Wednesday, September 25, 2013


For decades, the most commonly heard buzzword in newsroom staffing has been "diversity." Over the years the scope of what that term means has changed, slowly becoming more inclusive.

When I started in the newspaper business more than 44 years ago, newsrooms were, as they still sadly are today, primarily male dominated from management to worker bee level. Many newspapers began to officially recognize this as a problem in the early '70s and started talking about "diversity" in terms of trying more aggressively to hire female news staffers, a drive that seemed to reach its apex when Geneva Overholser was named the first female editor of The Des Moines Register in 1988. During her seven years in that post, Overholser led the paper to a public service Pulitzer and helped solidify its standing as one of the top 10 newspapers in the United States. Her success helped, in particular, to open more newspaper management doors for women across the country.

Meanwhile, although most newspapers still remain conscious of the need to hire and retain female staffers, the primary focus of newsroom diversity efforts slowly shifted from gender to race following the passage of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act in 1972. At some point, editors began looking around their newsrooms and realized that they saw very few black faces even at papers in cities where a substantial percentage of the residents were African Americans. Slowly, the nation's newspapers began the push to hire more black staffers, an effort which -- despite an extreme commitment on the part of many papers -- has met with what I believe is only limited success, but still continues.

Today, the primary drive for newsroom diversity has again shifted as newspapers push to become more ethnically diverse. Although newspapers have grown more conscious of the need to hire staffers of all sort of ethic backgrounds, the effort seems to be mainly focused on recruiting staffers of Hispanic origin, in large part because Hispanics have become nationally and in nearly every state the fastest growing minority population.

As an editor, I was -- and still am -- a strong supporter of every effort to make newsrooms more diverse in gender, race, ethnicity and sexual preference. I firmly believe that if a newspaper is going to effectively serve its community, it must strive to reflect that community's demographic make up. Yes, it's a difficult task, made even more so in recent years as newspapers have slipped into their financial morass that has led to staff reductions and frozen or reduced salaries, making it more difficult to recruit staffers of all sorts.

Nonetheless, the efforts must continue and, in fact, should be expanded beyond just cold demographics into an area of diversity that I am not sure has really been given anywhere near enough consideration to this point.

For lack of a better term, I will call it "experiential" diversity.

To date, the common thread throughout the various diversity drives has been the idea that gender, racial and ethic staff gaps must be filled by "qualified graduates" of college journalism programs. A mantra that ignores the fact that many of the best journalists this country has ever known never even went to college, much less graduated with degrees in journalism. Once upon a time -- including during the "heydays" of American newspaper in the '20s and '30s when nearly every major city had two, three, four or even more daily newspapers competing for dominance -- a large number of staffers started out as copy clerks who, in many instances, weren't even high school graduates. They learned the journalism craft from the ground up. They understood the news interests of the ordinary citizens of the communities their newspapers served because they were products of those communities and reflected them well.

I am not saying that newspapers need return to the days of hiring non-college grads and training them from the ground up. However, I do believe that to fully reflect and understand their communities, newspapers do need to give greater consideration to hiring staffers who didn't merely graduate from high school, go off to college to major in journalism and then offer themselves on the job market. Newspapers need to give greater consideration in hiring to a job candidate's background of life and educational experience.

Here's a for instance. If you are an editor, take a look around your newsroom. How many military veterans do you see, particularly among those staffers who are not creeping close to retirement and keeping in mind that after a decade of war in two countries we have more vets now than at anytime since the end of the Vietnam War?

When I retired as editor of The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, a few months ago, one of the things that worried the bejesus out of me was that fact that when I departed the staff, there wouldn't be a single person left who had ever served in the military. This worried me for a number of reasons, one of the most significant being that the area of deep South Texas The Monitor serves has one of the highest per capita population percentages of veterans in the nation and a substantial portion of them are subscribers. I can't even count the numbers of times over my nearly 12 years as editor that I caught potentially embarrassing mistakes regarding the military before they got into print. Granted some of them might seem, particularly to non-veterans, fairly inconsequential -- like referring to a former Marine as a soldier -- but to the many former Marines in our community, such a reference would be considered the sort of slap in the face that could shake their faith in the paper at a time when we can ill-afford to lose public confidence on any level.

