Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lee Newspaper Closes Web Site

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lee Newspaper Closes Web Site

Article excerpt

Publisher says it just wasn't working

BECAUSE THE newspaper's management determined "it just wasn't working," the Web site of the Gazette-Times of Corvallis, Ore., has been taken off line as the newspaper reassesses its cyber publishing plans.

It is the second Web site operated by a Lee Enterprises Inc. newspaper to be downsized -- Web staff cutbacks have also occurred recently at the Winona (Minn.) Daily News.

The Oregon Web site -- GT Connect, located at http://www.gtconnect.com/gtonline/index.html -- ceased normal operations April 23 after two of its four-member staff were fired and a third person resigned.

Browsers who visit the site now encounter a fancy graphic frame and the message: "The site is currently under revision and will not be updated for some time."

Cary Sawyer, publisher of the Lee Enterprises Inc. newspaper in Oregon, said, "We are re-evaluating our online presence. We will be back with an online product in the very near future. It's too early to tell what form that will take."

He said suspending the online newspaper was fueled by feedback showing a dissatisfaction with the product.

"The cause of the reassessment was basically that it just wasn't working," he said. "We weren't getting the response we thought was necessary and it wasn't serving our customers. It became obvious what we were doing -- putting the newspaper up online -- was not serving our customers. So we said let's reassess what we're going to do and figure out some way that is going to serve our customers."

He said that while the news portion of the Web site and some of the standard features are not being updated, the classified ads continue to be added.

Tim Leslie, the former online editor at GT Connect, said that in recent months there appeared to be drift and disarray in the company's approach to its online venture.

"In January '97, after Corvallis publisher Beth Clark was promoted to a larger paper within Lee, the Corvallis Web team began to founder amid contradictory directives and, finally, near silence from managers," said Leslie. "From this point on, the day-to-day operations of GT Connect began to become a chore for all involved in Corvallis. …

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