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Newspaper carnage continues

Monday, Aug 18, 2008

* The Rockford Register Star laid off 13 employees and closed its Statehouse office today, dumping bureau chief Aaron Chambers, who is generally considered one of the best reporters under the dome. Check out this story on the paper’s website

The newspaper also closed its Springfield bureau today, a step that had been considered five years ago and again 18 months ago.

“We kept the bureau open through some previous tough times,” said Linda Grist Cunningham, executive editor. “Frankly, I made a choice between the bureau in Springfield and local news in the Rock River Valley. It’s a loss, but losing another local reporter would have been worse.”

Chambers worked like the devil to give his paper local angles on every possible story. It’s just a sad state of affairs, and even sadder that he would be spoken of in that way.

* The Champaign News-Gazette closed its bureau earlier this year, putting Kate Clements Cohorst out of a job. The Tribune eliminated one of its Statehouse positions on Friday, laying off the incredibly hard-working Jeff Meitrodt, who was recruited from New Orleans not long ago. And, as of yet, the AP has not filled the vacancy created when Ryan Keith was hired by the State Journal-Register.

So, that’s two bureaus and four reporting slots gone from the Statehouse this year alone, and it’s only August.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


59 Comments
  1. - anon - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:35 pm:

    Rich, your market share continues to increase. Pretty soon you will be the Illinois version of Pravda!


  2. - Elizabeth Austin - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:38 pm:

    Aaron Chambers has done an extraordinary job of covering the Statehouse. As a former reporter for the Rockford Register Star myself, I am heartsick that they have laid off such a talented, hard-working journalist. This is an enormous loss. Rich is absolutely right that it is incredibly insulting to dump in favor of “another local reporter.” Unbelievable.


  3. - The Republicrat - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:42 pm:

    Hope someone grabs Aaron - good guy and a great reporter with a lot of enterprise skills.


  4. - Bruno Behrend - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:44 pm:

    If these guys & gals are good (and I take Rich at his word that they are) they ought to start their own Paper on-line and feed the news to their former employers for a subscription fee.

    I know much less about the Newspaper biz than all of you do, but if the tech and the culture are changing, you have to change with it.


  5. - Gregory Tejeda - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:44 pm:

    It astounds me to read rhetoric such as that from the editor with the Rockford newspaper who thinks that “local” news coverage does not include the activity at the Statehouse.

    Unfortunately, her attitude is not the least bit unique. The Washington Post on Monday had a story about the number of newspapers that were shuttering their D.C. bureaus based on the logic that they needed to focus on local matters.

    That attitude is what is helping to kill off newspapers. Too many publications are willing to give in on what should be their strengths. If the Internet actually does manage to “do in” existing news media, it will be little more than a suicide.

    -30-


  6. - ch - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:53 pm:

    holy moses, i can’t imagine the statehouse with chambers. he was pretty fantastic with the localizing springfield stories for that region, its a big loss for them. any word on if someone else is going to pick him up?


  7. - ch - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 6:54 pm:

    errr…”without” chambers…obviously…


  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:05 pm:

    No word yet, but he’s a well-known guy, so I’m hoping he’ll be ok.

    Jeff wasn’t as well-known since he’s kinda new. Katie was able to get a job pretty quickly with the Heart Assn.

    Journalism is dying fast and it’s being killed by newspaper owners.


  9. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:07 pm:

    This is really sad. I suspected that when Gatehouse started tanking one of the first things its newspapers would eliminate would be the statehouse bureaus.
    I hate to say it but I suspect we’ll see more statehouse reporters disappear before year’s end — at a time when we need real, detailed statehouse coverage more than ever before!
    Aaron Chambers did a great job of explaining “how” state government works and also did some very good stories explaining the function of the agency I now work for. And if I remember correctly, Jeff Meitrodt came here from New Orleans because he thought Illinois politics would be just as interesting and as much of a challenge to cover as Louisiana politics. (He was surely right about that)
    I got let go from a newspaper job I once had with only 2 hours notice, on a Friday afternoon, to clean out my desk, and never had a chance to say goodbye to most of the people there. There was also no announcement in the paper that I had left. That hurts me to this day and that was almost 5 years ago.
    At least (I presume) Aaron and Jeff knew this was coming and (hopefully) will get a proper send-off of some kind — even if only from us bloggers :) Good luck to both of them!


