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Southern Illinoisan newspaper journalists say goodbye to their community after new owner fires all employees

Friday, Dec 8, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Paxton Media Group released this after acquiring the Southern Illinoisian in September

PMG Group Publisher Bill Evans will add The Southern to his stable of media properties located in southern Illinois and western Kentucky. No stranger to southern Illinois, Evans has led the PMG-owned NBC television affiliate for the region, WPSD-TV in Paducah, KY, for the last 23 years. He is also publisher of Paxton’s flagship newspaper The Paducah Sun, and weekly newspapers in Mayfield, KY; Benton, KY; Eddyville, KY; Princeton, KY; and Metropolis, IL.

“The SI naturally fits our footprint for community-based journalism. The team of journalists I have the opportunity to lead from our Paducah and southern Illinois newsrooms has covered many of the important stories impacting our hometowns in southern Illinois. I look forward to expanding our coverage. We have the resources to allocate to covering southern Illinois,” said Evans.

* Today is the last day for all reporters and photographers at the paper after Paxton announced they would let all union-represented journalists go. From the News Guild in November

The Unions of Lee Enterprises is denouncing plans by Lee Enterprises to sell The Southern Illinoisan newspaper to Paxton Media Group under terms that will result in the elimination of all the local journalists who currently work for it.

Despite pronouncements by Paxton Media on Oct. 27 that it will foster “community-based journalism” and “expand” coverage through the purchase of The Southern Illinoisan, the entire union-represented newsroom has been told they should clear out their desks by Nov. 24.

This ill-advised sale transaction ignores not only the needs of the Carbondale community and the paper’s current employees, but the rights of investors who are being denied the opportunity to benefit from a better offer, from a local benefactor who would actually save jobs.

Paxton Media representatives have been telling major Southern Illinoisan advertisers and community leaders they are “saving” the local paper by acquiring it. These statements are both deceitful and disgusting.

* This week, reporters looked back at their time at the paper and give hints at what’s next for them. From the Southern Illinoisan Editor-in-Chief Jackson Brandhorst

And that’s just it. The end of an era.

Gratitude. That’s all I can express.

To the incredible staff here who, despite consistently facing tumultuous times, persevered through every sticky situation, every vapid comment and every schedule changing setback, thank you. […]

Despite the overwhelming amount of grief I feel toward leaving this area, these people and the status of the happenings in the place that I grew up, it’s impossible for someone with as much confidence as I have in myself not to be optimistic about my future.

I am not entirely sure about what is next for The Southern, I wish it the best for the sake of the community. But I am sure about its past and that I won’t be a part of its future.

* Southern Illinoisan Photographer Byron Hetzler

When I first moved to Carbondale almost nine years ago I didn’t know how long I would stay. I had lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years after moving there from Iowa, where I had grown up and gone to school. I even kept my Colorado phone number in case things here didn’t work out and I decided to move back. When people would ask me where I had lived before moving to Carbondale and I would tell them Colorado, the response was always the same, “why in the world did you move here?”

But here we are, just short of nine years of working as a photographer at The Southern Illinoisan. In that time I have come to call Carbondale and Southern Illinois home. Now, due to unexpected, yet not totally unforeseen, circumstances, my time, at least at The Southern is ending.

Not only is my time, as well as that of my colleagues, here at The Southern coming to an end, but I have come to realize that this will likely be the end of my career as a photojournalist. The nature of the journalism world has changed dramatically over the 40 years since I decided to make a career out of it — how that came about is a story for another day, so maybe this is a good time to move on anyhow. […]

And finally to our readers. It has been an honor being able to share my images of Southern Illinois news, sports and life with you. Some of you have been kind enough to reach out over the years and let me know how much you have appreciated my work — that means a lot, more than you probably realize.

Unfortunately for me, and my fellow coworkers at The Southern, this is the end of the line as far as our work here is concerned. I plan on staying in the area, at least for the time being. We’ll see what this next chapter has in store for me.

Click here to see Hetzler’s favorite photos from his time at the Southern.

* Sportswriter James Dent



* I spent about three years sitting on the sidelines of SIUC games with Southern photogs while I was at the Daily Egyptian. It’s a bleak thought that their coverage will no longer continue



       

15 Comments
  1. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:47 pm:

    “Happy Holidays.Here’s your pink slips.”

