Today’s flotsam:

* Three newspapers in Florida are going to test the waters in content sharing. What makes it unique is that none of the three — the Miami Herald, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post — are owned by the same company, but all three compete in the same regional marketplace. The experiment will continue for three months and will be re-examined after that.

Remember these words: “Your enemies become your allies” in the new media world.

Someone is catching on.

*Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the Chicago Tribune redesign will not look like the prototype leaked to Editor & Publisher earlier this week. Too bad, I thought it showed that those in power at the Trib had the guts to try something radical to attact a new breed of readers.

Let’s hope that the redesign that debuts in late September will be as fresh and radical as the leaked prototype. The last thing the Trib needs is to apply fresh makup on a dying horse.

* A few readers have asked me why I haven’t chimed in on the recent departure of Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti. My answer: Why should I waste my time?

Editor & Publisher today posted on its site today what it calls a prototype of the Chicago Tribune’s highly-awaited redesign. If the pictured front page is an indication of reality, it confirms my belief that the Trib plans to parlay the success of its youth-oriented RedEye into the flagship product.

If so, give Tribune execs credit for a gutsy move … one that may pay off in the long run. When the pre-Zell Tribune created RedEye, the plan was to get young adults to read a paper that has interests them, with the hopes that they would migrate to the flagship paper. I’m guessing the current Trib brain trust is finding those RedEye readers ready to migrate are looking at the current Tribune and saying “no way.”

What makes RedEye appealing is the format, a quick-read paper for the mobile generation who don’t have time to sit and read a full newspaper. The Trib prototype picks up that essence, and though it may drastically change the depth of substance, the substance will appeal to those who are ready to move from sexy dress in the workplace to coping with the recession.

That, along with the appointment of RedEye editor Jane Hirt as the Trib’s new managing editor, points toward an era of a “quick read” Tribune, aimed at the news grazers.

Whether this is a successful formula remains to be seen. But give the Tribune credit for having guts. We’re surely not seeing enough of that in the industry right now.

Boy, if this doesn’t prove my point yesterday, then we’re really out of it. The Tribune names Red Eye editor Jane Hirt as managing editor.

The cynics look for a dumbed-down Tribune with a lot of fluff and little depth. I say editor Gerry Kern recognizes where his audience is going, sees where his success stories and been, and is making moves to adapt the flagship to meet those new readers’s needs.

I expect a news smorgasbord in the new Tribune, instead of the five-course dinner it’s offering now. There will be authority and depth .. in keeping withn tradition … but it’ll most likely be sliced and diced into more digestible nuggets.

Perfect for grazing.

It’s nice to be proven right. A couple of months ago I wrote that we are becoming a nation of “news grazers,” getting out information fix from here and there, but taking it in at our convenience throughout our very hectic days. This grazing has disrupted the newspaper experience, which requires you to stop, read and digest all at once.

Well, the folks at the Pew Research Center released a new report on changing habits of readers. Among the bullet points of the report (conveniently ‘grazed’ by Poynter’s Amy Gahran) is that, indeed, news grazers have become the norm.

Now that we have officially recognize news grazing as the way new readers get their news, maybe those who have been in denial will finally realize they need to change the way we provide the news to them?

Google and Yahoo have recognized it for years. Huffington Post is catching on quick. If we, as those who actually produce content, don’t reign back our territory, we’ll be out of business.

Remember, news grazers don’t care where the news source comes from. So, as a news producer, news organizations should decide what they do best and focus on that. What you can’t do well, get from someone else, even if it’s your competition.

News grazers like the convenience. If we figure out a way to provide a premium experience, we may even be able to make some money off of it, either through a subscription service or advertiser support.

OK, I see you moving on to something else, so I’ll stop.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the 40 people who were involuntarily let go at the Chicago Tribune last Friday. Among the staffers let go, according to Michael Miner’s blog, were veteran copy editor Charlie Dickenson and writer/editor Pat Kampert.

I know them both and, frankly, it’s a big loss. Both are very talented writers and copy editors (and in Charlie’s case, an accomplished author). Their talents, combined with the talents of the others let go, will be nearly impossible to replicate.

Yes, the business needs to change and become leaner. But I worry that we’re losing the very knowledge base that give our newspapers the credibility our readers demand.

UPDATE: The Rockford Register-Star lays of 13 staffers and closes its Springfield bureau. I assume they will expect the Springfield Journal-Register, a fellow GateHouse Media newspaper, to help pick up the loss of state legislature news.

For the big picture on newspaper losses, check out Erica Smith’s pretty comprehensive Paper Cuts blog.

Today’s flotsam:

*Thursday’s Tribune Metro section led with a staff-produced story about how people in the Chicago exurb of Harvard have coped after Motorola closed up its massive cell phone plant five years ago, thereby eliminating the town’s largest employer and road to prosperity.

On Page 5, a full-page ad placed by Harvard’s economic group touts the benefits of bringing your business to the town.

An uncanny coincidence brought about by the wall separating editorial and advertising, or the Tribune’s new premium ad policy (place a full-page ad, and we’ll focus a news section on your issues)?

With public editor Tim McNulty gone, I guess we’ll never get an answer.

But for REAL coincidence, Motorola announced the same day they’re selling the Harvard building to another company (or do we have a real conspiracy working here?)

*The Huffington Post debuted its Chicago “local” edition today. My first thought is why would anyone want to open a new venture in a market that is over saturated with media?