  10. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:11 pm:

    ===At least (I presume) Aaron and Jeff knew this was coming and (hopefully) will get a proper send-off of some kind===

    Nope.

    Blindsided. No notice, gone almost immediately.


  11. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:21 pm:

    I just noticed that the editor quoted above is also credited with writing the story.

    She quoted herself as if she was speaking to another person.

    Bizarre.


  12. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:21 pm:

    Well, that REALLY bites!!
    I suppose at this point, anyone who works for any newspaper anywhere should be prepared for the possibility that every work day could be their last.


  13. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:30 pm:

    Something else really weird about the Register Star story… it doesn’t mention Chambers’ name at all. It doesn’t mention the names of ANY of the people who were laid off. It says the “Springfield bureau” was closed, as if they were just clearing out a empty desk or something. And to find out who got let go from the Trib, you have to go to the Chicago Reader!


  14. - jaundiced eye - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:32 pm:

    Go on the Reader web site and read the list of the Chicago Tribune staffers let go … and then go to the Tell Zell web site (mostly disgruntled LA Times current and ex employees) for the “farewell” letters written by the latest batch of Chicago people let go. People with 39 years on the job … familiar byline names … and literally no market — PR, marketing,advertising or broadcasting — to absorb them. And the pointless survive, the columnists with negative IQs.


  15. - South Side Mike - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:37 pm:

    Jaundiced,

    Yes, but the negative IQ columnists have more production pages each year, and therefore must be better journalists. That’s how it works, right Zell?


  16. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:38 pm:

    Is the future of journalism going to be people writing articles for Associated Content in their spare time at $4 a pop, or begging for Pay Pal donations to their blogs?


  17. - Just the Facts - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:40 pm:

    Lousy news. We need reporters in Springfield. You can’t get an understanding of the place and how the process works unless you are there on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise, we end up with the superficial coverage from the AP and television and the press releases from the administration.


  18. - IL_Township_Gov - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:44 pm:

    Yes, but the problem was that they were always writing “bad news”. Yes, it was either bad news or “more of the same” - budget stalemates, Blagojevich is a schmuck, etc. We don’t want to read that and it since it never changed, there was no new angle and it won’t be missed.


  19. - Kiyoshi Martinez - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:44 pm:

    As someone lucky enough to work under Chambers for half a year, I can’t say enough good things about him. He was mentor who challenged me and is a great friend. I learned a lot from him and the institutional knowledge he will take with him will be a great loss not only for the Rockford Register Star, but also its readers.


  20. - Bill - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:44 pm:

    It just ain’t right.


  21. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 7:51 pm:

    ===there was no new angle and it won’t be missed.===

    Um, did you miss today’s events, or were you alone in that “cone of silence”? lol


  22. - Dr. Candle - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 8:13 pm:

    Unbelievable - Linda Grist Cunningham strikes again, getting rid of, in my opinion, the best state house bureau chief around. Chambers was always at the top of his game - his investigative skills and knowledge of the process was second-to-none, and his writing was strong and solid. Great job, Linda, great job.


  23. - The Chief - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 8:24 pm:

    Welcome to the world of accountability in business - what’s your point? Grow up and quit feeling sorry for all of your buddies -get objective and get real -no one reads newspapers anymore (except for CapitolFax -made my point)


  24. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 8:27 pm:

    Sorry to rant about this; it’s a pet peeve of mine for reasons explained above.
    What is it with the business practice of not giving any warning when you’re going to be let go (although I suppose one could argue that a buyout offer and rumors of your company’s imminent bankruptcy are “warning” enough) and treating you as a nonentity from that moment on?
    I realize most companies don’t want people who were laid off against their will hanging around for too long and undermining morale among the remaining workers, or God forbid, going postal on them, but c’mon, what’s wrong with giving people at least a week to get things in order, say goodbye to everyone, maybe (in the case of newspapers) passing on story ideas they’re working on to others, etc. Don’t industrial workers have to have a certain amount of advance notice of a layoff? Why not reporters, editors, production people, etc?
    The Register Star and the Tribune got rid of real people with real names and real jobs, not a bunch of old office furniture. Can’t they at least acknowledge that?


  25. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 8:28 pm:

    ===Welcome to the world of accountability in business -===

    That isn’t accountability, it’s idiotic bean counting illogic. If there was accountability, that editor who phonied up her own quotes in a story she wrote would be taken to task.

