Opinion: New media outlet reiterates why reporting matters

Truth Be Told

Posted online

Reporting on new businesses is kind of our jam around here at Springfield Business Journal. But last week we had the rare opportunity to report on a new business in our own industry.

The Springfield Daily Citizen plans to launch its daily digital coverage in early 2022, according to a Sept. 30 SBJ article. There are notable names behind the venture: longtime former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, former Springfield News-Leader editor David Stoeffler and former News-Leader reporters Steve Pokin and Jackie Rehwald. Pokin and Rehwald confirmed their moves to the Daily Citizen on social media after SBJ broke the story.

In full disclosure, Stoeffler was once my boss, and Pokin and Rehwald my former co-workers and current friends.

Carlson told SBJ the digital newspaper is registered as a nonprofit public benefit corporation (perhaps similar to KSMU) and will cover community issues. Our newsroom staff is digging into the digital paper’s financial backers and will have more coverage for you soon.

The timing of the announcement of the new digital outlet nearly coincided with National Newspaper Week, Oct. 3-9, which recognizes the service of newspapers and their employees.

There’s not much more to say about the Springfield Daily Citizens’ addition to the local media landscape before it launches. In fact, I told SBJ Reporter Karen Craigo “no comment” when she asked what I thought about the outlet for SBJ’s coverage. But there’s certainly room to commend community journalists, including the ones employed at the Daily Citizen.

I display on my desk the words of legendary journalist Walter Cronkite: “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.”

It’s a daily reminder of the importance of our newsroom. I’m sure you, too, find strength and purpose from the words of titans in your industry.

Journalism has never been more critical in my career than during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. COVID-19 didn’t impact cities or even states the same way, and journalists brought timely health coverage straight to your inboxes, mailboxes, TVs and radios, etc. At SBJ, we covered business survival stories as owners and executives navigated the economic impacts of the past 18 months. We also told the stories of the businesses that shut their doors. We brought expert advice to our readers from economists and business advocates, and this coverage will continue.

As critical as journalism is to tell the stories of our communities, the industry faces challenges.

Newspaper newsroom employment fell 57% between 2008 and 2020, from roughly 71,000 jobs to about 31,000, according to Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the same time, the number of digital-native newsroom employees rose 144%. Those gains didn’t account for the sharp losses at newspapers, as newsroom employment across the industry dropped by 26% since 2008.

Local journalists serve many roles: watchdog, historian, storyteller, entertainer and analyst, to name a few. But we can only fill these roles if there are subscribers and advertisers to support the work. Content cannot sustainably be created for free, and I’m grateful for those who recognize the value.

As we’ve previously reported, national ownership groups of the Springfield News-Leader, as well as KY3 and KSPR, have had many layoffs. I began my journalism career at the News-Leader in 2013. At the time, the newsroom had roughly 34 employees. Today, I count 14.

SBJ has a niche coverage of business news, so there are critical stories we rely on our community news outlets to cover. A shrinking staff makes this work incredibly challenging, but local journalists produce important work every day. I suspect the Daily Citizen will join in this effort, and it appears there’s a community desire. We asked SBJ readers if there was a need locally for a new community news outlet, and 79% of the nearly 500 votes cast said “yes.”

Amid the announcement of the new digital newspaper and National Newspaper Week, I found myself reflecting on my gratitude to SBJ subscribers and my co-workers. Our small but mighty newsroom has bucked the trend of shrinking employment and works tirelessly to cover our community’s business news and report on the information leaders need to know to operate their organizations. It’s trust and support from the community that makes this possible. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

Springfield Business Journal Executive Editor Christine Temple can be reached at ctemple@sbj.net.