Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Journal Sentinel’s Post-Gannett Decline

As feared, it’s mostly become a local carrier of USA Today stories.

By - Nov 21st, 2017 12:36 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For decades, my favorite part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was the Sunday sports section, particularly during the football season. I loved reading Bob McGinn, arguably the best football writer in America, whose reporting on the Green Bay Packers was typically terrific, filled with insights and inside information. He had more sources among pro football scouts, coaches and personnel people than any writer in the country and always garnered good quotes and pithy nuggets of information. And when it came time for the Super Bowl, McGinn’s preview was smarter and more illuminating that what you’d get from any other publication, from Sports Illustrated to the New York Times.

But last June McGinn retired, and the JS sports page is much poorer for the loss. There is no dearth of stories on the Packers, just a shortage of smart reporting and writing. Tom Silverstein can be good, but he was always a distant second to McGinn, and none of the other writers do much more than tell you things you already knew from watching the game.

The most dramatic part of the sport section was McGinn’s Tuesday story grading the Packers, a veritable clinic on how every player had performed or not, and how that affected the team. Without that weekly insider’s take, it’s impossible to understand how the Packers are really doing. McGinn, by the way, is still doing that, along with his game day feature and other stories at a new website he has created, BobMcGinnFootball.com. It’s well worth the $3.99 a month.

Sundays also meant you’d get the run down of the top 25 college football teams: the upsets, the blowouts, the ranked teams rising or falling. But under its new owner Gannett the paper is put to bed so soon you don’t get many of the football results; any night game is simply listed as late game with no score, eviscerating the drama of the top 25 results. As for those games that get a full story, the paper now uses the lowest-common-denominator Gannet style with “Takeaways” that largely repeat information you’ve already read.

Even home teams get short shrift: Late Bucks or Brewers games are no longer covered to the end of the game in the next day’s paper. Last Saturday’s Bucks game was covered not the next day, but in Monday’s paper, the story buried sheepishly at the back of the sports section.

And when the Bucks game does get a full story, the paper still runs the capsule on the Bucks game which is part of the USA Today package of NBA results. Apparently the sports page is thrown together so quickly no one can bother to trim the repetition. It gives you the feeling it’s not the hometown newspaper, but some generic paper done by outsiders, as do the stale USA Today sports shorts that are sometimes thrown in. The local newsroom, JS president Chris Stegman told the Milwaukee Business Journal, is now managed by the Gannett corporate office in Virginia.

The paper’s printing/production often seems slovenly. The ink seems grayer and harder to read. Sometimes the “Green Sheet” is missing the green tinted paper. Sunday’s sports page had only black-and-white photos after the front page, due to some glitch, with photos so foggy and lacking in detail it was embarrassing.

The decline in news content at the paper, which began before Gannet’s purchase, has continued under the new owner. A few years ago JS stopped paying for syndicated New York Times stories, probably to save money, perhaps also to make the paper look less liberal, but that meant it no longer runs some of best national and international coverage to be found. Now all the national and international coverage (and even some of the state coverage) comes from USA Today, which is typically second rate. Watch how often the national TV news stations quote a Gannett story versus one by the Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal. Almost never.

In the last few years the Journal Sentinel has eliminated the state and local news section, dropped the business section on several days, dropped letters, op eds, editorials and the entertainment section on most days, combined the Sunday Crossroads and Business sections and merged the entertainment and books sections. The NOW weeklies that covered the suburbs have been compressed into just seven tabloids that barely cover anything: The North Shore section that once covered a few suburbs (mostly Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Glendale) has now added Mequon, Cedarburg, Port Washington and all of Ozaukee County.

There are almost no beat reporters left at the paper, whatever their title on the JS staff list. Tom Daykin still covers the hell out of real estate, but no other reporter covers their beat like this. State capitol reporters Patrick Marley and Jason Stein did a good job covering the Foxconn development. I respect their reporting, but they miss a lot and rarely report on the connection between campaign donations and proposed bills and policy changes.

