Once tops, Lansing now ‘incredible shrinking’ paper

Lansing State Journal veterans recall a vibrant newsroom a decade ago, with more than 20 reporters, “including three alone covering the state capital, and reliable coverage of the neighboring communities,” alternative weekly City Pulse says in a new story, “The Incredible Shrinking Lansing State Journal.”

Now, City Pulse says, “the LSJ’s staff list consists of seven news reporters and three business reporters. The daily capital newspaper, physically located five blocks from the dome, has been mostly relying on Associated Press wire copy for its news coverage since its last Capitol reporter, Chris Andrews, retired in February. One of the seven news reporters, Derek Wallbank, is leaving shortly, and the LSJ has no immediate plans to replace him. Instead, his position has become one of 13 the Journal is slicing off this month to satisfy parent corporation Gannett’s orders to eliminate 1,000 jobs. Of the 13 in Lansing, five will be by attrition; the rest will be layoffs.”

Amazing: I remember when, in the early 1990s, Gannett held up the LSJ as one of its best newspapers. How times have changed, huh?

Earlier: In Montgomery, watchdog reporting on a budget. Plus: paper-by-paper layoffs

[Image: this morning’s front page, Newseum]

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13 Responses to “Once tops, Lansing now ‘incredible shrinking’ paper”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    A heavy dose of AP copy, especially from the state’s paper of record, is a sure-fire way to reduce readership.

    Way to go! Lower newsprint costs in 2009!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    This story, along with the link Jim posted to the remaining Lansing executive staff, points out something about the layoffs that really bugs me. That is the obscene number of executives remaining and their absence from the layoff lists. This is an old philosophy adopted by the Pentagon which, during times of budget cutbacks, reduces the rank and file while leaving the generals untouched. The argument for this is that it takes 20 years to make generals, and you need someone who knows how things work to rebuild when good times return. But for GCI, layoffs of staffs while retaining the executive corps may have worked in previous recessions, but won’t work in this one. In past recessions, GCI knew that when good times returned, advertisers had no other economical option but to return to the monopoly newspaper to get their message out. But this recession comes as the ad market is being drastically rearranged thanks to the Internet, and newspapers no longer have a monopoly in their markets. Weakening their products in this downturn actually will hurt GCI’s long term, because the recession is giving a well-financed and agile competitor (Internet) an opportunity to expand its grip on the marketplace. Leaving the GCI executive brass untouched also means a huge drain on GCI revenues, because of the six-figure salaries these people are earning for work that really doesn’t show up in the final product. What is happening in Lansing is a good example of that, as circulation and ads are both collapsing. And this is not a usual recession, because there seems to be a growing consensus among economists I read that it is going to be the worst since the Great Depression, and last longer than we have seen in the last few decades, with a very slow recovery. A rather long post suggesting that the day of reckoning is coming for these executive sheep who are going along with GCI dictates without recognizing their jobs are very much on the line. If the GCI brass cherishes their paychecks, maybe some of them should stand up and revolt against following these ridiculous policies. Of course, I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

  3. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    A little context might help. It’s not like in the last decade the economy of Lansing, Michigan has actually improved. If newspapers really do reflect their communities, both Lansing and Detroit should be on life support.

    Even if the LSJ was privately owned, don’t you think it would be a leaner paper in 2008 than it was in the past?

  4. Jim Hopkins Says:

    To Mr. Yesterday: Yes. But the question is whether it needs to be as lean as it is right now, under any form of ownership.

  5. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    I love Google…

    City Pulse had this little nugget in a story about school choice. Some of this, not all, Jim, not all, helps explain why the LSJ is so lean..

    At a candidate’s meeting last week in preparation for the Nov. 4 Board of Education election, Sharon E. Banks, superintendent of the Lansing School District, says they’ve been fighting a series of negative trends. “The old times where people were working for General Motors are gone, and the percentage of our wealthier residents is decreasing,” Banks said. The superintendent referred to a recent study conducted by MSU researcher Bettie Landauer-Menchik showing the number of upper-income Lansing residents, or those residents making more than $80,000 per year, has dropped to 11 percent below the state average. “Lansing is falling further behind,” Banks said.

    Banks said that while the district lost 7.4 percent of its population since 1990, student enrollment has declined by 24 percent.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Streamlining newsroom management would go a long way toward helping put boots on the ground (or at least not slashing reporters more) and would be a newsroom confidence builder. How many AMEs does a paper need?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    How many AME’s does a newspaper need? As many as it takes to massage the ME’s or EE’s ego!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Most of the supervisors at each paper can pick up – haha – or probably already do – the duties of AMEs and MEs and do them BETTER and more efficiently than the people actually in those jobs. At least it has been that way at all the plants I’ve been at.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    We’ve lost all our AME’s.

    They turned into Content Editors, Web/Graphic Editors, Layout Editors, etc. Easy to can one of three AME’s, but if you only have one Presentation Editor, one Layout Editor, and one Web Editor each, well, every position is vital.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry gang – but the fat is still feeding at the trough in Lansing. The executive level, primarily the OC, is absolutely worthless. All of them could be shown the door tomorrow and the paper would still go out. What a shame they had to layoff “good people” to save their own butts. But hey, someone has to decide how many garbage cans are allowed in each department – and God knows it takes a round table of innovative thinkers to figure that one out.

    I suspect Priester is watching and waiting to make his move. I pray this guy will see through the back-biting, finger pointing bull that goes on and will start clearing the air – and clearing the offices.

    C’mon, Brian – you can do it. You are the 4th pub in 3 years. Morale sucks because the shit rolls down hill. Us little guys at the bottom aren’t afraid of change – we’re afraid you won’t change what what we know perfectly well is going on. The last 3 publishers didn’t have the cahones to do it. So, get on it man! Let’s have some good old fashioned head rolling of the 6 figure salary kind. You’ve done it before, in fact, your reputation precedes you.

    The truth is, Priester seems a pretty good guy. He MUST understand the people “leading” in Lansing are not forward thinking enough or motivated enough to bring the LSJ back to life in our economy. The current OC is only worried about their own paycheck (oh yes, and their next 2-week vacation that doesn’t get logged).

    We have young, fresh, innovative people left in Lansing (even after the layoffs). Give them the sail for a change, what would it hurt? Lansing is already as low as it can get.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Wow… spot on my friend, spot on.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    The problem with most newspaper is that the Ad directors are dinosours and do not know how to sell the far left product that the newsrooms are producing. Gannett’s problem is that they do not look at their product and make it more balanced.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    @ 9/02 –

    Amen.

    @ 9/10 – ad directors aren’t the only dinosaurs in newspapers.

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