A Publication of WTVP

Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century is universally considered to be among the most important inventions in history. Gutenberg’s press opened up a world of information previously inaccessible to the mass citizenry, facilitating an information revolution that led to the scientific, artistic and cultural advances of the Renaissance.

One of these advances was the rise of newspapers, the first form of mass media publishing, which spread across Europe in the 17th century and played an integral role in our own American Revolution. Four hundred years later, the venerable institution stands at a crossroads. Most obviously, the rise of the Internet has shot holes in the industry’s business model and called into question its very future.

In central Illinois, the Peoria Journal Star has long been the region’s unrivaled source of local journalism, and that remains the case today, in spite of a reduction in staff and coverage in recent years. Those who remain are working harder than ever, doing the best they can as the paper and its parent company, GateHouse Media, grapple with a range of thorny issues, many of which lie beyond its control.

But what about those who left? What are they doing now? We caught up with seven former Journal Star employees, who reflected on their departures and offered their candid thoughts on the future of newspapers and journalism, paywalls, local control of media, and more.

Music, theater and art critic; movie and restaurant reviewer; feature writer, columnist and editorial writer; 39 years at Peoria Journal Star.

Describe your journalism background and career prior to joining the Journal Star.
Before joining the Journal Star in 1953, I worked as a surveyor and road man for the Illinois Highway Department. I had absolutely no journalistic background.

Under what circumstances did you leave the paper?
I retired from the Journal Star in 1992 under happy circumstances. Retirement pay was negligible, but ESOP was a blessing. I had a surprise retirement party on the deck of Gary Koch’s restaurant, The Lighthouse, along the river on Rome Road and another in the PJS newsroom.

Describe your career after leaving the Journal Star.
After retiring, I continued to write a weekly editorial page column for the Journal Star until I was “terminated” about three years ago because of the paper’s financial condition. They allowed me to write a farewell column, but changed it to imply I retired rather than being dismissed. I am now doing freelance writing. I have a regular column in the Catholic Post, and I am presently writing a history of the Peoria Symphony Guild.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
I’m afraid newspapers are facing an uncertain future. My generation still insists on reading a real newspaper (not online) with their morning coffee, but young people are simply not in the habit of reading newspapers. How to capture them is the real challenge.

I don’t think newspapers will ever disappear. Look at all the weeklies cropping up and look at the Wall Street Journal, which survives and grows because of darned good writing and interesting stories. I think the Journal Star was a much better paper when it was locally owned. It now seems to be run by bean counters and staffed by a skeleton crew. Alas.


I began at the Journal Star in June 1997 as a state reporter. In January 1998, I was named Lifestyles editor and remained in that position for seven years. In September 2005, I was named state editor, overseeing what was then the paper’s 14-county coverage area outside the Tri-County. That coverage area has since been reduced dramatically.

Describe your journalism background and career prior to joining the Journal Star.
I was in fifth grade when I knew I wanted to be a “writer.” It wasn’t until I began high school that I focused on journalism and worked all four years on the high school paper. In college, again, I worked from day one on the college paper and served as editor my junior year. While still in college, I worked part-time in the Journal Star sports department and completed my news internship there at the same time. I remained in sports part-time until May 1989 (3½ years), when I took my first full-time reporting job in Ottumwa, Iowa. From there I went to the Quad-City Times. After a couple years working outside of journalism, I returned to it when I returned to Peoria in June 1997.
Under what circumstances did you leave the paper?
My position as state editor was eliminated on December 4, 2009. The staffing for my area had been reduced greatly, and I had taken on work in other areas—online, website, etc. I was working that morning when I received a call to come to HR, and there I was told I would be escorted out, that my position, along with several others, was being eliminated.
How did I feel? Even today, it still hurts greatly how the people in that round of cuts were treated. I had been there 12 ½ years, but it was also my hometown paper. It was the paper I grew up reading and hoping to work at some day. To leave that tore at my heart, and still does today. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