After the JS was scooped on the infamous Milwaukee County pension plan of 2000-2001, which has cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars (and still counting) the newspaper made county government its number one beat, and vowed never to make that mistake again. But in the last few years, as Urban Milwaukee has done more coverage of the city, the paper has put far more emphasis on covering City Hall, and has relegated county government to a part-time beat worthy of about one story every couple weeks. As for the city coverage, Mary Spicuzza does a good job — when she’s given the chance.

The newspaper has no dedicated obituary writer and prominent people pass away with no story, the most recent being Judge Robert Landry, who served for decades as a Circuit Court judge and was involved in the creation of UW-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

The newspaper has been hollowed out after suffering nearly a decade of staff reductions. I count only about 35 reporters covering news and business (plus about 10 editors in those areas). Still, they could be covering a lot more, but don’t, presumably because there’s no room in the shrinking newspaper. The Monday and Tuesday papers are so incredibly thin — a friend calls it the Daily Pamphlet — they sometimes have just a few local and state stories per day.

For whatever reason, the JS doesn’t seem to do stories for website only. And about that website: the old jsonline was not very well designed, but it did feel newsy and allowed for more flexibility to emphasize important stories and breaking news. The new website is a Gannett cookie cutter design, with no urgency and no flexibility, that feels more like a lifestyle publication and sometimes recycles old Gannett stories. Generic, overly busy, and hard to look at, it may push you to click, but doesn’t invite you to read.

Finally, the Journal Sentinel archive of stories, perhaps its most important asset, disappeared a year ago, as we reported, and still hasn’t returned despite promises it would. That’s a huge loss to the community, one that a local owner would never tolerate.

In August 2016, Stegman told the Business Journal he had “zero plans” for staff cuts. Eight months later the Journal Sentinel had announced another round of layoffs was coming, as the Business Journal reported.

McGinn tells me emphatically that he left the newspaper to escape the daily paper grind, and I believe him. But he was reputed to be the highest paid JS reporter, so his departure helped solve the need for staff cuts. Veteran sports reporter Charles Gardner also retired at the same time. A couple months before this business reporters Kathleen Gallagher and Tom Content left for jobs outside journalism and JS investigative reporter Ellen Gabler was hired by the New York Times. The paper looks like it also shed a couple editors, and recently longtime editorial writer Ernie Franzen took a buyout.

If you look online for a Journal Sentinel subscription, you’ll find all the emphasis is on print subscriptions, suggesting this is still how the paper makes most of its money. But is anyone under the age of 45 still reading print? It’s hard to imagine the paper declining further, but that seems inevitable, as the subscription price continues to rise – my brother was recently quoted an annual price of $330 — while the product’s value declines. In short, it’s very likely this sadly sinking newspaper still hasn’t hit bottom.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here. 

Categories: Murphy's Law, The Press

54 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Journal Sentinel’s Post-Gannett Decline”

  1. MKE kid says:

    I’ve given up on the JS. Stopped my print sub years ago because ads made up the majority of the paper. I’ve lost track of how many turnovers JSO has had the past couple of years. It got to be too annoying to constantly change passwords, etc. to have service restored. My JSO sub got screwed up too many times and now the comments section has out of state regulars dissing Milwaukee nonstop. These naysayers sound just like You Tube trolls. IMO, the JS has been in a coma for a long time.

  2. ken lamke says:

    Bruce: To your list of kudos among remaining JS staffers, I would add RIck Romell and Guy Boulton of the business news staff. I knew Rick a little when I worked at the paper so maybe I’m biased but he has always been a first rate reporter and writer and most recently did a bang up job on Foxconn stories. Boulton does fantastic ongoing coverage of health care policy and cost issues, always asks the right questions, in my opinion, then answers them if they are answerable. Absolutely terrific issue reporting with accurate assessments of the surrounding politics. Ernie Franzen will be missed a lot. A very good analyst of policy and politics, hard working, no BS — Ken Lamke

  3. Bruce Murphy says:

    Ken, my story was by no means meant to be a summary of who are the best reporters at the paper; I was really just looking at the issue of beat coverage. Romell, for instance, doesn’t really have a beat but is a first-rate reporter. Nice to get your take.

