Editor & Publisher (E&P) Magazine closes out the year with a cover story dedicated to all the journalists and editors keeping us informed during the year-end holidays. It’s a bittersweet story, as you will see, not unlike a holiday spent apart from loved ones, or the end of another year, now past. I wanted to especially thank Rob Tornoe for illustrating the cover. He so perfectly captured the moments when the newsroom is otherwise quiet, when the world around celebrates, but there’s a lead to chase, a story to tell and the public to serve.
As 2022 comes to a close, my social feeds have been heavy with news of layoffs across media and tech worlds.
It’s the loss of local news that feels most ominous. We’ll start the new year with fewer journalists in newsrooms, fewer columnists to stoke our minds, fewer visual journalists to show us new perspectives, fewer production, sales, audience and administrative pros to ensure that the news reaches subscribers and the public.
The threads that gut me most chronicle all the stories of little to great importance that journalists produced over time in service to employers and the community. There are the investigative pieces, expensive and sometimes tedious to produce; stories holding the powerful and elected to account; stories about the economy, housing, the food chain, immigration, public policy, foreign policy, crime, war, the heavy stuff.
There are endearing examples of human interest stories about the many inspiring people who contribute to our communities. There are the stories about events, art, food and local traditions that help us to feel connected to one another, to have the sense and security of a community around us.
Who will tell these stories, elevate these voices, speak these revelations when newsrooms are scuttled?
I’ve had the pleasure of another year reporting on the state of news for Editor & Publisher magazine, my 12th year with the title. It’s been a humbling, troubling, yet exhilarating year in news. Here are just a few of the stories I’ve had the privilege to tell:
My final E&P dispatch of the year is bittersweet, like the holidays or the end of a year. We wanted to tell the stories of journalists who’ve worked a newsroom, a sound booth or a TV studio on one of the major year-end holidays. We wanted to know about festivities, food (because you know that’s important to us) and newsroom traditions, but also about the memorable events reported on those holidays — a reminder that the public’s need to know never takes a holiday.
I was so grateful for all the reporters, editors, photographers, on-air hosts, everyone who shared their memories with me. Throughout those conversations ran two themes — what a privilege it is to do this job, and how so many journalists lost their jobs this year, how so many have had to (reluctantly or enthusiastically) leave the profession.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to E&P Columnist and Cartoonist Rob Tornoe, who illustrated the cover and perfectly captured the experience of chasing a lead while the newsroom is quiet and the world around you celebrates.
One recipient, Block Club Chicago, hopes to “supercharge” operations with the funding
WATCH: E&P Reports welcomes Shamus Toomey and Stephanie Lulay of Block Club Chicago, and the American Journalism Project’s Anna Nirmala and Sarabeth Berman to talk about venture philanthropy and nonprofit local news:
With new local owners, former Gannett-owned newspapers benefit from reinvestment
By Gretchen A. Peck
Gannett remains at the top of the leaderboard for newspaper ownership. It publishes over 1,000 weekly titles and more than 100 dailies, amassed over the years through independent acquisitions and headlining mergers. But the company turned heads in the newspaper world when it recently began selling off some of those newspapers, mostly small-market and community titles that local owners were eager to buy.
The shadow of hedge fund and corporate ownership leaves newsrooms in fear they’ll be picked clean
By Gretchen A. Peck
This summer, Alden Global Capital acquired Tribune Publishing and its titles, from small community newspapers to major metro titles like its flagship, The Chicago Tribune, and The Baltimore Sun. It wasn’t the first newspaper acquisition for this hedge fund firm, nor is it the only firm of its kind eyeing the nation’s newspapers. But this acquisition was profound, making Alden Global Capital the owner, in effect, of more than 200 newspapers across the land. It was a deal rife with drama, as the Tribune newsrooms publicly pleaded for some other savior. In the end, no eccentric billionaire philanthropist descended on the scene to save them. Instead, the newsrooms steeled themselves for the future.
Relationships with sources are more scrutinized and more complicated than ever
By Gretchen A. Peck
Access journalism. Follow threads about the press or conversations among journalists and it’s bound to come up in discussion. Fundamentally, access journalism occurs when reporters value landing a source more than the information gleaned from that source.
But what do readers, viewers, or other members of the public mean when they use the term as criticism? Is it simply expedient and pithy, just a new way to disparage the press?
More importantly, what does the practice or appearance of access journalism mean to the trust audiences and the public place in their news sources? And how should we prepare new journalists coming into the field for navigating the access minefield?
Audio is a platform unlike any other, in that it closes the distance—physically and cognitively—between the listener and host and guests. In conversations with people who podcast, you’ll hear the word “intimate” used a lot to describe the relationship between listener and the voices emanating from their earbuds. It’s as if there’s no one else in the equation, as if you’re being told a story just for you.
For news organizations increasingly reliant on audience more than advertising, audio is proving to be a platform that makes those connections, builds trust and familiarity, and solidifies those relationships.
With a federal antitrust suit against Google and Facebook, a single newspaper publisher seeks to level the playing field
By Gretchen A. Peck
Tech giants Google and Facebook aren’t strangers to antitrust litigation and Congressional scrutiny, but in a first-of-its-kind case, the two companies have been named as defendants in a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by a newspaper publisher.
The plaintiff, HD Media Co., LLC, is the West Virginia-based publisher of seven titles, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Herald-Dispatch, a historically significant newspaper that dates back to 1871.
On Jan. 29, the publisher filed its lawsuit in the Southern District of West Virginia. To small community and regional newspaper publishers across the nation, the action may seem like David squaring off against a two-headed Goliath.
I spoke with digital news organizations — and some major metro newspapers, including those that have been so-called “hot zones” for COVID-19 — about how the pandemic has influenced, impeded, affirmed, or transformed content, operations, staffing, revenue, and philosophies.
From the July/August issue of Editor & Publisher magazine: