The newspaper ethic: covering community news


McZENA MUSE - Louise Swartzwalder



BELLVILLE, June 23 — It’s been a couple of filled weeks for those of us at the Bellville Star.

Exactly ten days ago (June 13) we were summoned to a mandatory meeting in Urbana, at a sister newspaper in the CivitasMedia group.

There we learned that our newspaper, along with all other Ohio publications belonging to Civitas, had been sold.

We are now part of AIM Media Midwest, out of Texas.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about what is happening to print publications of the newspaper variety.

#1. The number of legitimate newspapers is diminishing.

#2. Where there might at one time have been an a.m. and a p.m. newspaper run by the same company, that is hardly ever the case anymore.

#3. People are less and less likely to be actually reading a newspaper. In fact, readership of all things that require a person to sit still and do something more than look at a computer screen is in death throes.

#4. Being an avid reader, in particular of good valid publications, I find the loss tragic.

I grew up in a house where we had two newspapers delivered daily — the Wooster Daily Record and the Ashland Times Gazette.

I went to study journalism at The Ohio State University, and the path was laid for me to pursue what I considered a dream career.

The person at fault for my choice was a phenomenal woman named Marjorie Robinson, who taught journalism at Loudonville.

We would take journalism, help put out either the Redbird, or the yearbook, and compete in statewide journalism events.

We would always take home the majority of the prizes.

I was able to land a job at a very good publication, the Des Moines Register.

As a beginner there, I had to learn all kinds of things: you learn about a two-head, a banner headline, a jump (carry the story to another page).

The Register was owned by the Kruidenier family, and they were devout in their shepherding of the publication.

Because there was a Register and a Tribune, there was a lot of good old time competition among staffers.

The Tribune people worked for an afternoon paper. I worked for an a.m. newspaper which had three deadlines: 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11, 12 or 1 a.m. — it all depended on the news.

Because we were competitors we were also close. Everyone would gather in their off moments to go to the Office Lounge, across an alley from the parking area beneath the building. This is where delivery trucks would gather to get their loads.

If you were a lucky person (like one assigned to cover state government) you could park under the building.

I was able to do that when I had that assignment. It was a rush to have grizzled guys loading bundles of papers look at you with a little bit of loathing. They were probably thinking we young upstarts were a little full of ourselves.

Because we were a venerated statewide newspaper, people did stand a little bit in awe of Register and Tribune staffers.

Some older reporters/columnists developed their own followers. A guy named Jim Flansburg wrote a political column. He was the kind of guy who could intimidate younger staffers because he had a solemn stare. He would happily tell you about his past and genes he probably thought he had inherited. He told me once about his father, who was considered a roue.

Several things happened that started the lessening of the Register and Tribune.

The Tribune had to fold.

The Register remained, but later was sold to Gannett.

And, digital world dug in. A staff that had been large, probably 60 to 80 per newspaper, was cut. There had been an advertising staff. Almost eliminated. A staff of photographers — probably a dozen — forced to find another way to make a living.

The Register and Tribune family remains close. We keep up with one another, mostly through postings in Facebook.

That site told me about the reality in what had happened to the Register and Tribune building.

Because the staff is much smaller, it now occupies a smaller space about three blocks to the east of 715 Locust St., the Register’s address.

The fate of 715 Locust?

It has been turned into luxury, well lighted loft apartments.

The buyers of the Star, Galion Inquirer, Mt. Gilead News, Lima News and others, have experience in the big newspaper world. They had ties to the Chicago Sun Times and the Dallas Morning Herald.

But they, like others who wish to continue in newspapering, realize one important fact.

News now isn’t about the latest big plane crash, an update on Isis news.

What’s important to more is the news of the community.

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McZENA MUSE

Louise Swartzwalder