Describe your career path since leaving the Journal Star. How did you feel upon leaving?
I was off for 10 months. During that time, I began taking classes in the web design program at Illinois Central College. I also sought out a variety of positions. In August of 2010, a couple editors at The Register-Mail in Galesburg (PJS sister paper) reached out to me. We had worked closely at times while I was at the Journal Star, and they thought well of me. They had just experienced a mass exodus of reporters leaving. The editor, Tom Martin, and assistant editor, Jay Redfern, created the position of assignments editor for me. I oversee daily assignments, plan for weekend coverage, and handle all assignments/writing for special sections and the weekly feature sections. I am now also editor of Knox County Neighbors, a 12-page (typically) broadsheet community newspaper that is produced by The Register-Mail, and editor of Western Illinois Family magazine, a monthly four-color glossy production that is being expanded into several other circulation areas beginning with the September issue.
What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
I think the future is in being local, local, local. Readers want to know what’s happening in their communities. We also have to balance that online product with the print product. Will future newspapers become a hybrid of both? I don’t have a crystal ball, and honestly, most of us are still just trying to adjust day by day to how quickly this industry is changing.

Thoughts on the future of journalism?
It seems we are edging out of the crisis mode that has grasped this industry in the last five years or so. Yes, staffs are leaner, resources are fewer, but we’re in a time now when we’re picking ourselves up and moving forward. Everyone needs to reconceptualize journalism as a “public good.” It is something people want to keep government and business in check. Gone are the days when a reporter could spend days or even weeks working on an in-depth piece. That’s unfortunate because that’s still what readers want. We need to somehow find a way to still provide those types of pieces while at the same time keeping up with the pace of online media sources.


I started at the Journal Star as a scholarship winner and intern in the summer of 1975, full-time as an obituary writer in 1979. Depending on when you start the clock, I was there for 32 or 35 years.

Describe your career path prior to working at the Journal Star.
In between college and full-time employment at the Journal, I spent a year working as a copywriter for the Clem T. Hanson Advertising Company in Moline.

Under what circumstances did you leave the paper? How did you feel upon leaving?

I left March 18th, taking a buyout in lieu of a layoff. I felt numb. This was not my plan. But thanks to previous publishers Henry Slane and John McConnell, dating back to the days when the paper was employee-owned, I had the option to go.

What are your current and/or future career plans?
Writing, writing and writing. And a bit of teaching about writing. Journalism was always a bit of a detour, but I loved the chance to advocate for people. It developed into a mission, and that platform was very hard to give up. But I will never stop writing, in some form or another.

So now I’m making progress on a long-delayed book. It’s a murder mystery which involves a journalist who bears a remarkable resemblance to, ah, me. She’s smarter, thinner and feistier, though.

Then there is, a business I’ve been developing with a partner. We help people tell their own stories, in their own words, with their own photos. It’s a two-hour Q&A session captured on DVD. Then we write the story and lay it out on a page as if it were a newspaper feature. While a lot of people say they are going to do something like this, few actually do. Most people just wish they had done something after it’s too late.

Setting up a business has been a bit daunting. Your readers know that better than most people. But getting compelling stories on the record—even a private record—is one of the reasons I stayed in journalism. One couple we talked to had been married and worked together in their family business for 65 years. He was a Marine on Iwo Jima. When he told his full tale, she turned to us and said, “I’ve never heard that before.” That was a blast.

Along with those ventures, I’m doing some freelance writing. My main client so far is the Journal Star, which asked me to cover Fulton and Mason counties. It’s an opportunity to use 35 years of skills—and includes Emiquon, which I consider one of the most important initiatives in central Illinois. So why not?

Finally, Bradley University has offered me a chance to teach journalistic writing to undergrads for the last couple of years. The energy there is fantastic. I tell the kids that the journalism business may be in crisis, but the journalism skill set is needed now more than ever.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
God only knows. Supposedly, there is a Chinese curse which goes, “May you live in interesting times.” The last couple of years have been quite interesting.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Internet is not killing newspapers, although it certainly isn’t helping. Heavy debt levels from a buying frenzy at the top of a media market which crashed are not the Internet’s fault. Like radio or television before it, the Internet is another way to distribute information. Actually, many newspapers are making money, they just aren’t hitting traditionally high profits—and they aren’t making enough to pay historically high debts.

No, the legacy media—not just newspapers—appear to be committing suicide. We should have owned the Internet wave, not wiped out. Can you imagine what would happen to a restaurant which gave hot meals out the back door for free, but told paying customers to pay top-dollar for yesterday’s hash? And what if that restaurateur had a multi-million-dollar mortgage?

Then push the analogy from the other side. That restaurant is covered by the health department and has rules to follow. Front door or back, you can be reasonably sure the food is safe. On the Internet grill, there’s no such guarantee. Are you going to eat whatever gets handed out for free? Many people do. The public debate now nauseates, thanks to a lot of half-baked ideas.

My guess is that a massive scandal and/or lawsuit will be required to expose the flaws in this wide-open Internet system. Some bogus story will be shown up as a sack of lying drivel; its target will say “enough,” and call an attorney. When folks are made accountable for the unsubstantiated garbage they lob out there for world-wide consumption, it will slow the flow of crud.


Sports Editor, 2002-2009. Assistant Sports Editor, 1995-2002.

Describe your career prior to working at the Journal Star.
In newspapers all my life. In May of 1988, I was hired as sports editor of the Arizona Daily Sun. I became news editor just prior to leaving in 1991. From March of 1991 to 1994, I was news copy chief at the Las Vegas Sun. Then, from early 1994 to leaving in March of 1995, I was sports editor of the Sun.

Under what circumstances did you leave the paper?
I was laid off from the Journal Star in December 2009. Six non-guild members were let go that day, including State Editor Lisa Coon. I was somewhat devastated, and as time has moved on, I am more and more resentful that our little set of layoffs included no buyout terms. Almost every other round of huge layoffs came with buyouts and/or severance packages superior to ours.

What are your current and/or future career plans?
My primary intention is to teach at the collegiate level. This is why I am pursuing my master’s degree. I have yet to find any full-time work since I was let go, and my grad school plans are kind of on hold as I need the money to pay for it.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
I held for a long time that newspapers would somehow survive. I figured that regardless of medium (i.e., if everything moved to the Web and there were no papers), the reporting teams and other apparatuses would ensure newspaper companies a place—that the public would need those reporters plying their trade.

I don’t think that now. I believe the upper management of newspaper companies was so slow in recognizing the extent of the sea change that they’ve made their companies financially insolvent, or close to it. As you know, they don’t employ impressive armies of reporting and editing talent anymore. The lion’s share of papers have marginal web people at best and most have rather lousy websites.

I now see newspapers as on a path previously traveled by Blockbuster Video and typewriter stores: a business model that will be swept away by technology that replaces its product.

Thoughts on the future of journalism itself?
I am now left to believe there will always be journalism. While I have doubts, I do believe that. My concern lies with the livelihood of the journalists. There need to be quick changes in terms of providing journalists places to work and get a living wage out of it. There are endless Internet outlets with pseudo-journalism asking employees to work for $10 an hour with no benefits. Hell, I applied for two such $200-a-week positions just today. But there are very few Politico and Huffington Post-type sites that gainfully employ any reasonable number of journalists.

What you’ll see—what you’ve already seen—is a countless supply of self-appointed (and, too often, self-trained) journalists doing what [local blogger] Billy Dennis and the like do locally. Allegedly watchdogging local governmental outfits, but doing it with no back-checking, no editing, and, for my money, way too close-minded of a critical outlook going into every story.

As for broadcast journalism, that has been dying on the vine for a long time. Go to a radio or TV studio and try to find a true reporter. There aren’t many. In radio, they all have to double in sales. In TV, there are some, but the losses on the reporting side are huge and on the technical side are even worse.


Outdoor writer at the Journal Star for 12 years.

Describe your career path prior to working at the Journal Star.
After graduating from college, where I spent four years working on the Cornell Daily Sun, a quality five-day-per-week college paper, I moved to Illinois and started working for the Champaign News-Gazette. After about a year there, I went on to become a sports reporter at the Decatur Herald & Review. I eventually became sports editor in Decatur, before leaving that job to come to the Journal Star.

Under what circumstances did you leave?
I left the Journal Star on September 16, 2010, after purchasing Heartland Outdoors magazine. Managers at the JS decided I could not do both jobs, since it was an advertising and editorial conflict of interest. What’s more, they also decided I could not provide freelance copy to the paper because of this conflict. Some irony there, since at least one JS staffer works on a radio station. But whatever. A few months later, they decided I could not even run an advertisement in the newspaper because I was a competitor. That pissed me off. So I don’t have much fondness left for the employer I once praised to anyone who would listen. Such is life.

I was nervous about leaving because I considered myself a life-long newspaper person. Striking out to publish my own magazine was a huge leap of faith, even though the publication we purchased had a 24-year history of success and a good reputation statewide among hunters, anglers and boaters.

At the same time, I was excited and relieved. The newspaper world of today is nothing like the newspaper world I got to know first as a paperboy in Buffalo, New York (delivering the Buffalo News) and later as a writer and editor. To tell you the truth, I felt a little bit like I was escaping a sinking ship, sad as that is to say. And I’m not the only one who expressed that opinion.

I have not regretted the decision to leave at all. Well, the health benefits were nice. My teeth will never be as clean as they were while I worked at the JS. But my attitude is much better. Work is fun again, like it was when I first joined the Journal Star and was part of what was then the best Illinois newspaper outside of Chicago.

Describe your current and/or future career plans.
My wife and I own Heartland Outdoors and We publish our monthly magazine, sell and design ads, lay out stories and even deliver the magazine to many subscribers. So I’ve gone back to my roots as a delivery boy.

Our hope is to build our web advertising base while maintaining a viable print product in the years to come. I still see the value in printed reading material, but I am not naïve about the importance of the Internet. I am pleased, though, at how many people tell me they still like to hold a magazine in their hands instead of looking at a computer screen. Most of them are 40 or older, but it’s nice to hear.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
Newspapers? I still love them. I dropped my Journal Star subscription for a few weeks and then got a fabulous offer to come back. The subscription deal was better than when I worked there! My advice is to drop the paper for a few weeks and see what you get in return!

Anyway, I still subscribe to the Journal Star, though it doesn’t take long to read these days. Even the once-superb sports section has less and less information these days. Sad. Mostly I read online. Even that doesn’t take long. And I think that’s the problem papers have to solve. If there’s no good content, there’s not much reason to buy.

Thoughts on the future of journalism?
The future of journalism is anybody’s guess. There will always be a need for people to gather content and to write stories. Bloggers will not be the answer as news gatherers. Newspapers need to do a better job figuring out how to be the conduits for that information. I could care less about television journalism (is there still such an animal alive?), so I won’t even include that medium in this answer.

Anything else you would like to add?
I think newspapers have to stop giving their content away for free. That’s not what I thought at first. At first I thought the Internet was the key to the future for papers and that sharing content was the key. The money would follow, I figured. Well, not yet. And the Internet is still the future. But papers have to do a better job of finding ways to make money off the web. The old model of a 14-inch story next to an ad doesn’t work. People don’t need just a bunch of 14-inch stories once a day. They need content all day, constant updates. Small readable bursts. Pictures. Video. Add those to 14-inch stories and you’ve got a better platform. That’s the way many papers have gone and the websites are attracting plenty of readers. Not enough advertisers, yet.

Meanwhile, though, the paper doesn’t offer as much as the Web. It’s boring compared to the Web. Understaffed. Redundant. “We’ve already read this on the Web,” people say. A paper needs to offer more, not less in order to float. But I don’t think that’s possible if the paper is owned by stockholders who gather every few months and want blood. And I don’t think you can give the stories away for free on the Web and expect people to pay for them. We don’t run our Heartland Outdoors magazine stories on the website. We want people to find the magazine. To seek it out. And then we cross promote both products. But we try to limit shared content as much as possible. I look at them as helping each other. And the magazine is still the cash cow, though web ads are doing better by the day. 