    I just love morons who feel it necessary to kick others when they’ve lost a job.


  26. - Kiyoshi Martinez - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 8:37 pm:

    Speaking of being accountable, check out the SPJ code of ethics:

    Be Accountable
    Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

    Journalists should:
    — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
    — Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
    — Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
    — Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
    — Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.


  27. - Gregor - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:12 pm:

    Now, now, the governor has enough press staff and releases to keep any paper quite full of great news, every day. Move along citizens, nothing to see here…

    Chambers and his kind are more necessary now than ever, as the BS filter for what lies our government dishes out. Newspaper management, Trib management particularly, is notorious for horrendous human relations skills. So don’t expect mercy or human decency from folks like that: evil people only expect evil from everybody else, because that’s their frame of reference.

    What they don’t yet get, and probably won’t until its too late, is that people buy the paper for CONTENT, and that content is generated by reporters, not by shareholders. Lose the content, and you lose the paper anyway.

    Rich, maybe you should look at expanding your stable, and adding these guys to your own brand. Maybe you can’t charge what they are worth via subscriptions, but maybe you can stick it to newspapers thru more syndication deals.


  28. - Frank Booth - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:14 pm:

    I take issue with those who post about accepting this because newspapers are dead. OK, fine. But the Aaron Chambers I know was constantly feeding audio files up to Rockford and willing to tackle multimedia projects. He more than most reporters embraced change and chaos. And he’s rewarded how? Some stranger comes and tells him he’s got to leave the office?
    Hey, that’s fine if Rockford wants to close its bureau. But when gambling expansion comes up or there’s talk of toll increases, or school funding shifts, exactly who at the grand Register Star is going to inform its readers of what it means to them? The people who should be most upset about Chambers getting canned (other than Aaron) are the reporters up in Rockford. That’s a big hole in the paper/website that they’ll have to fill. And when that news release from the gov or some local pol comes across the email they’ll have to figure out what it means or embarrass themselves with their lack of knowledge about state government. Go visit a newsroom and ask the local political reporter what an “amendatory veto” is. I’m willing to bet the vast majority don’t know.
    So as this trend continues, get ready for some really bad state government coverage.
    For me this all means I have absolutely no reason to ever read the Rockford paper (or Web site) again.


  29. - Levois - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:19 pm:

    I really hate to hear about these layoffs, unfortunately it’s been a long time since I’ve ever picked up a major newspaper.


  30. - Dan Vock - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:24 pm:

    I have to echo Kiyoshi’s comments. I’ve worked for Aaron and with Aaron. He’s got great news sense, a great nose for stories and the highest journalistic standards. You can’t slip anything past Chambers. Luckily, he’s the type of guy who will bounce back from this with gusto. I’m not as hopeful about our industry.


  31. - Cassandra - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:29 pm:

    Bad state government coverage, alas, is going to be expensive for us taxpayers. Few Illinoisians have the time or the patience to read and track those obscure, say, pension bills that give all kinds of extra goodies to certain categories of government employees and call a foul.

    The loss of talented reporters is unfortunate for them and for us, and really, really unfortunate for our pocketbooks in one of the country’s most corrupt states.


  32. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:41 pm:

    Strange times, hard times. Chambers is a not only a talented writer, but he’s a reporter as well. I admire the latter the most when they’re good.

    But my eternal optimism won’t write off newspapers yet. Content is king.

    Five years ago, the Chicago Tribune, of which I am no big fan, was averaging a 30% net and the whiz kids on Wall Street were kicking their heads in because it didn’t meet projections. What is wrong with these greedheads? These analysts don’t produce anything but misery.

    As far as state government goes, how can we cover it less? Rich, keep on rockin in the free world. You and your merry band of sources are a lifeline.


  33. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 9:58 pm:

