Updated March 29 at 11:29am

ProJo overhaul refocuses on R.I. news

Business section dropped; Heslin sees ‘refreshed’ paper


PROVIDENCE – The Providence Journal unveiled a redesigned print product today that moves local news to the front section and eliminates its designated business section as the paper adjusts to its reduced staff size and the migration of readers to the Internet.

In a letter to readers today, Thomas E. Heslin, The Journal’s top editor, said the changes represented “a refreshed approach to our newspaper” that he hopes will make it “richer and more efficient.” He also emphasized that the paper sees its primary mission as “reporting news of interest and importance to Rhode Island.”

The changes to the paper came on the same day The Journal’s parent company, Dallas-based A. H. Belo Corp., announced that it will release its second-quarter earnings report on Monday. Two other newspaper companies, The McClatchy Co. and Gannett Inc., have surprised Wall Street in recent days by reporting higher-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

The Journal’s redesign makes a number of major changes to the paper’s layout. The separate Rhode Island section has been eliminated and incorporated into the “A” section, renamed “projoRhode Island,” which also will feature regional news. It also will feature any local business stories by Journal writers.

The second section, dubbed “projoNation,” now will feature only wire service stories and articles from other newspapers. A national business and financial news roundup from The Associated Press will take up a portion of the second page of the national section.

Heslin also said The Journal will add a Sunday section called “projoConsumer” designed “to help you get by in the 21st-century economy.” He did not say if Journal writers would contribute to the section or if it would rely on outside sources alone.

In addition, the front page will feature more local news and fewer national and international stories, and front page stories will be continued in the “A” section only. Four of five stories on today’s front page are by Journal writers, while the fifth is from the front page of today’s New York Times.

Heslin said the changes would not reduce the amount of content in the newspaper, writing that “we are adding content, not cutting back.” He did not say whether the additional content would be written by Journal staff writers or other news organizations.

Heslin said the space that used to be allocated to the two sections that have been eliminated – Business and Sunday Extra – “have been reallocated to improve your reading experiences.” He also said the paper’s visual look would be changed later this year.

Heslin’s letter to readers did not mention the paper’s Web site, projo.com, or say any changes were planned for it.

The Journal has had four rounds of staff reductions since last September, reducing its work force by about 150 to 562 full- and part-time positions as of March. The paper’s revenue was down 13.3 percent in 2008 and plunged by 30.5 percent during the first three months of this year. Earlier this week, the paper agreed to sell Rhode Island Monthly magazine to its longtime publisher and president for an undisclosed sum.

Separately, The Providence Phoenix’s parent company, Boston-based Phoenix Media/Communications Group Inc., yesterday said it would temporarily cut the pay of its salaried employees by 10 percent for the next three months, the alt-weekly newspaper reported on its Web site. In exchange, workers will get six days off and no jobs will be eliminated, the paper said.

The wage reductions are the second round of cutbacks at Phoenix Media in recent months.


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