Staffing changes are playing out at newspapers owned by Gannett Co. Inc. in other markets, leading some - Michael Gartner included - to believe similar changes are in store for The Des Moines Register.

Many in the journalism world have been closely watching the changes at Gannett newspapers since the company announced Aug. 5 that it was splitting off its publishing business from its broadcasting and digital properties.

Specifically, Register watchers are wondering if the Des Moines paper will have to reduce its editorial staff again, or how the Gannett changes will affect the paper’s operations and how it covers the community.

News began surfacing after the announcement that journalists at Gannett papers will have to reapply for their jobs. It appears that for now, at least six “beta” papers have been selected to embark on a “newsroom of the future” change that will require their newsroom employees to reapply for positions that have been redefined.

Here’s a look at the redefined positions at the Pensacola News Journal, which some say will be standardized at other Gannett papers: Click here

The Asheville Citizen-Times, The (Nashville) Tennessean, The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Pensacola News Journal and The Greenville (S.C.) News are the papers believed to be going through the change, according to media blogger Jim Romenesko and Poynter.org, which both cited a variety of letters from publishers at those papers. 

The Tennessean is reducing its staff from 89 to 76 (a 15 percent decrease), and there are indications that more staff reductions could be coming at other Gannett papers. And in addition, on Tuesday, the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star announced it was reducing its staff from 124 to 106, also a 15 percent cut. Another concern is the potential for pay cuts for existing staffers since the job descriptions are being redefined. 

We began hearing whispers late last week that The Des Moines Register would be following suit with having its staff reapply for the new positions. So along with the help of columnist Dave Elbert - a longtime Des Moines Register business reporter and editor - we began checking around to see whether this is indeed true. 

Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either a done deal and employees have already been notified that they will have to reapply for their positions in the near future, the announcement will happen but hasn’t been made yet, or it won’t be made at all.

Initially we were hearing that an announcement to the Register staff would be made this week, but it now appears that won’t happen. Some sources have told us Register employees have been notified that they would need to reapply for jobs, but we have been unable to gain confirmation of this.

Michael Gartner - writer of Cityview’s “Civic Skinny” - had this to say about the Register in his column today

“In the first quarter of next year, Cityview is told, at least some Register staffers will have to reapply for their jobs. What’s more, they will be interviewed by a committee of people from other newspapers, newsroom managers were told the other day. ‘I’m bracing for the worst,’ one staffer says.”

What Gartner is hearing is pretty much on par with what we have been hearing.

I spoke with Register Publisher Rick Green this morning, and he reiterated that as long as he’s in the saddle, he plans to continue to grow and improve the newsroom. As for whether Register staffers would need to reapply for jobs, Green said there’s nothing he can say at this time and doesn’t have a plan to share.

Here’s what Green had to say in a letter sent last week to community partners about the Register’s future: Click here

As Elbert pointed out to me, the Register is different from most other Gannett newspapers in that it already rolled out a “newsroom of the future” last year when it moved to Capital Square. To follow the new beta plan that Gannett is testing might not make sense, as it is already supposed to be ahead of that curve. Green spoke a bit about the “new” newsroom in a Business Record article last year after the move. However, he didn’t refer to it as the “newsroom of the future” specifically, and focused more on the physical technology changes than specific role changes: Click here

Still it appears that, according to Romenesko’s blog post, editors from non-beta test Gannett papers will be meeting at headquarters to potentially learn more about the rollout beyond the beta sites.

Additional coverage:

Here is Elbert’s column which hypothesizes that Gannett is positioning itself to sell off its print properties, including the Register: Click here