My concern over the presence of veterans in newsrooms was brought home to me again this morning as I watched a news report on one of our local TV stations. A teenage Mexican national was arrested before crossing one of the local border bridges after apparently getting cold feet on a attempt to smuggle a hand grenade back into Mexico. He was seen tossing the device into a dumpster at a Whataburger just this side of the border and was arrested. In her report, the TV reporter referred to the grenade as "a dud." Which to me, as a veteran, would suggest that the suspect pulled the pin, tossed the grenade into the dumpster and it failed to go off. Most veterans know that a "dud," by definition, is an explosive device that fails to detonate. My guess is that the grenade was a "dummy," not a dud. A dummy grenade has no explosive charge. It is typically filled with sand instead of gunpowder and is used as training device to teach GI's how to throw a grenade without the risk of  doing something stupid and blowing their hand off. Consequently, I concluded that not only was the grenade a dummy, but so, too, was the TV reporter, who might have known better had she ever served in the military. What's more, she might have been saved the embarrassment had someone at her station been able to point out the difference between a dud and a dummy grenade.

The problem with life experience among today's news staffers, however, goes beyond merely how many have been in the military. How many have ever worked in a factory? How many have ever worked on a farm? How many have a physical handicap that does not impede their ability to gather information and write or edit copy and design pages? How many have ever had experience in any of the multitude of occupations filled by the people we expect to read our papers and trust us to understand what makes them tick and what is important news to them?

Unfortunately, many of the people who are involved in the employment process for America's newsrooms engage in a form of hiring snobbery. They are unwilling to "take a chance" on candidates who didn't have the right type of internships or no internships in college, or who didn't go to a "quality" journalism school, or who didn't even graduate from college but have been working perhaps for a couple of years on a weekly, or who got their training through one of the military's journalist training programs rather than from a college or university, or who display a strong desire for an opportunity to become a newspaper staffer despite having no training of any sort in the craft but, nonetheless, possess an ability to write and gather information.

For example, about a month or so before I retired, we posted a job opening for a copy editor/page designer, one of the toughest positions to fill at any newspaper.  Among the applications we received was one from a woman who was in the military. She had been trained in one of the military's journalist programs and had been working for several years as a copy editor/page designer for a military base newspaper. I wanted us to give her a serious look, but met resistance from some of my newsroom managers who felt that the military journalist training and the years of working for a base newspaper were not adequate. While we wrangled over that, she was hired by another newspaper that was more willing to take a chance and where, I am reasonably sure, she likely is performing up to expectations and preventing stupid mistakes regarding the military from getting into print.

Of course, there have been some noble efforts aimed at bringing people with possibilities but no formal journalism training into the newspaper business.

One of those was undertaken by Thomson Newspapers as part of it's broader Readership Inc. project that died when Thomson Corp. sold off its U.S. newspaper holdings in 2000. As part of the project, the company established a training program under which the newspapers would identify potential journalist candidates from among ordinary people in their communities who had a strong interest in becoming journalists and possessed decent spelling and grammar skills and displayed some rudimentary skills in information gathering and writing. The candidates could have been housewives, hair dresser, carpenters, bus drivers, teachers or factory workers. Those selected were to be sent to a training site where they would undergo an intensive, crash course of journalism training. Upon successful completion of that course, they were to be sent back to the newspaper that selected them where their training would continue under the watchful eyes of trained staff mentors. It was an innovative idea that could have yielded some potentially outstanding journalists who possessed a background of life experience and understanding outside the newspaper business.

Unfortunately, the Thomson training program concept didn't have a life beyond the sale of the papers and, considering the financial condition of most newspaper groups today, it is not too likely that anyone else will pickup on the idea and run with it.

That, however, does not mean newspapers should just ignore experiential diversity. Instead, if they hope to continue to be as relevant as possible to the communities they serve, they need to embrace the concept and value of experiential diversity as much as they do diversity in gender, race and ethnicity.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends and colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Probably since the first American newspaper began publishing them, obituaries have been among the most popular items with readers. I sometimes think that people open up the paper and immediately go to the obits to make sure their name isn't listed and, if not for that reason, they at least check the deaths to see if anyone they know has passed away.