East Peoria/Pekin/Tazewell County reporter; also filled in as assignment editor, courts reporter and cops reporter. Worked at PJS eight years.

Describe your career path prior to joining the Journal Star.
Prior to my employment at the PJS in 2003, I worked two years for the Lincoln Courier, a small daily in Lincoln, the county seat of Logan County. At the time, it was also owned by Copley; it is now owned by GateHouse. As a general assignment reporter, my beat responsibilities spanned from police and fire to county government and courts. For the two years I was there, I gained great experience and was able to improve my reporting and writing skills. It was here I covered my first murder story: 11-month-old Daneysia Williams died after being drop-kicked against a bedroom wall by her mother’s boyfriend. I will never forget it, for many reasons.
Under what circumstances did you leave the paper?
I did not want to leave. I had achieved my goal of working for my hometown newspaper and was quite content for most of my career there. Co-workers became friends. We were one big happy family; well, as happy as you could be with all the Type-A personalities and stresses of the job. Soon after Copley sold the PJS to GateHouse, the “family” slowly started to disband. Rounds of buyouts were offered. When that wasn’t enough, there were layoffs, followed by more buyouts.

Every day I dreaded going to work for fear that more of my co-workers were going to be walked out of the building by security. It was a constant environment of uneasiness and sadness—to look across the newsroom at the sea of empty desks, when early in my career I didn’t have my own desk because there weren’t any available, made me feel empty on the inside, as now I could have my pick from a dozen vacant ones.

By then, the paper had undergone two size reductions and sections were eliminated or revamped, albeit the price going up. I took on the responsibilities of at least one other reporter, if not two—we all did—as management struggled to find a way to provide the same amount of coverage with fewer bodies. Being yanked off an assignment to cover another, irregular schedules…the black cloud that hung over One News Plaza was starting to get the best of me.

I knew I had to embark down a different career path, as my future at the PJS was uncertain. I left the paper on my own after being offered the job at the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. My last day was April 29th. Anyone that has worked somewhere for a significant amount of time knows that making the decision to leave is difficult; I felt awful. This time it was me leaving the “family.” I felt like I was disappointing the remaining members, like I was abandoning them. It was one of the hardest moments of my life—leaving a profession I had known for 10 years for one that I barely knew anything about. I owe it to my journalism background for helping me achieve my new career goal in the communications and public relations field.

What are your current and/or future career plans?
I have loved every minute of my new job at the PACVB. I am still writing every day and interacting with the various media personalities from the newspaper, television and radio, so while I am officially no longer a member of the media family, I get to pretend to be.

Working for the PACVB is similar to my old job at the PJS, and I don’t plan to go anywhere soon. I get to meet new people every day, attend ribbon cuttings and grand openings, and get sneak peeks of venues and programs, all in an effort to promote tourism and lure visitors to the Peoria area. I am constantly learning new things about Peoria, even though I grew up here, and am likewise meeting new and interesting people. My co-workers are talented and very dedicated, and I thank them for having patience with me as I learn the duties of my new position. The job is challenging and fast-paced, something else the PJS prepared me for.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
Someday, there will no longer be print editions. The majority of newspaper customers are the elderly population; as their generation disappears, so will the demand for the print edition. Obtaining news and information online is the future of newspapers. We’re already there, and it will continue to develop more and more into the future. And yes, I certainly agree with charging readers an affordable rate to read news content on a website. I hope that as the print edition is phased out and more people begin to read their news online, that the complaining of having to pay for news on a website ends.

Thoughts on the future of journalism itself?
There will always be a future for journalism. Just because newsroom staffs are being slashed across the nation doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for educated, professionally trained journalists. Who else can the public rely on to give unbiased coverage of a school board meeting, the latest homicide or community gathering? Journalists are the watchdogs for the public, and as taxpayers they have a right to know how their leaders are behaving and spending tax dollars.


Sports reporter, 1992-2007; features reporter, 2007-2009; news reporter, 2009-2010.