    Kiss anything resembling real local reporting in that paper goodbye.


  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:51 pm:

    Great photos.

    Not covering college sports any more in a community where the college is the #1 employer is a sure way to fail.


  3. - Lurker - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:02 pm:

    We have gotten to the point where newspapers are meaningless to the contribution of news. With no writers or journalists everything in them is nothing better than gossip and hearsay and even that is only presented with a far-right or far-left bias.


  4. - High Socks - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:07 pm:

    This is all just really, really sad


  5. - New Day - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:15 pm:

    This:

    “Southern Illinoisan newspaper journalists say goodbye to their community after new owner fires all employees”

    Seems incompatible with this:

    “We have the resources to allocate to covering southern Illinois,” said Evans.”

    Why fire people like Molly Parker if you’re planning to expand your coverage. Union busting? If they’re hoping to do it all with a couple of interns and ChatGPT, they’re in for a rude awakening.


  6. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:23 pm:

    New Day:
    Then they will wonder why subscription numbers drop more.


  7. - Gus Bode - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:25 pm:

    If the “local paper” isn’t going to cover the local university, this is a real chance for the Daily Egyptian to step in and step up. SIU men’s basketball currently has the nation’s leading scorer. When a fan somewhere wants to know more, they will google and what will they find? With more clicks come more revenue opportunities.


  8. - Andrea Durbin - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:28 pm:

    What a tremendous loss!

    Also, those photographs are simply stunning. Incredible talent.


  9. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:43 pm:

    === Union busting?===

    Yep. It’s been admitted locally.


  10. - former southerner - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:58 pm:

    Not surprising giving the buyer. It would be a wonderful time to boycott any area business that continues to advertise in that newspaper.


  11. - Blitz - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:29 pm:

    I know I’ve been slowly moving my money for some hobby-based journalism from the bigger publishing companies to the employee-owned startups (which usually are started up by employees who, like this situation, were fired after an acquisition). Not sure how viable that would be for any of these guys, but I’ve been super happy paying for these employee-run avenues so far. I just wish that this conglomeration could be stopped…


  12. - Larry Darrell - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:33 pm:

    A tremendous loss to the entire region.
    Where do I start…
    Union busting for one,
    and then this:
    No coverage of SIU sports, local school sports, city council meetings, SIU Board of Trustees meetings, no coverage of what local and regional politicians are up to, no one to tell the story of the people of Southern Illinois.

    As Gus Bode said, maybe the Daily Eqyptian can step in, become a true daily paper again and those amazing journalism students at SIU will be able to shine a light on what truly matters.

    There’s a reason why I subscribe to my locally owned Pope County Herald-Enterprise newspaper. And subscribed to the Marion County, Kansas Record when corrupt local officials illegally raided the paper and it’s owner’s home.

    All I can say is… Support local journalism


  13. - Give Us Barabbas - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:48 pm:

    Go get ‘em, Daily Egyptian.(banned punctuation)

    And to the people in charge of that big pile of grant money for the Local Journalism Initiative, or whatever it’s called, who are still “fixing to get ready” well… hint, hint.


  14. - Maggie Daley - Wednesday, Dec 13, 23 @ 12:52 pm:

    Local carbondale resident. Just received my first copy of the southern illinoisian, post-acquisition. It’s sad to see the old staff go, and I would like to know more about why. However, this latest edition has the most local coverage I’ve seen in years in that paper. Compare it to the very last e-edition before the acquisition for context. Again, I hate to see the staff go and would want more information on that and why, but in terms of “not covering city commission meetings, etc.” as stated in a previous comment, look at the latest edition. That’s categorically false. I’m open to hearing more about this, and getting corrected, of course. I am passionate about local journalism and love Carbondale very much.


  15. - Jackson - Thursday, Dec 14, 23 @ 4:55 pm:

    In regards to Maggie Daley’s comment above…

    Hi! Former EIC here. OF COURSE it was full of local content. It was all fairly dated news that they had two months to gather. They spent the entire duration of the transition process preparing for that first edition so they could hit readers with that shock factor of an entirely local product. You could see it was mostly work from just a few reporters. It won’t be sustainable. When you pick up a paper this summer, see then how much local content will be in it…


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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