  4. Edith Wagner says:

    What about Lee Bergquist’s great science reporting? But my biggest gripe is the sloppy editing and dependence on spell check rather than reading copy. I keep my subscription because I hope investigative reporting can continue. But even that hope seems weak. As our “leader” might add: sad.

  5. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    The JS loses all of these talented reporters, but they still give the ridiculous Christian Schneider a paycheck. Which is a large reason why I’ll never give then a part of my paycheck.

    So instead, I help a better outlet like this one.

  6. Frank Schneiger says:

    To reinforce the point made by MKE kid above, the decline in the JS Online comments sections has been nothing short of shocking, particularly when anything related to race or “liberals” is concerned. And these sections were hardly a model of thoughtful discussion in the past. They have now become bulletin boards for extremist hatred, almost all of it on the far right.

    Anyone who thinks this is just harmless entertainment should take a look at the experiences of some other countries, most notably the former Yugoslavia, where this kind of “otherization” was encouraged and allowed to flourish as those who looked different or had different views were defined as enemies.

  7. duncantuna says:

    The state of the MJS is downright depressing. I’ve had a 7-day subscription since I was out of college, 27 years ago .. these days, I keep it only out of obligation, as the quality has imploded since USA Today took it over. Utterly sad.

    Even their Facebook postings are all click-bait now, I had no sadness in un-liking that dribble.

    Thanks to UrbanMilwaukee.com for filling some of the gap.

  8. eric j says:

    At least the “failing ” New York Times is still a source for knowledgeable national news information.
    -I like Urban Milwaukee’s coverage of local and state affairs. MJS has abandoned the greater Milwaukee news coverage.

  9. The online misspellings, etc., are laughable – actually sad since we used to look to journalists to inform us. Now they can’t – they are over-worked, underpaid, etc. So sad. With the contraction of the news industry our only hope is an emergence of a new and independent press!

  10. Thomas says:

    I agree with Frank and Mke Kid that the decline of the paper has potentially dire consequences. A future where all of flyover country has nothing but USA Today knockoffs to read and Clear Channel news on TV could result in a very uninformed population between the coasts.

    On the local level, I think we deserve letters to the editor every day. That would cost them next to nothing.
    \
    Jake, I threatened to cancel my subscription years ago if they continued to feature more Christian Schneider than any other writer. I cancelled for several months, but I subscribed again because I suffered withdrawal symptoms without a newspaper with breakfast.

  11. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    This is the saddest thing in memory about Milwaukee, losing our two newspapers. I peddled both at some time. The Journal on Thusrday and WEd. were over 100 pages, a bitch to fold and deliver, But they were great newspapers. Lamke and I were good friends, campaigned with many candidates, especially Dyke in 1974.
    You should see a pix of Ken in 1974, and all the hair. Sad to say most of his and mine is gone. Love newspapers and especially arguing with the editors.

  12. DK says:

    It’s an embarrassing shell of what it once was. Do they no longer employ copy editors? Almost every day I find poorly worded sentences and misspellings. The list of corrections used to be mostly minor things, now they get major points wrong. I still get it daily because I already stare at a screen all day at work and want to read actual print in the morning.

  13. Andy Umbo says:

    Living in Indianapolis, I could have told everyone that selling the M J/S to Gannett was a major mistake. I don’t even understand why anyone buys the paper here in Indy either. Gannett has a long history of squeezing the older writers out, in favor of younger cheaper and lousier writers that will focus going forward on “entertainment” subjects like a “beer reporting”. The exodus of the older people means no one knows where the bodies are buried anymore in city government, or at the police building, and no one has back-door contacts. Both the Indy Star and the Milwaukee J/S, never carry local crime and similar stories in detail, and never “chase” them as they develop! If they do have it, you never find out what happens later in the week.

