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When I talked yesterday to John Morton, the Maryland-based newspaper analyst, I asked whether the Union-Tribune had any peer model to follow in plotting its future.

He said newspapers across the country have largely taken two different approaches to cutting their staffs:

1. Struggle along with fewer people.

2. Devise an elaborate newsroom organization.

Morton said most papers have chosen option No. 1. A few have chosen the latter, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That paper broke down and overhauled its management structure, trimming its departments from more than a dozen down to four: News & Information, Enterprise, Digital and Print.

“Some newspapers that go through this try to rethink everything they’re doing,” Morton said, “and redeploy in the hope that they’ll be able to improve what they’re doing with fewer people. Whether that’s possible, nobody knows, because this is all fairly new.”

Morton said metropolitan newspapers like the Union-Tribune do have one important draw: Their brand names.

“That’s one of the reasons that newspaper websites have been successful in drawing people — they recognize the brand name,” Morton said. “Generally, the larger more dominant the print newspaper is, the more strength its brand name has. The fact is, I don’t imagine you could find 100 people in San Diego who wouldn’t know what the U-T is and what it does.”

ROB DAVIS

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