PAINTER: Newspapering just isn’t the same

Feb 29, 2012

 

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.

Comments

migpilot

Len,

Get over it. The electronic media, flush with its opinions and ample prose has taken over. Now anyone with an opinion and a word processor can do all you have ever done. News is not physically discovered, how droll. Rather it is cyber discovered, and likely with the same bent as always, but with a lot less work and fanfare. I think it is rather fitting that the same media that has served so well in serving up the rather polarized drivel all these years has finally come home to roost. It's like a mother eating her babies. If you think about it, so called journalism has deserved this outcome for years, it just took visionaries like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates to make us all "publishers".

Avita

Newspapers only have themselves to blame for their decline. They focus all their attention on what they can do to their websites in order to please the people who are getting whatever news they can for free ... despite the fact that no newspaper has found that to be a successful practice. At the same time those newspapers somehow expect to make a profit selling the printed versions of the same information they are giving away for free on their websites. Despite what "migpilot" says, news IS physically discovered and gathered locally. It is not "cyber discovered". The "cyber" discovery part happens when people take physically discovered news and then post/comment/discuss/blog about it. And by then that "news" often contains so many new twists and turns you can't tell what the actual news story was even supposed to be about. Is it any wonder why there are so many ill informed people in the world today? Small town newspapers like the Tribune and Chronicle have a monopoly on the news that happens in their towns. They don't need to give it away for free online. If people had no choice but to pay they would pay. It's not like this is New York and there are dozens and dozens of other media outlets reporting on the exact same stories. Where else are people going to get all of the actual LOCAL news? There are no other outlets. Newspapers only have themselves to blame for their decline.

letsgetreal

Your comments are beyond ignorant migpilot. It easy to say these things like a coward behind your screen name. Journalists are trained and spend years in college to become a professional. Your comment about now anyone can do what you have ever done, is completely false and pretty much sums up your lack of intelligence.

migpilot

I think what you meant was spending years in college becoming trained liberals. The jist of my comment was that the news business is evolving because the consumer wants it that way. A great deal of time and effort goes into a web base reporting outlet. The public does not need the facts conditioned or defined anymore by someone who has a purpose other than reporting the facts. By the way letsgetreal, can you comment without a personal attack. Apparently not!

 

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