Thursday, January 12, 2012

Absent Reporters Means Absent News

Councilor Brown made an astute observation after the ARGUS LEADER came out with an editorial about the city's proposed sale of Slip Up Creek land. This is what Councilor Brown posted online on the ARGUS LEADER editorial:

 I agree with the editorial. However, if the Argus Leader had bothered to send a reporter to last night's meeting, it would know Public Works Director Mark Cotter asked for this item to be pulled. The Council voted unanimously to table the issue.

The City Council had two major pieces of legislation on their agenda Monday night (January 9th). One was an ordinance changing the day when council meetings are held along with other council procedure changes.  The other ordinance was the push to sell the Slip Up Creek land. Both actions have been covered in past AL articles and both have become controversial. Both items were deferred or withdrawn until a later date.

Unfortunately, the ARGUS LEADER couldn't send their political reporter, Jonathan Ellis, to the meeting Monday night because he is on a week long forced unpaid furlough mandated by the paper. I guess there weren't any other reporters handy to cover the news of the city. So, the business lights of reporting the news goes dark.

The largest newspaper in the state of South Dakota and it is furloughing its reporter staff one by one. And they wonder why they are losing readership.


  1. CEO's walking away with 37 million dollar golden parachutes. Layoffs. Forced furloughs. Whats next? Maybe this.

    Found this on the Gannett blog. Nothing substantiated, but I believe it's going to happen.


  2. The best news source is the city's website for government news. Unfortunately, most people won't spend the time to watch it. They want someone else to put a brief story together they can read or watch on TV. Will the local TV stations start charging for watching their news. You don't have to pay for cable to watch the local TV channels. Competition, news reporter personalities and comprehensive news reporting drives local TV station's success. Unfortunately, the Argus Leader doesn't have any competition so it can do what it wants as far as rates and access go. Most people like to read a newspaper. It is as old as the flag and apple pie. The Argus Leader is banking on people paying $9.99 a month or whatever they are going to charge for full digital access. Time will tell if it will save their bottom line and keep their reporters from forced week long unpaid furloughs.

    1. Most people like to read a newspaper. It is as old as the flag and apple pie. The Argus Leader is banking on people paying $9.99 a month or whatever they are going to charge for full digital access. Time will tell if it will save their bottom line and keep their reporters from forced week long unpaid furloughs.

      That $9.95 will not buy full digital access. It will only buy what you currently get at Far from full digital access at any rate. The E-Edition will still cost at much as the print edition. Why? Beyond me. Guess that retired CEO who bailed with a $37,000,000.00 golden parachute has to be paid off somehow. Here is a sampling of what might look like February 1st. Here is a Gannett sight already doing it. Just click on any story and see what you get.

      Most troubling for me is the prospect that print edition rates are likely to go up. If prices go up for the Sunday print to $3.00 a copy, my elderly parents I know will cancel. And that bothers me. They have had the Argus delivered to their door since the '50's. I will prolly also cancel. My kids, and their kids, all have the latest gadgets, smartphones and such. If this is the market they hope to capture, they will be sadly mistaken. That generation will not pay for news on their smartphones. To many places where they can get it for free.


  3. I got my J degree at SDSU, where I went to classes with some of the finest journalists to have come from South Dakota. I also worked several years as a daily newspaper reporter in South Dakota before moving on to better career horizons. Newspapering has always been evolving in this state, going back to when communities would have several newspapers financed by political parties, corporations and other special interests. It’s come a long way and we’ve seen it change (adapting and failing to adapt) against the immediacy and lower production costs of broadcast and online media. Perhaps, the paper medium is now nearing its demise as we see our daily Argus editions shrink in thickness and advertising infiltrating the once holy space of page 1.

    I think the golden age of the Argus was in the 80s when it had a very impressive stable of writers and photographers and Dave Kranz was at the top of his game covering political news and chasing down rumors. But even then, the dollars in advertising spoke loudly in the policies and practices of the rest of the ship. As the ships lists and sinks, the dollars are gripping more and more control.

    The shame of Gannett is and has always been the line of demarcation between the top desks (and corporate executives) and the grunts who’ve made the product shine in the news and graphics rooms. The grunts have always done their best despite the salary glass ceiling which keeps them paid less than peers who got jobs outside journalism and despite threats of reprisals from political and business circles. To them, it’s all about being first, accurate and best at getting the big story and grabbing the reader to want more.

    The six-figure salary group at the Argus and Gannett’s corporate offices have a different ethic. To them, it’s all and only about business and profitability. To them, news is the occasionally embarrassing product they drape around advertising. Newspapers exist as their gateway to profits and bigger bonuses.
    When the grunts are put on forced (unpaid) furloughs and told to produce more and expect less in pay and benefits (not just at the Argus, but throughout the profession), something’s going to break. Yep, and not being able to find a warm body to cover a routine council meeting is going to happen. But what is so impressive is the dedication and resiliency reporters and photographers seem to have despite the hardships and humiliation.

    I don’t know if newsrooms and newspapers are the new dinosaur in the world of Nooks, Kindles and iPads. Maybe there’s a new phase that has yet to evolve, but paywalls won’t cut it with enough readers. It would be sad to see print go the way of broadcast and online media where consumers pick their favorites based on their political biases. Despite the nattering nabobs who carp about the “liberal press,” newspapers like the Argus and others throughout the nation present the news without the filters of the spin doctors. Without the foundation of an unbiased media to hold up objectivity and balance (not always perfectly but always earnestly), it will become harder and harder for Americans to get facts upon which they can shape their own opinions.

    Be glad there is an Argus Leader. It will give you something to tell your grandchildren about what it was like in the old days.