But, for whatever reason, scientific readership surveys keep showing that obits are immensely popular with readers. Which makes me wonder why newspaper don't try to do more with them these days.

Once upon a time, newspapers who's managers understood the appeal of the obituary page actually strove to put some life into the final notices -- and readers seemed to love it.

When I worked at The Louisville Times in Louisville, Ky., from the early to the mid 70s, we and our sister paper, The Courier-Journal, had a policy that every day's obit page would be led with a well-written "feature obit" -- a piece that expanded on the life and times of one of those who had passed away. Sometimes it was a well known local person, but most of the time it was just an Average Joe Sixpack who was being awarded his 15 minutes of fame after already having shuffled off the mortal coil.

At The Times, we had a master obit writer named Kenny Taylor, a former reporter and city editor who had gotten enough up in years that he no longer desired the stress of the city desk, but was not ready to retire. Kenny was about as old school as you could find in those days, right down to regularly wearing one of those green eyeshades that used to be so omnipresent in old-time newsrooms.

Kenny was a wonderful writer who would carefully select his feature obit subject after reading all of the incoming obits and then get on the phone and work magic with a whirlwind of pre-Google fact and information gathering and checking. His subjects included former mayors and congressmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, auto mechanics, career criminals and janitors -- anyone whose basic obit information piqued his interest. He would make calls to family members, friends, co-worker, enemies, bosses, anyone who could provide a picture of what the deceased's life had been like and what sort of person they had been. Then -- sometimes after conducting almost as many interviews (albeit, brief interviews) as some reporters would do for an investigative story -- Taylor would craft a daily masterpiece that could make you laugh or cry or shake your head in disbelief, but would always leave you feeling that you had personally known the deceased. It was, for sure, an art form with him, it made him every readers' favorite Louisville Time writer. In fact, among our subscribers, Kenny may have had best known name on staff.

Today, that art form has become largely lost from newspapers in which obituaries are no longer a final tribute to the lives of people in the community, but just one more potential revenue source. Obits once were entirely free and now they are almost entirely paid and often are little more than essentially a category of classified ads that readers still turn to despite the fact that they are dull, dry and lifeless and all too often written by funeral directors who have no writing skills or understanding of grammar and newspaper style.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled last week when a recent obituary from The Savannah Morning News started making the social media rounds. I became acquainted with it when a local friend who is a funeral director posted it on his Facebook page, urging all of us to take the time to read it from beginning to end. I did, and found it to be a masterwork that is well-written, humorous and a real tribute and memorial to the dearly departed William Freddie McCullough. Even though it does have a tendency to be more than slightly sexist, it is still a wonderful read. For those of you who haven't seen it, here it is in its entirety, just as it appeared on the Savannah paper's website:

                                                                                                                                                            William Freddie McCullough - BLOOMINGDALE - The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. He was a master craftsman who single -handedly built his beautiful house from the ground up. Freddie was also great at growing fruit trees, grilling chicken and ribs, popping wheelies on his Harley at 50 mph, making everyone feel appreciated and hitting Coke bottles at thirty yards with his 45. When it came to floor covering, Freddie was one of the best in the business. And he loved doing it. Freddie loved to tell stories. And you could be sure 50% of every story was true. You just never knew which 50%. Marshall Matt Dillon, Ben Cartwright and Charlie Harper were his TV heroes. And he was the hero for his six children: Mark, Shain, Clint, Brandice, Ashley and Thomas. Freddie adored the ladies. And they adored him. There isn't enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie's past. There isn't enough space in the Bloomingdale phone book. A few of the more colorful ones were Momma Margie, Crazy Pam, Big Tittie Wanda, Spacy Stacy and Sweet Melissa (he explained that nickname had nothing to do with her attitude). He attracted more women than a shoe sale at Macy's. He got married when he was 18, but it didn't last. Freddie was no quitter, however, so he gave it a shot two more times. It didn't work out with any of the wives, but he managed to stay friends with them and their parents. In between his many adventures, Freddie appeared in several films including The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, A Time for Miracles, The Conspirator, Double Wide Blues and Pretty Fishes. When Freddie took off for that pool party in the sky, he left behind his sons Mark McCullough, Shain McCullough and his wife Amy, Clint McCullough and his wife Desiree, and Thomas McCullough and his wife Candice; and his daughters Brandice Chambers and her husband Michael, Ashley Cooler and her husband Justin; his brothers Jimmie and Eddie McCullough; and his girlfriend Lisa Hopkins; and seven delightful grandkids. Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories.