    While we’re on the subject of how to save newspapers in general…here’s something that might be instructive. Please excuse the length of this post but I think this is an important point.
    A few weeks ago I read (via a link to Editor and Publisher) an article contrasting two lengthy investigative series– one in The Washington Post about the Chandra Levy murder in 2001, the other in the New Orleans Times-Picayune about one of dozens of murders of African-American men in that city since the beginning of the year.
    The Post ran several lengthy (1,500+ word) stories about the Levy murder, which was certainly tabloid and talk-show fodder at the time. Now one would think these stories would be widely read and talked about — after all this is the kind of story that people like Nancy Grace live for — but it attracted relatively few comments, and most of them were negative.
    Meanwhile, the Times-Picayune stories appeared in short (500-700 words max) installments daily over several weeks. Conventional wisdom would predict few readers — after all, it’s “just” another murder of a poor black guy with a questionable criminal past. Who cares about that? Apparently a lot of people did. Paper copy sales went up and the website got tons of hits with lots of positive comments.
    What made the difference? E & P said the N.O. paper’s format
    kept people wanting more. People were blogging and calling radio talk shows about it and speculating on how the “story” was going to end! It was written like a serialized crime novel, by a top-notch police reporter, but it was news, not fiction.
    My point is, the news media, in whatever format they exist, need not copy talk shows and tabloids to survive. They simply have to leave people wanting more. I am sure that journalists with the talent and knowledge of Chambers, Meitrodt, Clements, etc. can do that, if only someone gives them the means to do it!


  34. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 10:00 pm:

    its sad to see the few local reporters left, the ones actively pursing and investigating news go.

    We keep moving more and more towards news outlets whose content is made up of just AP wire stories.


  35. - Jake Lingle - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 10:00 pm:

    {Journalism is dying fast and it’s being killed by newspaper owners.}

    I still believe that what is killing the print journalism industry is the owners being first in denial, an then being too slow to react and adapt.

    I go back to the “10 minute Tribune” concept that I wrote about previously; and was gently maligned for here in subsequent comments.

    I finally cancelled my daily Tribune subscription this past weekend (kept Sundays for my wife); which I have had delivered daily for decades since receiving my own subscription as a gift when I went off to college.

    I kept receiving daily delivery despite the fact that neither she nor I gave the print version nary a glance in perhaps the last 5 years, or longer. I kept the print subscription out of a distorted sense of nostalgia; since I began reading it daily through the influence of my parents in the 4th grade.

    I finally came to the realization that receiving it was wasteful, both in terms of my money, and their raw materials used to produce the finished print product that I was paying for. There were many weeks where 5 out of 7 days I was throwing it away; having never removed it from the rain protective plastic bag.

    I’ve subscribed to the e-version through numerous iterations of their web presence; which has vastly improved over the years. I view their web extensively in my own time frame blazing right to the points of interest without having to window shop through pages of things that are of no interest to me. Based on my registration and profile, I also get regular updates e-mailed to me from them, sometimes as many as 6 or 8 e-mails in a day. The e-mails provide links to stories that are current and concise; and deal only with the topics I have indicated a priority interest in being kept up to date on. There is no direct charge to me to receive these benefits, and the associated costs for the Tribune to provide them to me is virtually nil in comparison the print production costs of the paper, which in today’s society is filled with old news.

    Some of this is convenience; some of it is efficiency and productivity, and now finally economics has come into play for me as well. Technology has expanded the work day for most professionals, as you can carry your work around in your pocket, and you are never more than a mouse click away from clients in multiple time zones around the globe. The opportunity to sit and read the newspapers these days unfortunately no longer exists for many people; and for those that do still have the time and the inclination, there are simply not enough of you left to support the ongoing print production and other overhead costs. The return on investment for the print newspaper has evaporated.

    In a 24/7/365 news cycle I can be kept up to date on the news that’s important to me continously. As an example I received an e-mail from the Tribune last night on Emil’s retirement, as soon as they went up live with it online.

    Within 15 minutes, I e-mailed the story to a friend that is now living in England, but likes to stay up to date on what’s happening here. I also sent text messages to two other night owl’s I know, and then subsequently had a 45 minute 3 way Instant Messaging conversation about the political ramifications of the retirement with two other south side people that had also already seen the news. One of them had also been e-mailed by the Tribune as well.

    The biggest contribution to the demise of the print newspaper industry that the owners have made is; that they continue to print and publish a paper version. They waste enormous resources feeding that antiquated beast and these represent nothing but stranded costs which can not be recovered in today’s society.

    There is an excellent article that speaks directly to this issue that appeared recently in “Wired Magazine”. I provided a link to this below for those that might be inclined to want to read it. I think you will find it interesting Rich, and some of it is germane to your business.

    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free


  36. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 10:03 pm:

    the oddity of this is right now, in Illinois, you could not put together a more news rich (reference to Miller not intended) political environment. if anything, the Illinoius political scene right now cries out for more coverage at the Statehouse to keep mining the gold vein of news that is the current Illinois political scene. I can not fathom how a paper could think it is a good prfoti move to kill off such a valuable source of current and hot topic news stories.


