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Schoenburg, Finke take SJ-R buyouts

Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020

* While this has been expected for some time, it’s just awful seeing it play out in real life….

Political writer and columnist Bernard Schoenburg and statehouse reporter Doug Finke have accepted buyouts and will be departing the paper on Dec. 1. Finke has worked at the SJ-R since the 1970s; Schoenburg’s first byline appeared in the paper in 1990.

Their departures will leave the daily newspaper with two news reporters and an equal number of sports reporters, presuming Finke and Schoenburg are not replaced before their departures and current staff isn’t reassigned. The paper, which has no fulltime courts reporter or police reporter or city hall reporter or education reporter, has posted jobs for a statehouse/politics reporter as well as a cultural, diversity and inclusion reporter who will “focus coverage on culture, diversity and inclusion trends across central Illinois,” according to a job listing posted by Gannett, the SJ-R’s parent company.

Gannett is under heavy financial pressure. Stock in the company was trading at more than $6.50 a share when GateHouse Media, which had owned the SJ-R since 2007, bought Gannett in 2019 and dropped the GateHouse name. The stock closed today at $1.74 per share. A $1.8 billion loan from Apollo Capital Management, a private equity firm that financed the GateHouse-Gannett deal, that came with an 11.5% interest rate is due in 2024.

The company is over-leveraged and has completely lost sight of its news mission.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

56 Comments
  1. - buffalo soldier - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:09 am:

    this is some of the saddest news that i’ve read in sometime. soon i won’t be able to read any news at all.


  2. - PraireState Sense - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:09 am:

    I don’t read that publication but its the trend where the media is democratized. (see CapitolFax)

    We’re all journalists.


  3. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:10 am:

    Hopefully the Illinois Times can pick them up and they can move their columns there.

    Or go the syndicated route (like Rich, as well as Jim Nowlan) and be picked up in smaller newspapers statewide. Including the Chatham Clarion in my community–which has more local Chatham news than the SJ-R ever did before the Gatehouse/Gannett-led reporter defections occurred.


  4. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:10 am:

    Schoenburg is a very talented journalist…
    This is sad and leaves a huge vacuum in the State Capital…


  5. - Curious citizen - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:12 am:

    The Journal-Register is such a shell of what it once was, and it’s cold comfort to know that the same story is being played out at other papers of similar size.


  6. - Norseman - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:15 am:

    Good Luck to Doug and Bernie. Your loss will be felt by state watchers who want accurate news.


  7. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:16 am:

    What a loss for the Statehouse coverage.


  8. - flea - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:17 am:

    A recent interaction with SJR in trying to reinstate a subscription for a 92 year old reader turned my stomach. They fleece older folks every chance they get. He just died of covid so they cant fleece him any longer.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:22 am:

    In fear of missing a name or three I won’t list all the reporters/columnists, but Finke and Schoenburg are ones in a very small group that I made sure, religiously, to read what they are writing, and see the forest and also the trees in their incredible works.

    I would read “my list” and I could first get the news needed, then I could take a step back from the work and find a bigger picture develop too.

    It’s a huge loss to the region, the paper, and obviously to the type of coverage I know I was use to, with two less reputable and professional sources of news and information.

    My best to you both.

    A reader and fan for a long time, I wish you both the best.


  10. - The Way I See It - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:25 am:

    I thought all of our super wealthy people were the jobs creators. When you look at all of the major corporate bankruptcies, a stunning number of them are tied to transactions with private equity.


  11. - McGuppin - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    I don’t know Doug Finke personally, but certainly value his work. I have gotten to know Bernie over the course of the last 20+ years. I’ve found him to be smart, tough, and fair.

    Good luck to both as they enter the next phase of life.


  12. - Steve Rogers - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:30 am:

    I haven’t read the SJR in ages since they started printing canned stories that I read on the Internet the day before. Their local coverage has been deteriorating for years, and Bernie and Doug were the last vestiges of local/state politics. Best of luck to Bernie and Doug and thanks for helping me to understand state politics better.


  13. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:33 am:

    Last one in the press room turn out the lights!

    I’ll miss Under the Dome podcast.


  14. - Leigh John-Ella - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:34 am:

    Congratulations to Doug and Bernie.

    They’ve had great careers.


  15. - Abdon - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:37 am:

    Very sad news. And thanks to COVID we can’t even have a proper send-off at a Springfield drinking establishment. Bernie and Doug are professionals with years of experience sorting truth from spin. Pair this story with the growth of special-interest-funded phony news sites and it’s enough to make you worry about how citizens and voters will learn what’s going on. I wish them both the best.


  16. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:44 am:

    “We’re all journalists.”

    If only it were so simple.

    Journalism is a skill and a craft.

    Amateurs — regardless of our enthusiasm or sincerity — can not possibly replace experienced journalists like Mr. Schoenburg and Mr. Finke.