    The horrendous digital portal, well acknowledged by most to be the worst in the industry, keeps anyone from wanting to read it on-line. I managed a large department of mostly millennials, and none of them read the daily paper in print or on-line, and when I asked, most said they tried to read it on-line but they found the portal “too stupid” (their words), to spend any time on, with overlays bouncing up when you tried to read it and pop-up ads assaulting them; they couldn’t be bothered.

    So who then is Gannett actually building the paper for? The oldsters don’t like the dumbing down of the stories and writing, and the kids won’t read it on-line! Who’s going to buy it?

  14. Ron Friedel says:

    I’m an old guy these days but I fondly remember being a paperboy from about 1950 to 1955 in Fond du Lac. I delivered the Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter. This was a nice sized newspaper, easily fold-able, but with enough heft to toss on subscriber’s porches from your moving bicycles. We delivered winter and summer on bikes.

    Some friends delivered the Milwaukee Journal. We called them the “catalog slaves.” The Thanksgiving issue was huge, with ten or twelve issues filling a coaster wagon, and many trips back home to get some more papers.

    When I was a kid we got two newspapers, the Journal and the Reporter. Later on, after I left home, mom and dad got the Reporter and Sentinel (Sentinel because we were on and involved with SAAGBRAW starting in 1978.) Still later they subscribed to the Reporter and the Chicago Tribune, because mom was a Cubs fan.

    After we were married and had a family we had two newspapers delivered to our home, the Sentinel in the morning and Journal in the afternoon. I would get up at 5 every morning to read the Sentinel and drink coffee before getting ready to go to work at 7. Between 5 and 6 was my quiet, reading time.

    If you young people want to see the Milwaukee Journal from the glory days in the 1950s, when it was in the top ten newspapers in the US, go to the main Milwaukee library and look at the microfilmed issues. Gosh, you could spend all day reading.

    Now we have a ghost of a newspaper. I don’t know if this morning’s paper is old Thanksgiving issue, it was pretty small. Maybe we will get a catalog tomorrow.

  15. ken lamke says:

    Wisconsin Conservative Digest, which is actually Bob Dohnal, makes some nice comments (I think) about me above, but may leave a misleading impression when he says we campaigned together in 1974 with GOP gov candidate Bill Dyke. For the record, Dohnal was campaigning for Dyke and I was covering Dyke for the Milwaukee Sentinel. I will admit that, unlike some reporters, I liked Dyke, who was very conservative and did, in fact, have a troubling prior association with some groups whose views on race relations were not what they should have been. Dyke, like former Sheriff David Clarke, liked to ride horses, even in public. Unlike Clarke, Dyke did not take himself over seriously and was nice to people.. He lost by a lot as Democratic Gov. Pat Lucey won a second term, but it was not as big a loss, perhaps, as most reporters expected.

  16. Just a Woman says:

    Here is an additional list of what the newspaper (and online presence) no longer have.
    No Lifestyle section
    No Travel section
    No Home section
    No Real Estate section
    No Interiors section
    No Style section
    No Neighbors section
    Gosh, I wonder why every woman I know is no longer subscribing.

  17. Mandi says:

    I agree with the previous comments on poor online layout, annoying app layout, and sad lack of content. I’m only 30, but I’d prefer to be able to read a good local newspaper! I am sad to see the decline in the past few years. I do not watch TV news. One should not be able to read ALL the new news content in about five minutes each day, in a major city like Milwaukee, which is otherwise a vibrant and lively place.
    I like Urban Milwaukee, but since it is a smaller publication with what I consider its own “voice” and “viewpoint,” there should be, for the public good, another paper with a broader reach intended for an audience of all Milwaukee-area citizens.

  18. CarlBaehr says:

    The JS keeps giving us less information but more errors. It doesn’t seem like it can continue much longer. It is very disturbing.

  19. MKE kid says:

    My family also used to get both the Sentinal and Journal. The papers lost some of their meatiness when they became the JS, but the JS still did a nice job of covering the news. I’m really dismayed at how pitiful a publicaton it has become the past couple of years, both in print and online. Urban Milwaukee does a nice job covering local issues. I’ve read a lot of articles online from The New York Times and their overall writing and comments section is far superior to the JS.

