BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME FREON?
It was a tough summer for campers who remain at the State Journal-Register. Down to a half-dozen news reporters (Springfield city hall reporter Mary Hansen, who’s taken a job at NPR Illinois, is the latest to leave), the paper has soldiered on in an era of cuts that have decimated newsrooms nationwide, and it shows in the product. Heck, Monday editions of the SJ-R barely have enough paper to wrap a fish. A decade ago, the paper had 81 newsroom employees. As of today, there are just 22, including photographers, editors, reporters and sports writers. There is no courts reporter. There is no full-time police reporter. There is no local news columnist. There is no metro editor. There are no librarians who once helped with research. The copy desk has been dissolved, with folks in Texas now writing headlines and figuring out whether the proper name is South Grand Avenue or Grand Avenue South or Grand South Avenue. There are, however, five sports writers in a town with no professional sports franchise. Go figure – it’s a safe bet that bean counters at GateHouse Media, the paper’s corporate parent, certainly have. But there are at least two bright spots. The paper apparently intends on hiring a city hall reporter to replace Hansen, given ads for the position that have appeared on help-wanted websites aimed at journalists. And for those who remain in the newsroom, there will, finally, be air conditioning. The paper’s AC went on the blink in July just as an epic heat wave was taking hold. GateHouse let ’em pant. Sources say that the situation has improved somewhat, but whether that’s due to HVAC patches, mild weather or a combination of the two isn’t clear. This week, a crane arrived to remove the building’s AC unit. It appears to be a case of better late than never. “The new air conditioner has arrived and is set to begin installation mid-September,” publisher Todd Sears wrote in his most recent newsletter. “While it doesn’t look like we’ll need it the remainder of the year, it will be ready to go for next summer!” Here’s hoping there’ll still be folks around to enjoy it during the next heat wave.