Friday, January 09, 2009

Cutbacks up, morale down at Peoria Journal Star

Ugh. Morale is down, really down, at the Peoria Journal Star. And it's all tied to the loss of newsroom jobs.

Jerry Klein is out at the Peoria Journal Star. Klein retired several years ago, but the respected columnist and arts writer continued to write a column for Sunday paper (although frequency had dropped recently). He was told today that this column was being dropped. How much money GateHouse is saving by dropping a less-than-weekly column, I don’t know.

Also, Don Baker — former teacher who wrote sports on a part-time basic for decades — was let go as well. As my source says: “Baker covered almost everything kind of sport, an uncomplaining and competent guy in an industry run by weak whiners.”

Another source sells me today what I am hearing from almost everyone still working there: Morale is low because of the staff reductions, but a core of reporters continue to plug away out of a commitment to their profession.

GateHouse Media decided to not replace two reporters who have left: Erinn Deshinsky (night cops) and Frank Radosevich II (East Peoria and medical beat). This source used the phrase “downright depressing and scary.” Everyone is certain there are more reductions on the way. Right now, some beats are being handed out to full-timers who already have their own beats to cover, or they are going to interns.

Also — special sections like the Family and KJS pages — are being reduced or eliminated, my source says.

The newsroom is protected by a union contract, so if there are involuntary layoffs, senior staffers won’t be affected. But how many more reductions in staff can the PJS endure before it becomes impossible to perform acts of journalism at an even adequate level? When staffing is so low it’s a struggle to fill the newshole with any kind of copy whatsoever, how can readers expect reporters to be real watchdogs and make that extra phone call or two?

I am told a visitor to the newsroom would be greeted by a vista of empty desks. It’s a depressing scene.

Crossposted to Peoria Pundit, part of the Blog Peoria Project.


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