We've been writing about the thousands of reporters on furlough during COVID-19, and some of the reporters we featured offered their time to speak on how their newsrooms have been impacted by the pandemic and potential solutions to the existential issues faced. Read their stories below, and learn why we must fight to #SaveTheNews.
Wyoming: Without a Daily Paper Since 2020
When the The Casper Star-Tribune this summer announced it would only print five editions per week -- leaving Wyoming with not a single local newspaper that prints every day -- it was “a symbolic punch” to the gut for the paper’s newsroom staff, former reporter Seth Klamann recalled.
It was the latest in a series of cuts at a newspaper known for its investigations and statewide coverage, according…
Kenosha, WI: A shrinking newsroom, doing more with less
Reporters from 75 or more news outlets across the United States descended on Kenosha, Wisconsin, to cover emotional and sometimes violent protests in the days after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back multiple times by Kenosha police.
But when community members gathered for a prayer service on the shores of Lake Michigan a few days after Blake was shot, the only reporter present was from the local paper, the Kenosha News.
The Washington Post, CNN and most of the other out-of-town media have left the town of 100,000 people, at least for now, and aren’t…
Pottstown Mercury: an Army of One
When Evan Brandt began working at The Mercury as a municipal reporter in 1997, his beat focused on one community -- Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and the daily paper had 14 reporters, including a few sportswriters.
Twenty-three years later, Brandt, The Mercury’s only municipal reporter, covers nine school districts and 30 communities in and near Pottstown, a town of 23,000 people 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
“You get good at multitasking,” Brandt, 56, said matter-of-factly, a tone of weariness in his voice.
Despite all the…
There’s no shortage of news in Springfield, Ill., but they are running low on reporters.
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois -- The daily newspaper in this capital city of 115,000 is one of the go-to places for political coverage in a state where consecutive governors went to federal prison, the state’s finances are precarious and the longtime speaker of the Illinois House may be in the crosshairs of a federal investigation.
The paper also prides itself on coverage of local governments and hard-fought races for city council, county board and Congress. And SJ-R reporters don’t shy away from stories about racial tension and economic inequality in a Midwestern city where Abraham Lincoln…
The Local Newsroom That Took Down USA Gymnastics' Larry Nassar
In a Michigan courtroom in 2018, just before former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was to be sentenced for molesting multiple teenage girls, then-state Attorney General Angela Povilaitis credited reporters at the Indianapolis Star for exposing Nassar’s years of abuse.
“What finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting,” Povilaitis told the judge, who handed down a 40 to 175-year sentence.
Nassar, 57, who pleaded guilty to charges involving a handful of girls, has been accused in civil lawsuits of preying on more…
Watchdogs on furlough
Readers called and emailed the Florida Times-Union over the past year with appreciation for the newspaper’s commitment to uncovering apparent secret deals behind the now-canceled attempt to sell the city of Jacksonville’s municipally-owned utility to a private entity.
Reporting by the Jacksonville paper’s staff was key to the decision to halt the sale of the electric, water and sewer utility known as JEA, according to council member Matt Carlucci. Times-Union stories also led to the firing of the JEA chief executive officer who oversaw the utility when it launched a sales process…
The rise of ‘news deserts’
Poynter Institute has reported that 50 U.S. newspapers, mostly weeklies in small communities, have closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began this spring. They are among the more than 2,100 newspapers — mostly weeklies and representing one in four newspapers — that have shut down since 2004, based on research on “news deserts” by journalism professor Penny Muse Abernathy at the University of North Carolina.
The Paycheck Protection Program that was part of the CARES Act helped many newspapers avoid what appeared to be an acceleration of downsizing and closures during the pandemic, but…
A lifeline for ‘the only source of local information’
In Helena, Arkansas, population 10,300 people, money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program was a “godsend” for the weekly Helena World newspaper, publisher Andrew Bagley said. The paper’s staff consists of Bagley, a bookkeeper and two freelance writers.
GateHouse was planning to close the 149-year-old paper when Bagley and his business partner, Chuck Davis, bought the paper in September 2018, Bagley said. The paper, slammed by a loss of event-related advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic in eastern Arkansas, received between $10,000 and $20,000 in forgivable loan funds, he…
‘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…
‘You just don’t have enough bodies’
The Journal Star of Peoria, Illinois, has seen its newsroom staff dwindle from 32 people just two years ago to 11 journalists, mostly through layoffs by GateHouse and the current owner, Gannett.
“The constricted staff means much less of the newspapering that readers want, such as in-depth and investigative pieces,” said Phil Luciano, a reporter and columnist at the Journal Star since 1988 who is the newsroom’s longtime Guild unit chairman.
Despite the limitations, the staff is “rich with experience and thus excels, especially when there is big, breaking news,” Luciano said.…