  20. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Ken Lamke was great reporter for politics for the Sentinel then the whole Journal mess floored him.
    Actually Dyke lost by 5 points and the press was saying 2-1. Bill was sold out by the GOP Establishment in deal for M&E with Lucey so they cut off his money.
    Bill was mad and made dumb mistake by running for VP on the American ticket.

  21. Green Door says:

    I have, for years, relied on the local TV news to keep me informed of the day-to-day news. But I subscribed to the paper for the in-depth reporting and special sections, all of which are gone. I, too, could rattle off a list of columnists and reporters that really dove into their stories or wrote thoughtful commentary or even just articles about life in the Milwaukee area (the arts writer, the food writers, Crocker Stephenson’s human interest pieces….what losses!). Those days are gone. My last quote for the Sunday & Wednesday deliveries was $175! For what??? I get much better exploratory news from our local e-papers so why pay for an uninformative print paper?

  22. WD says:

    My mother, sister and I all worked at the Milwaukee Journal. They were reporters, I worked in Classified Advertising.
    I love to read the paper in the morning, holding it in my hands, much as I like to read a book instead of Kindle. I am getting ready to cancel our subscription because of the cutbacks in the Editorial section, lack of substantial news, bad grammar and misspellings.
    It’s outrageous. It has become USA Today. It used to be ranked one of the top 10 newspapers in the country!! Last week I saw a copy of the New York Times – I learned more from reading the headlines of their articles than from reading the whole Journal/Sentinel that day.
    One of the things that could ABSOLUTELY not be in error was a death notice…there are now errors in most.
    It’s an abomination, and I am very sad.
    It will mean jobs will be lost by carriers, that is unfortunate.
    I wish more thought would have been put into the sale.

  23. Robb Bessey says:

    I worked in the Milwaukee Journal newsroom as a messenger in the early 80s, and part of my job was delivering mail to the beat reporters at City Hall, The County Courthouse, the Police Building, and the Federal Building,. All of them were vigilant tellers of the truth in our local government. It’s inconceivable that a local newspaper would have to let these beats whither away. I’m proud to know the likes of Jim Stingl and Eugene Kane (plus several other names time has taken from me) from those days where the news section of our paper saw that it was important for us to know what was going on in our local government as opposed to for the umpteenth time what side dishes to serve at Thanksgiving dinner.

  24. Thomas Spellman says:

    Well there is hope, a little expense, but hope called the Chicago Tribune. Yes when the JS supported Walker on the Recall, IT was too much and so with at least I am told several thousand other I cancelled the JS. It was difficult for a while but by then we were living in Delavan where for a price the Chicago Tribune is delivered to our driveway each day. Often as I read it, I know what a newspaper IS. One of those things that you only realize what it is when it is no longer there. I still feel the loss of the JS even thought I no longer subscribe. When I see its puny self at the grocery store it makes me sad.

    I to delivered the Journal from the date of my twelfth birthday (actually a few month before) for three years. And after that I was a station captain and the night that a stack of 25 papers was two and half feet high was a night that I will never forget.

    I have often though that the addition of Christian Schneider and the right ward shift was in hopes that folks of that inclination would subscribe but I guess that grand experiment did not work. It is nice to know that Wisconsin Conservative has a name and that even he misses a decent local newspaper.

    Bruce by design or default you have the opportunity to create the online paper of the future for Milwaukee. There are many challenges to say the least. Control being one of them, What gets published for starters. Take the abortion issue and if you can resolve the coverage of that for the sides then we will have a functional structure for news. The opinion is easy and maybe in a way healthy. If nothing else when one writes a response to Wisconsin Conservative one it building one’s writing and logic skills both good things to do.

    Peace

  25. John Casper says:

    Bruce, great reporting as usual.

    In addition to McGinn’s coverage, he embodied an independent journalist. Bob was and is fair, unsentimental with front office, coaches, and players.

    Great catch on Judge Landry.