But after looking over it, I have to give Adrianna credit for doing her homework. HuffPo Chicago is by no means the “hyperlocal” product that the metro area could really use, but it IS a one-stop shop for city news. I could do without John Cusack’s pining for the city life, but the selection of stories from the city’s metros was well-done, and the “quick read” feature is great.

It takes the Trib’s Daywatch compilation one … no, make that about four … steps further. And I predict HuffPo Chicago will become a force to reckon with.

Back in May, I wrote that newspapers need to befriend their enemies in order to survive. Basically, when news and information is your main product, you should be able to deliver what the customer wants, regardless of the source. If you deliver a product that has stories from, say, the New York Times, your readers won’t leave you for the NYT. In fact, they’ll appreciate that your product is giving them what they want without going to all these sites themselves. If you do this well enough, your readers will stay with you.

Call it the Google News effect.

I’m glad to see the Chicago Tribune is catching on. Mike Miner’s blog reports that the Trib’s morning e-mail blast, Daywatch, is beginning to link to stories in the Trib’s competition, the Sun-Times. Give Daywatch editor Charlie Myerson credit for “sweetening” the offerings, although the Trib’s innovation guy seems to take credit for it. But, nonetheless, this would never have happened under the old Tribune regime.

This will further the success of Daywatch, especially if they expand their offerings to suburban newspapers and business journals, such as Crain’s Chicago Business. The only concern at this point is that there is no plans to make it a premium for Tribune or subscribers.

It’d be a shame if a great innovation dies because a revenue model wasn’t considered for it.

Obi-Wan Kenobe summed it up best after the planet Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star: “I feel a great disturbance in the force.”

That’s how I felt Friday upon hearing words of the latest rounds of buyouts to hit the industry. At the Chicago Tribune, the axe began to fall for 80 newsroom employees, including managing editor for news Hanke Gratteau, Washington bureau chief Michael Tackett and public editor Tim McNulty (who, ironically, was the first reporter in the Trib’s Beijing bureau and left on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics). Although these are high profile people leaving the paper, the cuts go much deeper, including a number of veteran reporters, editors and photographers (a list is at the end of this link), like Ed Sherman, Skip Mylinski, Charles Osgood, Maria Mooshil, Barbara Rose. These folks were writers, photographers and editors who also gave the Tribune a sense of personality, something it desperately lacked several years ago.

Then, on top of that, I learn that the Detroit Free Press’s Joe Grimm has also agreed to a buyout there. There are hundreds of young journalists out there that owe their jobs to Joe and the help he has provided over the years. A real believer in recruiting and coaching, his was in essence a pioneer for the development of minority recruiting and talent development.

That’s an awful lot of talent and institutional knowledge lost in one day. And while I can understand the economic needs for such action, I can’t help but wonder if newspapers will be better because of it.

There has been a great disturbance in the force. We can only hope it hasn’t irreparably damaged the institution.

UPDATE: Some pretty sobering numbers from Mark Potts and Erica Smith. Dark days indeed

About 30 years ago, the writers at National Lampoon produced a wonderful parody of the local Sunday newspaper. The paper, called the Dacron, Ohio Republican-Democrat, featured a main story about 2 Dacron women who were missing while taking a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Japan. At the end of a long, long story, the writer notes Japan was destroyed by a natural disaster.

That over-the-top local treatment was funny 30 years ago, but was NatLamp spot on for what newspapers will become in another 10 years?

I ask this after reading Tuskegee News publisher Paul Davis’ column “Community newspapers doing nicely” I don’t know Davis, but after reading this, I love him. I can just imagine him sitting at his desk in his storefront office across the street from the Coast to Coast store, typing away on his Underwood to get this out on time.

OK, a bit of an exaggeration. But he does make a point. We focus too much on the dire state of the newspaper industry, but we talk mainly of the major metros and the companies that owns hundreds of smaller newspapers. However, in the small towns throughout the country, many of these newspapers are indeed holding their own.

Now I admire Davis for taking the high road, that the mission to readers and advertisers remains intact. And there is a lot of truth to that. In a community where everyone knows everyone else, you don’t want to upset your customer base. But you can’t say the Philadelphia Inquirer or Minneapolis Post-Tribune doesn’t have that same mission, so what sets them apart from Paul Davis in Tuskegee?

Simple … Tuskegee owns its market. The majority of these community papers are the only source of local news and information. Folks in these towns are most likely finding out about the world from some other source, but if they need to find out about the fire down the street, or where they can get a deal on an oil change, they run to the News.

And local is where the majority of newspapers will need to go to survive. As technology continues to improve our ability to gather and read news from around the world, only a few media sources will shake out as the source for world and national news .. sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, ITN. That will force the metros to redefine themselves. The Tribunes, Heralds, and Newses will need to look at becoming the local source, which will be difficult because a number of good suburban newspapers and alt weeklies have been establishing that local market for years.

So small community papers are in the catbird seat, so to say. But I hope Paul Davis won’t sit back in his wooden desk chair and gloat. Small papers need to develop and adapt to new readers and their needs. In addition to improving websites, they need to create local databases that will provide readers with instant information. They need to create online communities to spark and maintain debate and dialog.

I recently had an e-mail exchange with the publisher of a small Michigan paper who was nice enough to show me his redesigned newsroom flowchart. I was impressed because it addressed the same issues that the metros are facing, but it was targeted to address his community. Here’s someone who’s looking ahead … and working to own his community.

The mission doesn’t change. It’s how we accomplish that mission does.