What has happened with the Booth newspaper organization (Muskegon Chronicle and Grand Rapids Press) is a good example.
The Chronicle and Press have downsized their newsrooms. This month, the two newspapers began cutting home delivery. They still publish seven days a week, but you have to buy newspapers at stores on the days they don’t deliver.
They are focusing more attention on their online news gathering. As a result, some very good journalists are out of work.
It seems to be the nature of the business. As revenues decline, newsroom budgets are reduced. Longtime editors and reporters are replaced with younger and less expensive journalists.
I often visit social networks for journalists, and I see a number of names of journalists who I remember who used to compete against the Grand Haven Tribune. Some have been able to find new jobs. Many are freelancing, meaning they sell their stories to newspapers or other publications. Some carry new titles such as independent consultant.
I venture to guess that many of the editors and reporters who are no longer employed by newspapers miss their work.
Working on a newspaper gives you an adrenaline rush when you are first with a major story or write a story that has a significant impact on a community. I know I did.
When I first started to work at the Tribune as sports editor, it wasn’t unusual to see three or four reporters and three or four photographers at a high school athletic event. The Tribune, Chronicle and Press were competing hard for readers.
I also remember as many as four reporters attending Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meetings. I’m not sure any reporter is covering the Board of Commissioners now. I had someone comment to me that the commissioners like it that there are few reporters attending their meetings.
When I first interviewed with the Grand Haven Tribune in 1985, I also visited the Grand Rapids Press newsroom. The news editor invited me for a tour of the newsroom. As we chatted , he told me that the Press was going to make a big push to gain readers along the lakeshores of Holland and Grand Haven.
The Press eventually opened a bureau in Holland with an editor and several reporters. The Chronicle, too, attempted to beef up its coverage of Northwest Ottawa County with additional staff at its Grand Haven bureau.
The three of us — Tribune, Chronicle and Press — went head-to-head in covering Grand Haven-area news. Sometimes, we would be first to report a major story. Much to my chagrin, the Chronicle and Press would sometimes beat us.
We loved the competition. I know Chronicle and Press journalists loved beating us. That was what newspapering was all about.
But much has changed through the years. The Chronicle closed its Grand Haven bureau and the Press closed its Holland bureau. Large drops in revenues left the newspapers with no choice.
The newspaper business is changing dramatically. They now have new titles for editors such as director of content, director of community news and director of digital news. Even the name “newsroom” is being discarded for other titles.
I miss the competition we used to have with Terry Judd of the Muskegon Chronicle, and some of the other fine journalists who worked for the Chronicle and the Press. I wish them well in their future ventures.
Newspapering just isn’t the same without them.