  37. - Bad news for a Monday - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 10:34 pm:

    The quote is beyond insulting and false on its face. It comes from an editor who believes - and openly states - that “news” isn’t really “news” unless it’s in her paper. The City of Rockford and the Registar Star complain about getting ignored in the Statehouse, and now the paper decided to lose its only true voice.


  38. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 10:36 pm:

    Well, Jake (I know where you got your blog name, by the way), I read that story you linked to, and your points are well taken. However, not everyone is, or wants to be, “wired” 24 hours a day just yet. There are still a lot of older people, like my parents, who have never used a computer. There are still people who like to have clippings to put in their scrapbooks when a loved one dies or a kid wins a sports title or a relative gets married. So there is still some demand for print out there and will continue to be for some time. However, I do see home delivery falling by the wayside pretty quickly due to gas prices as well as the cost of newsprint.
    I do not believe the internet alone is killing newspapers. Outfits like Gatehouse, which is owned by some mysterious hedge fund in New York, are certainly hastening its death. Papers that used to be family owned or locally owned are being taken over by mega-corporations that run up huge amounts of debt buying every paper in sight, assuming that economic boom times will go on indefinitely, demand huge profit margins for their stockholders, and whose first (and last) resort for increasing profits is to cut staff.


  39. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 11:08 pm:

    =Welcome to the world of accountability in business=

    “Chief,” pardon the expression, have you ever ran a business?

    I’m guessing you haven’t. Were the UAW workers blamed for the Edsel? No. How about the production line folks at Coke that bottled up all that New Coke that didn’t sell? Should they be “accountable?” No, no more than a successful reporter who has the misfortune of having his paper acquired by a bunch of dimbulb gunslingers from Manhattan have to pay the price for the changes in the newspaper business.

    Anyway, the “management” that should be held accountable are first and foremost the general partners of Fortress Investment that declared a dividend that could not be sustained by GateHouse’s proforma level of earnings and fund its huge debt service requirements. (Class action lawsuit, anyone?) This action was almost as reckless as say, doubling the State’s GO debt while the budget is unbalanced and revenues are flat, then calling for tax cuts. Oops.

    At another level, AA thinks it’s just lousy management for Gatehouse to have not considered having a consolidated Statehouse bureau for all their Illinois papers (like Lee and Small) which probably could have paid the freight for Chambers and then some. Woulda been a heckuva of a strong team, too.

    Easy for old AA to say from his La-Z-Boy, but I have a sense that both these guys will end up alright. Chambers is brilliant and resourceful and should have no shortage of offers. If Jeff could survive 18 months in the Gitmo annex known as the Trib Statehouse Bureau and figure out half of Ray’s filing system, he’ll be fine as well.

    These are the kind of people (not that they would be interested) who could make quantum improvements in Agency and other ‘Patch press offices, but who probably won’t get a serious look because they would be a) way smarter than their bosses b) wrong demographic profile and c) too many “close to home stories.”


  40. - Angry Chicagoan - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 11:26 pm:

    This is more of the kind of self-immolation that made me decide there was no future in journalism beyond the (very good) independent weekly paper I worked for. Newspaper editors and publishers seem to think that “local news” (i.e. “The Mayor has a toupee”, or “Dog foils 3rd Avenue Bank Robbery”) and “politics” (”Farm Bill Amendment costs hometown $20 million) are two completely different things, indeed mutually exclusive. That attitude, which is utter nonsense (or at least would be considered as such if their news values were at all more developed than those of the National Enquirer), is killing off daily newspapers. They aren’t worth subscribing to any more.

    Furthermore, they have arrogant disrespect for their competition (blogs and weekly newspapers) despite the fact that competition’s product is now increasingly of better quality.

    Besides the brain-dead business values in the newspaper industry, the other problem is that Wall Street has more unrealistic profit demands in newspapers than in almost any other sector. Mid-single-figures in percentage terms was a typical profit margin 20 years ago; it’s now found only in independent, privately held papers. You’re publicly held? Then 20 percent margins are a MINIMUM. Some papers turn 40 percent margins. And with the sudden migration of classifieds to the internet, those margins are suddenly in reverse. No-one is even close to losing money, but publishers are having a fit because they’re making less money than the TV station down the road. Never mind the fact that these margins are simply unheard of in most other industries. Apple’s current profits, swelled by tens of millions of iPods and laptops, would be considered paltry in the newspaper industry. Greed is as responsible as poor news judgment and poor market share protection for ruining the newspapers.