Describe your career prior to working at the Journal Star.
I started working in the Sports Department as an intern/part-timer my last two years of college, eventually earned a full-time position and never left until 2010.

Under what circumstances did you leave the paper?
For career reasons, my then-girlfriend (now fiancée) moved from Peoria back to her native Chicago in 2010. While we were trying to coordinate our careers in the same city, Journal Star parent company GateHouse News Service announced it was laying off eight people from the newsroom that April. Since I was already looking to move for personal reasons, I agreed to a severance package to take the place of one of the eight people with less seniority who were going to be laid off. Fortunately, I was able to quickly find non-journalism writing work as a web content consultant in Chicago.

Although the timing worked out well for me, it was bittersweet to leave. The Journal Star was the newspaper I read every day while growing up in East Peoria. Working there was a dream job. I worked alongside many talented people and felt proud of the high level of journalism the Journal Star could accomplish as a mid-sized newspaper. When you work somewhere for almost two decades, you also make great friends who you’re used to seeing on an almost daily basis. Walking out of the office after my last day of work, it felt pretty strange. I was moving on to new experiences in a different city, but it was sad to walk away from something that had been such a major part of my life.

Describe your career after leaving the Journal Star.
Since leaving the paper in April 2010, I have been living in Chicago and working as a consultant and freelance writer. On July 11th, I resumed my journalism career as a reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business. It is printed weekly, with a strong online and email presence on daily news. Considering the overall state of journalism hiring, I’m extremely fortunate to be working at one of the top news organizations in Chicago.

What are your thoughts on the future of newspapers?
The newspaper industry has made a lot of self-destructive decisions over the years, but print journalists still create the best product out there. Newspapers will continue to evolve from a print-only form to a mostly online product that combines old-fashioned, highly-detailed reporting with newer elements like photo galleries, video, audio, blogs, message boards, social media and whatever else comes along. I still love to hold a newspaper or magazine in my hands, but there probably will be a day when most publications are online-only.

Thoughts on the future of journalism itself?
I think Americans will end up with the kind of journalism they deserve. If they demand in-depth information on their community, their country and their world, and are willing to pay for it, they’ll continue to get it. If not, they’ll continue to see a more and more watered-down version of news analysis. iBi


And more from our roundtable of JS’ers…

» Will the Paywall Work?
In March of this year, the Peoria Journal Star began charging for access to content on Under the “paywall” model, users can access a certain number of articles per month at no charge before being prompted for payment. Certain pieces of content—weather alerts, obituaries, video clips, school cancellations and public service news, for example—are exempt from the monthly limit.

As Internet users have traditionally been loath to pay for online content, the success of the initiative remains to be seen. Most observers see it as a necessary step in the evolution of the newspaper business—after all, the news does not gather and write itself for free. And yet, there are downsides. Critics suggest that it will be very difficult to convince people to pay when the majority of online content is free and other outlets offer similar content at no charge. They also point out that paywalls hurt online traffic and ad revenue by reducing page views and external links. We asked some of our roundtable participants for their thoughts:
LISA COON: Broadly speaking, paywalls are a mixed bag. They are not for smaller papers that have competition from free “news” providers such as community bloggers or online-only community reporting sites. To wall up the content just invites those free competitors the chance to take the readers away. For large media outlets where the value of their product is not something that can be replicated by a free competitor, a paywall makes some sense; however, there is research that questions whether it generates any true revenue.
RYAN ORI: These have to work for newspapers to thrive, unless online ad revenue increases dramatically. One of the biggest mistakes the newspaper industry made was training people to think online content should always come free. I would never walk into a restaurant and demand a free meal. I’d never expect to drive a car off the lot without writing a check. But ask readers to buy an online subscription, and you can hear the howling. If The New York Times and other larger newspapers succeed with their paywall models, it may help change the mindset and allow mid-sized and smaller papers to gain more online subscribers. If you’re paying money to have a staff, office building, computers, phones, vehicles and a long list of other expenses, you need paying customers to stay afloat. The relatively tiny amount I spend each year on newspaper, magazine and online subscriptions is probably the best bang for the buck I enjoy on any product.

