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Naperville Sun, Beacon News Office to Close as Sun-Times Targets 'Inefficiencies'

Editing staff would leave Aurora for downtown Chicago under a new plan to restructure news operations and consolidate suburban newsrooms.

The Naperville Sun and Beacon News newspaper office in Aurora will be closed under a new plan to "eliminate inefficiencies" in Sun-Times Media.

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The company has become "too small" to continue to operate as it is now, according to Jim Kirk, its editor-in-chief, who is proposing to move the newspaper's editors to the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom downtown and consolidate all editing and production there.

The company, as it downsized, sold all of its suburban newspaper buildings in Joliet, Aurora, Elgin, Glenview and Naperville and moved staff into leased office space. The Naperville Sun and Beacon News office is currently located at 495 N. Commons Drive, Suite 200, Aurora. Those north and west suburban news operations also would move downtown under Kirk's plan. 

"We have to change," Kirk wrote in a memo to editorial staff distributed Thursday, copies of which were immediately shared outside the company. "The economic headwinds in our industry are only gaining strength when it comes to ink on paper. Print will be with us for some time, but not forever.

"We cannot wait for change to come without being prepared. Otherwise we’re dead."

Kirk proposed this massive overhaul in operations to Tim Knight, CEO of parent company Wrapports LLC, who has yet to approve the plan.

TimeOut Chicago columnist Robert Feder reported Thursday evening that Kirk "made the announcement now because he felt obligated to notify the Chicago Newspaper Guild of the proposed changes as soon as possible." The company is currently negotiating with the union on a new contract covering editorial employees."

The Sun-Times is a Guild newsroom, but the SouthtownStar and some of the other suburban newsrooms are not unionized. The Sun-Times is currently negotiating a new union contract.

Kirk told Feder he's "confident" his plan will be approved by his boss.

"We continue to operate as a print-first newspaper company," Kirk wrote in his memo to staff. "We are lean, and mean, but we’re not built to be nimble to work across multiple platforms."

John Morton, a newspaper analyst and president of Morton Research Inc., told the Daily Herald that he sees this as a bad move for the Sun-Times.

"To diminish your presence in the very markets you are trying to serve is not a good move," Morton said. "These are usually the steps taken by a company that's struggling financially."

The company will try to move to a digital-first publishing model, and focus on improving its websites and creating digital apps. Suburban reporters will work remotely, filing their stories to downtown editors. Kirk would like his staff to deliver news throughout the day, according to his memo, and said he hopes to complete the overhaul of the company's news operation within the first three months of 2013.

Kirk told staff he does "not anticipate cutting jobs" but acknowledged the "possibility of some job redundancy."

James Watt December 21, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Computers have really changed everything. When they first came along in the working world back in the early 80s, my profession, commercial art, was one of the first to be destroyed. Chicago used to have several commercial art studios. Almost overnight they were wiped out by computers and computer graphics, such as they were then, replacing all the hand graphic artwork done in downtown studios. All commercial artists had to learn to be freelancers and do so quickly. Within the space of a few years, there were no commercial art studios in the entire city of Chicago. Since then, I have seen computers totally revolutionize every aspect of human society, some for good, some for bad. It didn't take a particularly prescient smart person to see the handwriting on the wall for newspapers and magazines after the advent of the internet, but it is still sad to see the demise and downsizing of local newspapers. I sometimes have the opportunity to tell my students about newspapers and comic strips and how important comic strips were to the sales of newspapers. Having the right ones in your paper, could make you the top grossing newspaper. Depending on when a news paper's weekend comic section came out. Saturday evening or Sunday morning were dedicated to families reading the newspaper and the color comics. A whole way of life has disappeared because of the computer, joining its earlier incarnations of 'horse and buggy' and gaslight days of some of our grandparents.
D.DouglasThomas December 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM
My Naper Sun Subscription Renewal Going Bye Bye....
Will Joseph December 22, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Funny - I said the same thing awhile back. But then I figured out that all the "reporters" at Patch, TribLocal, the Daily Herald, etc. do is rewrite press releases and call it "news." And I immediately went crawling back to The Sun.
Collin Czarnecki December 22, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Will, it's the holidays. Let's keep the insults to a minimum, please.
Jim Smith December 23, 2012 at 05:41 PM
We discontinued our subscription to the Naperville Sun when their editorial staff went ballistic over charges of plagiarism concerning a speech given by the principal of Naperville Central High School. Their low-brow populist position was irresponsible.

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