    Had always hoped the surviving big city dailies could pool their resources to request vigorous anti-trust enforcement against Google and now Facebook.

    AFAIK, it’s the private equity groups–control Gannett and except for Bezos’ WaPo, the NYT’s, Buffett’s holdings, the MSM–who have editorial control. The PE groups compete against each other. None of them wants to relinquish control over what little diversity remains, because then they become front-page news.

    IMHO the long term value of UM’s virtual real estate and brand is surging.

  26. Gregg klees says:

    The Monday, Tuesday and saturday papers are so small I have to use my binoculars to see it in my rural mailbox. Gk

  27. Julia O'Connor says:

    I moved here in the late 90’s and the MJS was all I experienced. I left Indpls before Gannett devoured the Star so never enjoyed the 2 issue days here as I did there. Cancelled MJS this year but should have done earlier. Decline was precipitous and finding Urban Mke has helped, but if I may I echo Mr. Spellman, you have a real opportunity to fill the void and I’m quite prepared to subscribe to the coverage you eulogize here. Raise the level of reportage, require your reporters (in whatever form) to adhere to standards (assuming they’re still taught in J-schools) and you will find hungry folks lined up with their bowls.

  28. Bill Kurtz says:

    The references to the Chicago Tribune and Indianapolis are worth expanding. I am a onetime Journal reporter who has regularly read the Tribune for decades. It too has shrunk, and the price has soared, but I feel I have to read it to know much of anything.
    Between a couple trips this fall, I saw a week’s worth of the Indianapolis Star, which I assume has undergone similar budget ravages. Here’s how they handled it: Unlike the JS, they still have an editorial page every day. On the other hand they have no local business page or feature page. Choose your poison, I guess.

  29. Robert Blondis says:

    There comes a time when I have to ask myself, is the J/S worth anywhere near the money I pay for it? An example of its lack of local content in addition to the ones given above by others is this. I don’t get my email version of the publication until evening, even though the J/S is a morning paper. The Marquette’s men’s basketball team played (and won) a game on Wednesday night. I got my Thursday paper edition of the J/S at about 9 the next morning. There was not even a mention of the game, On Thursday evening I received the e-version, and there was still no mention of the game-almost 24 hours after it was played.

  30. Paul says:

    Even USA Today’s own redesign is terrible and homely, further dumbing down “McPaper.” The fish rots from the head.

  31. Hugh Swofford says:

    I feel sad for the paper. When I do research and reach back into the 1930’s they had such a wonderful number of local stories. Now it is beginning to resemble the old Milwaukee Sentinel that had say 24 pages for everything. And around 1900 they were lucky to have 20 for all. Very sad.

  32. Thomas says:

    In my youth, I delivered THE DETROIT FREE PRESS in the morning and THE KALAMAZOO GAZETTE in the afternoon. The FREE PRESS sparked and rewarded this country boy’s interest in the world beyond rural Michigan. The last I heard, the once great FREE PRESS was being delivered to subscribers only 3 days a week. If such a thing happens to the remnants of the J/S here, we will be increasingly reliant on URBAN MILWAUKEE. Be prepared, Bruce, for more work and more responsibility.

  33. I cancelled the Journal out this year but as a previous writer indicated I needed it to be able to eat breakfast. They originally offered the paper for $236 and stoppedi it for a month and signed up at a Pic n Save store for $170 which I received $35.00 in store coupons. The net was $135.00. I really miss the late scores and stories of the Bucks, Brewers, and Packers. I also miss the former coverage of local high school sports where a kid could get his name in the paper, what a thrill that was as I couldn’t wait to see my name in the paper for hitting a home run or pitching a shutout, Stewart does a good job but he can’t be everywhere.

    A very good scribe is Gary D’Amato as he covers everything from golf, football, baseball, boxing,MMA, etc, Gary does a great job as I have told him many times.

    Finally I have been promised many times by Chris Stegman Journal head man that the Archives will return, that was two years ago and counting Gannett will not bring it back.

