News

Through war, depression and every kind of turmoil the country endured over the past 100 years, the Morning Call’s newsroom was on the same downtown corner in Allentown, Pa. Until now.

Hit this year by a pandemic and an economic downturn, Tribune Publishing informed journalists at the Morning Call and four of its other newspapers last Wednesday that their newsrooms would permanently close.

What would my town be without a newspaper? If you haven’t asked yourself that question, perhaps it is time to consider just what the newspaper means to this community.

Last week, in a Q&A about covering losses in the journalism industry, Poynter reporter Kristen Hare observed that the newsroom mergers and consolidations that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic often use terminology to obscure the full breadth of the loss. “If you lose a newsroom, and everybody in that newsroom has lost their jobs, and that community no longer has a newsroom, it’s closed,” Hare said. “It’s not a ‘merger.’ It’s a loss for the community.” 

Work from home has been the norm for five months now. Some journalists who were previously accustomed to commuting to the office love this new rhythm. Others deeply miss the office and can't wait to come back.

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.

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.

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.