I don't know this for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that the McCullough obit may have been the single best read thing in that day's edition of The Savannah Morning News. And, as far as I can tell, it likely is the only thing from the Savannah daily, at least in recent years, that has gone virtually viral on social media where I have seen it now posted by numerous people on Facebook and tweeted and retweeted many times on Twitter, making William Freddie McCullough -- once just an Extraordinary Joe Sixpack to his friends in tiny Bloomingdale, Ga. -- a national and maybe even international celebrity.

To my way of thinking, at a time when even "community" newspapers are struggling to maintain the hearts and minds of their readers, wonderfully written feature obits -- like William Freddie McCullough's or those once produced by Kenny Taylor for The Louisville Times -- could be a powerful draw. They can be a wonderful tribute to an interesting, though perhaps virtually unknown, person and can go a long way to saying we understand the people and communities we serve.

Of course, I would not feel comfortable recommending the concept of putting life back into obits if I did not also offer a word of caution. There is such a thing as being overly eager.

When I was a reporter for the now long defunct Bloomington (Ind.) Tribune during my last semester of college at Indiana University, we entrusted the obits to high school part-timer who wanted desperately to become a reporter someday. That desire drove him to constantly strive to put some life into the obits, especially if he could give them a news edge. Unfortunately, his work was none to closely supervised or edited. After all, how big a problem could an obit be, right?

Well, one morning a Ford Mustang crashed into a ditch in front of our building on the outskirts of town and flipped over, killing the teenage girl driver. Our obit writer dashed outside to watch the rescue operation and after the girl's body had been pulled from the wreckage, he reached inside the car and got the registration from the where it was contained in a case clipped onto the visor. He took down the owner's name and address, replaced the registration and then dashed inside to check the Criss-Cross directory. He quickly discovered that the owner -- the dead girl's father -- worked in management at the factory just across the street and made a fast phone call, getting to the dad before he had been contacted by police or his wife. The obit writer then hurriedly wrote the obit and got it in in time for that afternoon's edition. Unfortunately, no one but him read the obit before it was published and this paragraph appeared high up in the final notice:

"When informed of his daughter's death Mr. Smith (not the real name) said, 'You've got to be joking.' The joke, however, was on him." Needless to say, the paper made quick and quiet cash restitution to the grieving family.


Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends and colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


A friend of mine, Matt Robertson -- who, among his numerous other duties is the web and, I assume, social media, editor for The Morning News in Florence, S.C. -- posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:

"I'm taking an informal poll here. George Zimmerman's marital status and woes -- news or drek. You tell me."

He didn't exactly get a slew of responses, but more than 60 percent of those he did get leaned toward "drek." One of the more interesting responses came from Bernie Elliott who wrote: "Drek, unless she shoots him, then its karma."

My response at the time (with the profanity deleted) was: "Considering that these are keys to what may have caused him to kill Trayvon Martin...I vote news (as well as drek)."

Twenty-four hours later, and with more of a swirl developing today over his latest defense for allegedly violent behavior -- in this case against his now estranged wife and her father -- which essentially is "I was in fear of my life; she pulled and iPad on me," I stand by that statement.

Following his controversial arrest and trial for the slaying of Trayvon Martin -- an African-American Florida teenager with no serious record of violent behavior -- Zimmerman has managed to stay in the public spotlight thanks to his part in the rescue of a motorist following a traffic accident and then a couple of traffic citations, his wife's decision to possibly seek a divorce and, now, his alleged threats of violence against his wife and her father.

One would think that after his acquittal in the Trayvon Martin trial, Zimmerman would be trying very hard to stay out of the public spotlight. If that, in fact, is the case, you must admit that he hasn't done a very good job of it.

Frankly, it appears to me that Zimmerman has a strong propensity for finding trouble, or maybe he's simply a natural-born screwup. Either way, he just keeps on attracting trouble and media attention.