  34. Mark says:

    They have cut the daily editorial page where almost every large city and many medium sized cities in the Midwest have not. Sadly, I believe they have gone too far. They are killing the paper. Even Gannett papers in Des Moines and Indy still have the editorial page every day. I just got back from Canada, papers there are also cutting back but every paper that I read still had at least 1-2 op-ed pages daily.

    I have written a letter to the editor about their misguided recent decisions and they will not print it.

  35. Thomas Sepllman says:

    And when will it be time to boycott the MJ and begin to build an alternative newspaper No small task but what is the alternative. Continued to be abused by a corporation who by the evidence does not care. The printing plant is worth??? Why do they behave the way they are. They are betting that Milwaukee does not care enough to stand up for itself.

    They are betting that Milwaukee can not figure out how to be the first city with a quality internet based newspaper.

    Think of the money that can be saved by allowing advertising dollars to be targeted to those who want the ads, and entertainment notices that are directed to the folks who want that kind of entertainment etc etc etc.

    Peace

  36. A different Jason says:

    I can guarantee you the people who still work at the Journal Sentinel are as upset about all of the cutbacks as you are. They have no control over it, and it’s likely a tense and uneasy place to be working right now. They have no local control, not even the top people in town — they take all their directives from USAT. They may not have been told directly that they need to cut certain news coverage or editorials, or letters to the editor; but they were told they needed to cut pages out, and do whatever they need to to achieve that. Milwaukee still has a lot more reporters than most Gannett properties. Be glad you’re not in a smaller market, most of which are even more underserved by Gannett than what you’re seeing here. Good luck for any type of alternative daily getting to even the point of coverage the Journal Sentinel currently provides. It costs a lot of money to run a news operation, and unless some new startup is willing to make little to no profit, it won’t happen. Gannett is still profitable because of all the cuts they make. But they can’t keep cutting their way to profitability as they cannibalize their own products and drive subscribers away. The profit is still in print.

  37. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We feel sorry for them, loved to daily debate them. A great newspaper from the 50’s is no more.

  38. A different Jason says:

    There are no more “great newspapers from the 50s.” And the decline of the Journal Sentinel and other great newspapers isn’t just the fault of corporate ownership. Those once-great newspapers were great not only because they wanted to be the voice, mirror and watchdog of their communities, but because they were flush with cash and could afford to do it extensively. The only competition they had was each other. Why do you think so many old newspaper buildings are so opulent? Come the early 2000s, subscribers turned away because they could “get it for free online,” and print advertisers increasingly turned to online ads that were much much cheaper. And classified ads all were lost to Craigslist. These were huge blows to newspaper revenue that were never solved. And so deep staff cuts followed, and the ability to keep up a great product was also lost. Readers, your own habits are partly to blame too. The new business is a business, mostly built on a profit model, as opposed to something like NPR’s nonprofit model.

  39. Mark says:

    The Journal-Sentinel has erred by cutting too much more than most of their peers in the Midwest. A big city newspaper should still have at least 1 op-ed page daily. Most still do. The J-S no longer has an editorial voice, perhaps 1 Sunday a month, Haynes will have a column. Most other papers from a city of Milwaukee’s size and even smaller – St. Louis, K.C., Omaha, Des Moines, Buffalo are still running near daily locally-written editorials. At some point, you cut too much and people just will not bother to pay for your product any more.

  40. Thomas Sepllman says:

    And again how much longer will the citizens of Milwaukee accept the second or is it third class newspaper without doing something A deadline for improvements a boycott an alternative

    How many of us read 2 or 3 newspapers on line daily??

  41. A different Jason says:

    Thomas S., don’t expect any improvements with Gannett unless the industry turns around dramatically. The company is all about cutting costs these days. They have centralized everything they can to eliminate payroll, and laid off thousands in the past decade across the company. They answer to shareholders. You have no real alternative right now. There is not enough money to be made in the current business environment, and reporters — good ones, anyway — demand to be paid.

  42. Mark says:

    Other large city papers seem to have been more strategic in their cutbacks still keeping at least some core content each day. I think we all expect smaller papers these days but not papers that wouldn’t have passed as small market just a few years ago. The J-S has cut core essential content such as the op-ed page to the point where it no longer or barely exists.