  41. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 11:33 pm:

    Of course, AA, the last people to be held “accountable” for business failures these days are the CEOs and directors who continue to get seven and eight-figure bonuses and salaries even when their companies crash and burn, employees lose their pensions, etc. I believe Gatehouse CEO Michael Reed is one of these.


  42. - Jake Lingle - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 11:34 pm:

    Bookworm, the example I gave pertained to an interest in current and political events. Being wired 24/7/365 is not something I vounteered for however and instead became an economic necessity in order to survive in a profession operating in a truly global marketplace.

    I could turn off the crackberry whenever I wanted. The problem is that; if done with any regularity or for any sustained period of time, I would soon be out of business, because there are a multitude of competitors that would have no problem stepping in to fill the void.

    Since I am wired up because I have to be; it does not hurt to use the technology for my own benefit as well for the things I am interested in, other than generating an income.

    When Rich started this Blog, I suspect that he initially felt that it was a natural extension of the CapFax, and might provide some supplemental income for what he may have envisioned initially as a modest investment of time. Understanding the impact that this has had now, I suspect that Rich may realize that he he not done this; someone else may have and significantly impacted the CapFax 1.0, and may have eventually driven him out of business.


  43. - Bookworm - Monday, Aug 18, 08 @ 11:46 pm:

    I’m going to shut up after this post… but for what it’s worth, and assuming Aaron and Jeff will be reading this at some point:

    The day I got let go from my newspaper job of 14 years was one of the worst days of my life. I loved what I did and I could not imagine doing anything else. To this day I miss being a journalist. Sometimes I’m still hurt about what happened. But, in other ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to me and my family and it opened up a lot of new doors for us. I still use my talents, just in a different way. I’m sure you will do the same.


  44. - Waldo Sheboygan - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 12:07 am:

    Chambers is a bright guy, a great reporter with the best BS detection skills around. He’ll land on his feet, probably sooner than we think.


  45. - Aaron Chambers - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 12:20 am:

    Thank you all very, very much for the kind words.

    I do hope to land quickly on both feet, and I’m reasonably confident that I will.

    My e-mail address from this point forward is aaron@awchambers.com

    Cheers,

    Chambers


  46. - Incredulous - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 2:17 am:

    What a stupid bonehead move by Linda Cunningham of the Register Star. Aaron was the best! Many people had hoped that SHE would be axed some years ago and we are aghast that she survived the latest Gatehouse takeover. Now, she pulls this idiotic move? She isn’t well liked in Rockford - anybody wonder why? Poor Rockford - the political scene has been floundering like a stinking fish out of water since Zeke Giorgi died 15 years ago. And they were already mostly clueless about the goings on in Springfield and state politics. I understand that an ordinary citizen had to personally make sure that the Illinois State Library even cataloged the Register Star in the early 1990’s. Reportedly, the library didn’t even carry Rockford’s paper until they complained. Boy, does Rockford need help now. I say CAN Linda, not Aaron NOW….sad, sad state of affairs indeed. She is one piece of stupid work!


  47. - Paul Richardons - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 3:03 am:

    I would feel remiss if I didn’t add my meager thoughts to the choir.

    In my time under the dome there were very few people I respected more than Aaron Chambers. He answered every questioned I every asked and was wiser then 95% of the drivel I heard being spewed. I once had the honor of giving he and his amazing wife dance lessons before their big wedding day. I can’t imagine missing out on that one. Wonderful people. Wonderful memories. Best of luck in all that lay ahead.

    On the same note. Kate Clements was one of the few people I truly connected with from day one in Springfield. She was kind, funny, and always willing to provide some insight. I am so very glad that we were able to meet. I wish her the best of luck in all that remains.

    I didn’t get to know Jeff as much as others. But from our brief time, he came across as very knowledgebable and understanding. Best of luck.

    These are truly great people. I thank them dearly and wish them the best.

    -Paul


  48. - Annon - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 6:32 am:

    Lets face it Gatehouse is one step from going under and facing reorganization. Now the readers in Rockford will just recycled news from Springfield or as Gatehouse loves to do only information off the wire. It is sad for the readers to be fed a steady stream of press releasess. Good for the Rod’s of this world.