Naturally, the argument can be made that he is showing up in the news more simply because he is getting more attention from the media than some other Average Joe Sixpack. Of course, as is often the case with "celebrities," Zimmerman's antics since the trial are getting far more prominent play on television and on the Internet than in the print media, where the latest stories about him are largely being relegated to inside pages except in some papers in Florida, where his latest alleged offense occurred.

But, is all of this, in the classic sense, news? Well, yes...and no.

I am not sure that the fact that he got a couple of traffic tickets is earth shattering. Any of us could get picked up for driving too fast and the police dash-cam video most likely won't show up on the network evening news programs, and I am not at all sure that Zimmerman's traffic stops should have unless he had led police on a high-speed chase or if significant road rage had been involved. That was not the case and, in my opinion, the news coverage those incidents got was not warranted.

However, I do believe this latest incident, in which he allegedly threatened violence against his estranged wife and her father, is news.

For the sake of transparency (excuse me for employing that buzzword), I will admit that I was among those who did not feel justice was in anyway served by Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The way I see it, a kid is dead for no really good reason and the person who killed him got off Scot free based on Florida's ludicrous "stand your ground" law that is little more than a license to kill. I blame the law in this case and, to a degree, the prosecutors, not the jury.

Clearly, at least to me, Zimmerman armed himself and went out looking for trouble on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, in Stanford, Fla.  He found it when he accosted the 17-year-old Martin, who's only discernible offense before getting into the scuffle with Zimmerman was that he was a black kid walking through a largely white neighbor wearing a hoodie after dark. At the time, Martin was armed only with Skittles and a soda. If Zimmerman had minded his own business, Martin would be alive today and Zimmerman would not keep finding himself on television in the public eye.

And now, with this latest incident, he's done it again. The argument certainly can be made that Zimmerman was courting -- if not outright looking for -- trouble Monday when he showed up at the house in Lake Mary, Fla., where he and his wife, Shellie, lived during the trial. His estranged wife and her father -- who, together, own the house -- were there when Zimmerman and several friends arrived. Apparently, George, Shellie and her father had some sort of heated exchange that prompted her to call 911 and allege that he had threatened her and her father.

Apparently, at some point during the confrontation, Shellie Zimmerman started filming with her iPad, which ended up getting smashed, allegedly by Zimmerman, who apparently is contending that Shellie assaulted him with the device.

Police are trying to sort the whole mess out and could end up charging someone with domestic violence.

Granted, all this is still quite convoluted, but I, nonetheless, believe this incident IS newsworthy because it does show that Zimmerman apparently has a knack for placing himself in tense situations that have a potential for turning violent and then may let anger -- or fear -- get the better of him. These factors, which if better known about him before or during the trial, might have made a difference in the way the jurors viewed his behavior on the night of Feb. 29, 2012.

In her initial 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman alleged that George threatened her and her father with a gun. Police did not find a gun and Shellie later recanted the gun allegation. However, there apparently was a tussle of some sort between George and her father which may have resulted in the father getting punched in the nose -- more violent behavior on Zimmerman's part.

All things considered, Shellie Zimmerman and her father may have been quite fortunate that George did not have a weapon. After all, under Florida law, he could have contended that he was "standing his ground" against a woman armed with an iPad.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends for colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I always become a little unnerved every time I read about another newspaper or newspaper group being sold, and with good reason. Sometimes those sales can make things better for the papers changing hands, but sometimes they make matters worse -- anywhere from marginally to much worse.

I know whereof I speak. Seven of the nine newspapers I worked for during my career have been sold at least once since I started there -- and almost none of those puts out as good a news product as it did when I was working there. This, at least to me, seems to be the case particularly when newspapers end up -- for whatever reason -- being acquired by investment banking groups which don't care about the news product so much as they do the money they can make or, in the case of bankruptcy acquisitions, recover.

However, declines in news product quality are not always the direct fault of new owners. Often, it seems to have more to do with the deterioration of newspaper economics in general and the quality and/or dedication to the business and the craft of the talent that has come into the business in the years since I became a newspaper person. Those things, at least in my opinion, are to some to certain degree related.