    – MrJM


  17. - Lt Guv - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:52 am:

    RIP SJ-R


  18. - Publius - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    Sounds like Gannett would do better with a more activiest investor who works with other newspapers. Private equity owners Fortress Investment Group who is owned by Softbank I don’t think works well for newspapers.

    https://www.ft.com/content/945ca7e4-e65f-4d6d-b08d-ae851cd630d4


  19. - Flapdoodle - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    Obviously they’ll be seriously missed.

    Not good, not good at all.


  20. - Morningstar - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    Years ago, Gannett acquired the Des Moines Register, which was - until then - one of the best local newspapers in the country. I enjoyed reading it every morning - delivered to my doorstep. It was a sad day to see it gobbled up by the “McNews” corporation. In my view, Gannett has gone steadily downhill on that path.


  21. - Club J - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:01 am:

    It’s sad to see Bernie and Doug go, but the SJ-R isn’t what it was when I started reading it 25 years ago. My kids made fun of me cause I’d read it from front to back daily. Over the years that wore off as the paper lost it’s drive for the news.

    WOW a 11.5% loan what’s next a loan from Friendly Bob Adams? Good luck fellows. Thanks for all the reporting.


  22. - RNUG - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:02 am:

    == The company is over-leveraged and has completely lost sight of its news mission. ==

    A perfect summation.


  23. - RNUG - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:05 am:

    == A recent interaction with SJR … ==

    They didn’t seem to care about a complaint to the Better Business Bureau but the same complaint to the Illinois Attorney General got their attention.


  24. - Linus - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:05 am:

    Doug and Bernie are the gold standard of Illinois statehouse pressroom work. Their decades of experience are irreplaceable.


  25. - RNUG - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:09 am:

    == the SJ-R isn’t what it was when I started reading it 25 years ago. ==

    I’ve read it and it’s two predecessors for close to 60 years. It is a mere shadow of what it once was.


  26. - Steve Brown - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:16 am:

    Stunning decision. When I first roamed into the press room for the Daily Herald in the mid 70s Gannett owned Rockford & Danville. They had a full time, SPI based reporter to look for local angles and be part of national survey stories. Now it appears the home town paper will lack an experienced State House reporter. At least Bernie and Doug appear to be getting out with some $$$. Both are very solid journalists Hopefully some other opportunity develops. I could go on about clashing ideas of ranting editorial boards and the thinning of reporters with expertise. Those contradictions can be mind numbing.


  27. - Crispy - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    Worked with Doug Finke at the J-R in the ’80s; he and Bernie Schoenburg are two of the best. It’s a terrible loss.

    Also, RIP to Barry Locher, award-winning photo editor and later editor of the J-R in the pre-GateHouse/Gannett days, who passed away recently. He was a committed journalist and all-around great guy who will be missed.


  28. - Jeanette Malafa - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:22 am:

    I started my life in the StateHouse in 1990. Lots of memories and stories for them to report on! Both men definitely deserve all of the kudos they receive! Enjoy your retirement!!


  29. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:28 am:

    Sorry to see both of these fellows go…they did good.


  30. - Eric Zorn - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:32 am:

    Oof. Bernie is great reporter and a great guy. A few years ago I was down in Springfield on assignment and when I went to leave I found I’d lost my keys. Went back to the capitol to re-trace my steps but to no avail. Had to order up a new car key via a dealership, and while I waited Bernie, noting my predicament, took me home for a nice dinner and then to dealership and then back to my car. No one who reads his writing can be surprised to learn of his generosity and class. What a loss!


  31. - Arock - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    I don’t know if it would help in overall digital newspaper subscription sales but I would appreciate if all the newspapers owned by one company offered a package where you could access all their papers in a reasonably priced bundle package.


  32. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:42 am:

    I checked out some of my neighbors and found we are likely not… all journalists.


  33. - Ginhouse Tommy - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:49 am:

    It’s like watching a ship sink.


  34. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 10:54 am:

    I wish we were all journalists…plumbers too.


  35. - Cool Papa Bell - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 11:10 am:

    The SJR photography staff took a hit too. Ted Schurter accepted a buyout as well. Ted’s work at the state house, around town, on athletic fields of play was always top notch.

    My best to Ted and his family, to Bernie and Doug.


  36. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 11:29 am:

    Not only are we all journalists, we’re also all epidemiologists too.


  37. - Outsider - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 11:38 am:

    Smart to get out because the ship officially sinks. You know the business model is bad when Warren Buffet pays someone else to deal with local newspapers.


  38. - The Historian - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    Sad, but not surprising; both have done SO much invaluable reporting over the years, reporting that’s an essential part of the contemporaneous historical record for folks like me who write books. Meeting Bernie in person in May 2018 is a memory I continue to treasure.