  49. - The Conservative - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 7:44 am:

    What is killing the journalist is themselves. People want un-biased reporting and are tired of papers telling us what someone meant to say. Just report the story. Label opinion just that, let the people read the article and decide.


  50. - bored now - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 7:57 am:

    while i think this is a shame, it does speak to the relevance of springfield in people’s daily lives. the fact is it doesn’t matter to most people. and i haven’t particularly noticed that people think kindly of state government here, anyway…


  51. - Captain Flume - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:02 am:

    Paper is just a medium. The internet is the current “paper.” It is just too bad that news organizations cannot get their paperbound minds around that. The reporting is still just as important. Cutting reporters to shore up an out-of-date delivery medium is irresponsible, at least as far as the public good is concerned. At least in Springfield, so far, more emphasis is being placed on the electronic potential of the SJ-R (for example, see comments about the SJ-R’s State Fair blog that were made on this blog).


  52. - Ghost - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:15 am:

    The Conservative, there is no such thing as unbiased reproting. I prefer a reporter to apply their experience and experteise to the piece including providing background and drawing conclusions. I may not always agree with the conclcusions, but they make the material far more informative and useful.


  53. - Greg - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:27 am:

    Most of my friends and colleagues have top-notch minds and educations, but they don’t follow statehouse news. Not minor interest; I’m talking zero interest. They only have the time or energy for the DC stuff.

    I’ll take everyone’s word on Gatehouse management, but I assume that publishers are reacting to the fact that the obituaries receive more attention than statehouse news from just about everyone outside of capitol fax readers.


  54. - Vote Quimby! - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:28 am:

    This is more disturbing than The Dark Knight (which I finally got to see last night, without the kids). Content will win the war; should we demand state news from our papers or just seek it out on our own?


  55. - Jeffrey Meitrodt - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:42 am:

    I’d like to echo Aaron and say ‘thank you’ for the kind thoughts you’re sending our way.

    The funny thing is, we moved to Illinois after Hurricane Katrina because we didn’t want our lives disrupted again by huge forces beyond our control. But I guess we underestimated the destructive potential of Cyclone Sam. Who would have thought the Chicago Tribune would wind up having the only one-man (or one-woman) statehouse bureau of any major newspaper in the country?

    Anyway, it was great working with all of you. It was a terrific 16-month ride - I got to cover floods, earthquakes and the most interesting political system outside Louisiana — but I expect it will be the final chapter of my 24-year journalism career.

    Still figuring out the next step. But I’m sure things will work out.

    Best wishes,

    Jeffrey Meitrodt
    new email: jmeitrodt@comcast.net


  56. - The Nite Mayor - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:50 am:

    From Downstate, I remember when the Alton Telegraph closed their Springfield Bureau and Dennis McMurray was shown the door. Of course this happened after the paper was sold. The Post-Dispatch does a fairly good job, but central and northwestern Illinois deserve better. An informed electorate is key to a successful democracy.


  57. - wizard - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 8:51 am:

    Bookworm: isn’t it interesting that companies want us to give two weeks notice so they can prepare, but when it comes to their responsibilities to the workers, there is no notice at all.


  58. - Sal Says: - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 9:40 am:

    Nobody EVER said anything about quality and management in the same breath when talking about the Rockford Register Star. Why would anyone think it would get better after last publisher, especially when Cunningham said how much she learned from him and thought of him. Classless act with Chambers. Sorry to see Aaron and Meitrodt go - it is truely a loss for political coverage in IL. The way it’s going, there won’t be anybody left to do investigative jounalism on gov. goofy and his gang. Scary - he may out last them all.


  59. Pingback ArchPundit | The Dumbing Down of America - Tuesday, Aug 19, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    […] The news last night that I didn’t see until today is truly shocking. The Rockford Register Star shut down its Statehouse Bureau and laid off several people including Aaron Chambers who I consider one of the best statehouse reporters in Illinois.  This is truly awful news even if Aaron gets picked up by another paper–it means less coverage and even if he gets picked up, someone else won’t fill that slot.  The fewer Aaron Chambers, the fewer checks there are on state government and the excesses of Springfield leaders.  No one will report when the State Senate President keeps making fun of Rockford by asking where it is–no one will be talking to Chuck Jefferson and Dave Syverson getting their angle on state stories–Jefferson being at the center of the Amendatory Veto controversy lately. […]


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