Too late. Like most web decisions, the newspaper suits waited too long on this one. The consumer will find free outlets. They erred in two ways: 1) They could have trained the consumer to buy web news in a way it always bought “dead tree” news, but these suits hemmed and hawed too long. Therefore, 2) they eroded the respect paid to the journalists over that time. Far too big a chunk of the consuming public is content to be alerted of news by Facebook or a blogger, and far too small a percentage of the audience feels it needs a trained reporter to sort out any facts.

» On Local Control of Media…
Another significant issue on today’s media landscape, both here and across the nation, is that of local control—the local ownership and management of media. Quite simply, here in the Peoria area, just a handful of media outlets are actually owned and operated locally. The ongoing contract dispute between New York-based Granite Broadcasting and union members at WEEK and WHOI is just one example. Another is the Journal Star itself, since GateHouse Media, also based in New York, took over in 2007.

RYAN ORI: This is a huge issue. One of the biggest frustrations of past and present Journal Star employees is that it’s just one of many newspapers owned by GateHouse. If the overall company is struggling, decision-making starts to have a dramatic impact on the quality of the newspaper and employee morale. By the time I left, co-workers had the feeling that there was not much they could control. Even if you’re doing great work and your newspaper is profitable, outside factors can still lead to cutbacks in personnel, equipment, news pages and other resources.

When decision-makers aren’t in a community, there is less accountability. There’s nothing more demoralizing than an entire newsroom of people voting to give up the modest yearly pay raise mandated in their contract, for the overall good of the product, only to read about corporate executives awarding themselves bonuses much greater than your annual salary. It’s a mixed signal: Is the company struggling so badly that I need to give up cost-of-living raises? Or is it doing so well that executives deserve hefty bonuses? Journalists in Peoria and from coast to coast have asked themselves those questions in recent years. Subscribers are more observant than they’re often given credit for. If a newspaper continues to eliminate staff and gets thinner and thinner each month, even the most loyal, long-time reader can decide it no longer makes sense to pay for a diminished product.

TERRY BIBO: I’d like to see a return to locally-owned media. Some models have been floated, including not-for-profit options; few are operational. I’m not optimistic about this happening in the near-future. But within five years, I hope there will be a sustainable journalistic enterprise, even if it’s online rather than on paper.

JEFF LAMPE: Local control of media may well be the answer. I have worked at five different newspapers. Those that were under corporate ownership and had to please stockholders had real quality issues. I count the Journal Star in that group today. GateHouse Media has done nothing to help that paper. Nothing. But as few as five years ago, when the JS was owned by the Copley family, it was still a very good paper. Things happen that fast when all you care about is profit and you downsize every few months to keep shareholders happy. But I think that’s true in much of corporate America, not just the newspaper industry. We are just learning what everybody else learned the hard way years ago.

So yes, local ownership would be better in my book. I even believe there will be more of a place for small, very local papers in the next decade (so long as we still have a few folks who care about the printed word).

LISA COON: One of the things that worries me most is outsourcing of news currently being collected by local reporters. To suggest that a company in New Jersey can easily collect electronically the information that requires reporters to walk into a courthouse, police station or county assessor’s office to retrieve is ludicrous. And the fact that former journalists—and I do say former on purpose, because you are no longer a journalist if you’re taking jobs away from working reporters—are launching these outsourcing companies pains me greatly.

BILL LIESSE: I’m not smart enough to know this answer. I can see circumstances lining up for a huge swing back to local ownership, largely because most of the Gannetts and Pulitzers should be getting out of the newspaper business as the Copley family did. But is it utopian to think there are local business owners who will want to invest in such an uncertain proposition for altruistic reasons? Just to save the institution, so to speak? You also have to ask yourself if ownership, as we’ve known it, will be required. The future of journalism might be so micro in nature that each website has separate owners. Of course, looking long term, that model never lasts long in our capitalistic society, so 10, 20 or more years down the road, there will likely be new conglomerates buying up small sites and homogenizing those sites. iBi