  39. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:17 pm:

    ===The paper, which has no fulltime courts reporter or police reporter or city hall reporter or education reporter===

    Dear Lord. *headdesk*


  40. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:21 pm:

    “It is a mere shadow of what it once was.”

    This can be said of many of the great old newspapers.


  41. - Mama - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:25 pm:

    I have enjoyed reading political writer and columnist Bernard Schoenburg and statehouse reporter Doug Finke’s articles for years. I wish them the best with their future plans.

    It appears large news companies are not in business to report the news anymore. They want to control what people think instead of reporting Country, State and Local news. Our print, radio and TV news appear very politically bias the last few years.


  42. - Jim Prescott - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:35 pm:

    As someone who met Bernie way back when he was at the Pantagraph, long before he became a legend, I can honestly say he hasn’t changed much. He was a good reporter then and still is today, and he’s always been a decent human being. I wish Bernie and Doug all the best.


  43. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==The paper, which has no fulltime courts reporter or police reporter==

    Ironically before the old courts and police reporters left and were never replaced, it seemed like the Police Beat was to some readers the most popular part of the SJ-R.


  44. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    I’m sure it’s coming at the SJ-R perhaps within days, but I just noticed a moment ago that the Peoria Journal-Star has just Gannett-fied their website. Just since I checked this morning their website now resembles that of USA Today’s layout.


  45. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 1:57 pm:

    Does anyone also remember when on his Sunday columns, if Bernie talked about key new hires and appointments at state and City of Springfield offices, and other key local positions, he would list the hired person’s old and new salaries?

    I think he stopped listing that info in his columns about 8-10 years ago, probably about the time the Comptroller starting listing state employee salary info online, plus with the SJ-R starting their own online salary databases for state, city, and District 186 employees.


  46. - Cool Papa Bell - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 1:58 pm:

    =it seemed like the Police Beat was to some readers the most popular part of the SJ-R.=

    It’s the obits. Paywall the obits and maybe you can afford two reporters.


  47. - Kevin Fanning - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 2:08 pm:

    Wow big loss for the Illinois media circle. Both are giants and I admired them tremendously while interning for Rich.

    Best of luck to you both on the next chapter of your careers.


  48. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 3:18 pm:

    ==It’s the obits. Paywall the obits==

    I don’t think that would work since people would then go to each funeral home’s website and search the obituaries there. Since the SJ-R and other papers (including other Gatehouse/GAnnett publications) started charging exorbitant fees for obituaries (as opposed to the old days were IIRC funeral directors provided them to the local papers free of charge), many people have never had obits published in the newspaper. As opposed to funeral home’s website only.


  49. - Old Lobster - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 3:41 pm:

    Don’t know Finke, but Bernie was always a gentleman…one of the few reporters I would speak to. When he wasn’t sure, he’d call you and get it right.


  50. - dwdelaney - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 4:12 pm:

    heard someone once say, ” it’s Bernie’s town, everyone else just lives here”.


  51. - Leigh John-Ella - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 4:44 pm:

    Bernie for Mayor.

    First hire: Finke as spokesman.

    We can make this happen Springfield.


  52. - Osborne Smith III - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 4:50 pm:

    I’d vote for Bernie for Springfield Mayor. I can’t stand Langfelder and his lack of a spine.


  53. - Just Curious - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 5:14 pm:

    Oswego Willy comments were right on point.


  54. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 5:49 pm:

    Or if possible, Rich, could you allow Bernie and Doug to write one guest column per week here on Cap Fax? Even if just for subscribers only.

    I think eventually at least one of them ends up at the Illinois Times, or starts their own blog. Plus regular appearances on statewide PBS political shows.


  55. - Kent Gray - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 8:04 pm:

    I think we all knew it was coming at some point. It’s sad to see so much institutional memory lost.

    If you like Bernie, he will be on a program this Friday put on by the Citizen’s Club of Springfield. For those of you around the state, it’s a bit of a copy of the City Club of Chicago…without the career placement service!

    Speakers
    JIM LEACH - WMAY
    BRUCE RUSHTON - Illinois Times
    BERNIE SCHOENBURG - SJ-R

    Moderator:
    BOB GRAY

    As years go, 2020 ranks up there somewhere. It certainly has not been boring. It’s not even over.

    Join local media icons Jim, Bruce and Bernie as they discuss this incredible year and the results and aftermath of the November 3 elections.

    Three Ways to Watch:
    • LIVE on Comcast Cable TV Channel 18
    • LIVE streaming from the City of Springfield website
    • Or on Facebook LIVE on the Citizens Club of Springfield Facebook Page


  56. - theCardinal - Tuesday, Nov 17, 20 @ 8:19 pm:

    Truly Good journalism is dying a death by a thousand cuts. There aren’t many left like these two…sad days ahead for people who want legit reporting.


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