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‘With the pandemic, there are so many potential stories’

The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana covers Lake and Porter counties, with a total population of 656,000 people, with a staff of seven people — two news reporters, a metro columnist, two sportswriters and two editors.

The newsroom staff of the paper, owned by Tribune Publishing, totaled about 50 people in 2010, according to sportswriter Mike Hutton, the Post-Tribune’s Guild unit chairman.

 Journalists at the paper, who also have experienced 25% pay cuts since April through furloughs, do their best but are frustrated, reporter Meredith Colias-Pete said. She focuses on environmental issues in the paper’s heavily industrial coverage area. 

“We just get to what we can,” she said. “It’s really stressful. We’re hamstrung with the lack of resources. … The Post-Tribune has evolved over time because it’s had to. We just have to sit here and accept what we can and can’t cover.”

Gary White, a veteran reporter at Gannett’s Lakeland Ledger in Florida, has a list of stories he would like to work on immediately but can’t because he’s too busy producing stories for the daily paper in Polk County between Orlando and Tampa.

“With the pandemic, there are so many potential stories, but we are limited because our staff is so small,” said White, the paper’s Guild unit chairman. 

One of those potential stories, he said, includes COVID-19 outbreaks at local nursing homes that may be linked to inadequate state funding of the institutions.

The Ledger’s unionized newsroom staff dropped from 25 in 2016 to 12 currently in a county with a population of more than 700,000 people, White said. 

When White was hired by the Ledger in 2002, the paper had almost 90 staffers in the newsroom, and the Ledger tried to cover 15 cities and towns throughout the county. With present staffing, the paper has pulled back so its municipal coverage focuses almost exclusively on Polk County, the city of Lakeland and one nearby community, Winter Haven.

“Who knows what we’re missing from these other communities,” White said.