Tomorrow’s Burlington Free Press might be a bit thinner than usual

Today’s a Big Day for Gannett’s Newsroom of the Future initiative. See, Gannett has signed a big-ass contract with the Poynter Institute to provide virtual re-education camps for its rapidly dwindling cadre of newsies.

Shiny happy journalists.

Shiny happy journalists.

The Gannett-Poynter Training Partnership has its official kickoff today at 1:00 with an Employee Town Hall Webcast featuring Gannett President/CEO Gracia Martore “highlighting recent company news and a discussion about what’s ahead.” Expect a load of happy talk about how recent transitions (read: layoffs) have repositioned the corporation for a bright future.

Attendance, I suspect, is mandatory. I hope there’s no big news this afternoon.

After the launch party, staffers will undergo “four to seven modules that address a specific training need,” all with a goal of enhancing Gannett’s digital footprint and engaging the audience (they used to call us “readers”).

Poynter’s “training opportunities” include a bunch of courses in audience analytics, “building your brand,” “developing your social media voice,” promoting content online, and effective Tweeting. (I strongly suggest Michael Townsend sign up for that one.) Other notable “content modules” (they used to call them courses) include…

“Business Models and Strategies” — “innovative ideas that can bring new streams of revenue to your operations.” Which means partnering with sales staff and working with advertisers.

“Best practices for working with citizen journalists” and “How to Tell Great Investigative Stories with Dwindling Resources.” Meaning, we can’t afford reporters anymore.

“Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More.”  Meaning, we can’t afford editors anymore.

“The Camera With You: How, and When, to Shoot with a Smartphone.” Meaning, we can’t afford photographers anymore.

Modules for the newly minted position of Content Coach include Managing Creative People (those damn crazy reporters), Dealing With Difficult Conversations (I’d think Gannett managers would already be experienced at this), and Language of Coaching (please stop yelling at the reporters).

Some of this is cringeworthy, and reflects a desperate industry making a last-gasp effort to maintain some sort of relevance. Or at least keep the profit streams flowing as long as possible. But to be fair to Gannett, a lot of this will help journalists and editors adjust to new realities being forced upon them. And when, sooner or later, they find themselves jettisoned by their corporate masters, they’ll be better equipped to bushwhack their way through our brave new media landscape where Content is King, but Content Providers are peons. And where salesmanship is at least as important as quality.

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