"We've changed the philosophy of how we will change," said Steve Dorsey, Freep's deputy managing editor for presentation and innovation.
The list of changes is long, but it has a common theme: an Internet-centered newspaper that seeks to use multiple mediums to tell stories. Reporters file stories as soon as they break and update them throughout the day not only with words but with audio and visual information as well. Readers are now viewers, listeners and commentators---there's video from an Emmy-award winning staff, streaming video from press conferences and readers can post comments on stories and follow Freep on twitter.
Although some readers may miss the dead-tree version, Freep has made sure to meet readers' desires during the change. For instance, after examining reader feedback, Freep decided to offer an electronic-edition of the print newspaper on its Web site.
"One of the things we heard from people, especially older readers, was that they liked the idea that they knew when they were done," Dorsey said. The electronic-edition is much like a PDF of the print edition. The newspaper is also working to make sure that less-than-tech-savvy readers have the know-how to make the transition. Freep set up a program with community colleges in the Metro Detroit area to offer open and free classes to teach basic computer skills, such as surfing the Internet.
The announcement of scaled back delivery was made in December. A lot has happened in the industry since then: the Rocky Mountain News closed in February and during the same month the San Francisco Chronicle announced how serious its financial trouble was. Just one week before Freep made its changes, the Ann Arbor News announced changes, too.
However, amidst the headlines of dying newspapers, Freep is determined to redefine, not shut down, their newspaper. "We could easily fail just as badly, but at least we're going out trying something, in my opinion trying something rather bold and different. There's a lot of people watching and I think there's a whole lot of people waiting to see what happens even in a month or in the course of six months," Dorsey said.
STEVE DORSEY BIO:
Before Detroit, Steve worked at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader (named one of SND's World's Best Designed in 1998), the York (Pa.) Daily Record, The Syracuse (NY) Newspapers and the Norwich (NY) Evening Sun. He graduated from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School and the Poynter visual apprenticeship program. Steve is a news and culture junkie. When he's not working, he enjoys playing golf, poker and Xbox – although any success at any of the three is purely accidental.