With the erosion of newspaper economics since newspaper employment peaked in 1990, we've witnessed significant staff reductions and frozen or, in many cases, reduced salaries, all of which have had a chilling impact on talented news people who were already in the business and have served to deter many who might have been talented news staffers from getting into the business. To put it bluntly, dedication is sometimes pretty hard to engender and/or keep when talented people are getting paid wages that continue in relative decline every time the cost of living inches up even marginally. It also keeps getting more and more difficult to attract quality talent at the salaries being offered. To look at it another way, you get what you pay for.

Today we have word of yet another newspaper sell off. According to the Wall Street Journal, News Corp. announced that it has sold Dow Jones Local Media Group -- consisting of 33 largely east coast papers formerly known as the Ottaway community newspapers -- to an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group. News Corp., as you probably know, is those friendly folks who bring you the always "fair and balanced" Fox News Channel and, among other publications, The Wall Street Journal, where the sale announcement appeared. Among the larger or better known newspapers included in the sale are the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.; the Cape Cod Times in Hyannis, Mass.; and The Record in Stockton, Calif.

On behalf of the new owners, the group of sold newspapers will be managed by Gatehouse Media, which the WSJ story describes as "one of the largest publishers of locally-based print and online media in the U.S."

According to the WSJ story, "News Corp. acquired the papers when it bought Dow Jones & Co. in 2007. It tried briefly to sell the papers at that time but pulled them off the market in 2008. In fiscal 2012, the papers' average daily circulation was more than 188,000 and the Sunday circulation was over 238,000."

What this will mean for the 33 sold newspapers and their staffs remains to be seen, but there is one potentially encouraging aspect to this sale. Although the papers are being acquired by an investment group -- which likely knows zip about running newspapers -- the management of the newly acquired properties is at least being turned over to a company that DOES know something about running newspapers, Gatehouse Media.

Even though Gatehouse several years ago acquired one of my former papers, The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., I really don't know a lot about them and what I have heard is sort of mixed reviews. I will say, however, that I have not really noticed any appreciable decline in the SJ-R -- which I still follow online --  beyond what it experienced toward the end of its ownership by the now defunct Copley Newspapers. And I know of at least one important change for the better.

Under Gatehouse, the editor of The State Journal-Register is no longer required to endorse ONLY Republican candidates for political office as I was forced to do under the rigidly enforced policies in place when the paper was owned by Copley. Because of that policy, I was at one point obliged to endorse for election to the Lincoln Land Community College board of trustees a Republican candidate who was under federal indictment -- and later convicted -- for misdirecting hundreds of thousand of dollar from the state agency he was an assistant director of to a company owned by his wife. My argument that the Democratic candidate was better qualified, more honest and free of any background scandal fell on deaf Copley corporate ears.

My hope for these 33 newly sold newspapers is that they will be part of what I think is becoming an encouraging recent trend in newspaper sales -- acquisition by new owners who are, or who at least say they are, committed to maintaining and/or upgrading the quality of the editorial product.

This has been the case with recent sales of such papers as The Washington Post and The Boston Globe and the earlier sales of Richmond, Va., based Media General's newspapers to billionaire businessman Warren Buffett and the sale some of the properties formerly owned by Irvine, Calif., based Freedom Newspapers -- most notably the Orange County Register and Colorado Springs Gazette and the paper from which I retired as editor four months ago, The Monitor in McAllen Texas.

The Monitor, along with Freedom's other Texas properties -- The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, The Brownsville Herald, The Odessa American, the Mid-Valley Town Crier in Weslaco, and Coast Currents at South Padre Island -- were acquired a little over a year ago by a new company, AIM Media Texas, headquartered in McAllen. AIM quite literally rescued the Texas papers from the investment bankers who took over Freedom after its bankruptcy and nearly gutted all of its properties as they sought to recover their investment made in the company while it was still owned by the Hoiles family. AIM's top principals are skilled, highly experienced, professional newspaper executives who understand that news content is just as important to the future of a local newspaper as advertising revenues.

Although some of those, like Buffett, who've made some of the recent newspaper acquisitions are not as experienced in newspaper management as AIM's top execs, they have all talked about maintaining and/or upgrading the news product as opposed to engaging in further cuts at their new properties.

Only time will tell whether they are really going to live up to their words, but the talk is sufficiently encouraging that I am slowly growing less unnerved when I hear about yet another newspaper sale.


Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends for colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.