    I live in the the Twin Cities and read digital editions of more than 10 papers daily. I believe the J-S has cut more than any other comparable paper in the region.

  43. A different Jason says:

    Mark, you’re lucky to have the Star Tribune as the hometown paper. It’s an example of a media outlet that is managing the change and challenge much better than most. No coincidence they’re not owned by Gannett.

  44. Thomas Sepllman says:

    If we do not run presses we can easily compete and even do it better than they can. Every 1000 subscribers at $100 hires a staff person with overhead yes it becomes a peoples paper and that is the trick in how is it owned and who has control and say.

  45. Mark says:

    Yes, the Star Tribune is in quite good shape. Very strong news, sports and 2 op-ed pages 7 days a week. Even the St. Paul Pioneer Press however is still running some op-ed 7 days.

  46. Thomas says:

    I WOULD GLADLY PAY $299+ PER YEAR FOR an informative newspaper. I will not pay $170 minus $35 in grocery store coupons for the shadow of a newspaper we have been getting since Gannet bought the Journal/Sentinel. I will just listen to NPR, and snooze while my coffee cools if Gannet refuses to restore some of what we formerly had in a newspaper in our city.

  47. Thomas Sepllman says:

    DO NOT snooze!! That is some of what it is all about. Do not see these acts of aggression as isolated happens. It is the systematic destruction of the PUBLIC. From the Internet issues that just got taken over by Corporate interest.

    I have suggested this before and that is posting George Lakoff’s Blog as a feature of Urban Milwaukee We have light bulbs BECAUSE someone figured out electricity and others applied that knowledge and we have light and power to write this at 5:00 am. Now understanding how our brains work is a/the next challenge for us to take back our democracy. Ignore Lakoff (cognitive science) and our chances of success are zero. Peace

  48. TransitRider says:

    The J-S newsroom apparently isn’t staffed 24 hours any more. The Senate passed the tax bill sometime after midnight (the Washington Post story ran at 12:51 am Central time), but the JS website STILL (at 5:40 am) still doesn’t have the story; the lead J-S story says “Senate Republicans now say they have the votes to pass tax bill”.

    Things have gotten pretty bad when there’s nobody around to even post a wire-service story about a major event, especially when that major event was expected.

  49. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Why do we keep expecting something when it has already been clearly established that JS is NO MORE. Sort of like thinking that Trump’s behavior WILL CHANGE. I always laugh when someone writes as if Oh gee wiz Trump did this for the first time and he has to change. The analysis of the Matt Lauer interview of Hillary compared to Trump is an eye opener. He accepted all of Trumps Lies and yet focused 40 minutes of 120 minutes on her e-mails. The lies and the acceptance of the lies will be our downfall. Hummmm are lies – the lies of Hitler, the lies of Stalin, the lies of the Catholic church about its priest etc etc etc Ah the lowly lie and what it does……..

  50. TransitRider says:

    Now 6:10 am. Still no story of the Senate passing the tax-cut bill. Nobody is there!

  51. TransitRider says:

    Now 7:05 am. Still showing last night’s headline.

  52. TransitRider says:

    Now 7:50 am. The J-S website FINALLY has the story of last night’s big Senate vote!

  53. Thomas says:

    It was noted in the 12/2/2017 “green sheet” that on 12/2/1954 “The U.S. Senate passed 67 – 22 a resolution condemning Senator Joseph McCarthy , saying he had acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

    It strikes me that Trump has routinely “acted contrary to presidential ethics and tends to bring the presidency into dishonor and disrepute.” Will our current U.S. Senate muster the testosterone to censure Trump?

  54. Mark says:

    Thank you Urban Milwaukee for providing a forum for those of very concerned and frustrated at the way the Journal-Sentinel has been decimated by its current ownership and management team. It is disappointing that the newspaper itself has not allowed its readers such a forum. I am a current subscriber and the situation greatly saddens me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *