Greetings Guthrie County. I hope your holiday week got off to a robust start. Mine sure did.
If you haven’t heard yet, I am the new owner of the Guthrie County Times Vedette. The change in ownership was announced to Times Vedette staff on Monday. Chances are word has made its way through the county by the time you receive the printed version of the Times Vedette this week.
In this introductory column, I intend to write a few things about myself and what brought me to this newspaper.
As is noted elsewhere in today’s paper, from 2004 to 2017, I was the editor and publisher of The Hawk Eye in Burlington, nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa. The Hawk Eye was a 7-day paper delivered in print and online with a daily circulation between 16,000 and 17,000 and a Sunday circulation of about 18,000. Only the Thanksgiving Day paper topped the Sunday average.
On Dec. 1, 2016, national newspaper chain Gatehouse took over ownership of The Hawk Eye and five newspapers in Kansas, all owned by Harris Enterprises. Gatehouse, as is the company’s strategy, began layoffs a few months later, mostly gutting the newsrooms at all of the former Harris papers. I was the first budget cut at Burlington, but other long-time, loyal and experienced journalists were escorted out the door not long after. Not only did the new owners gut the newsroom, it also ceased publication of the Monday edition.
For a few months at the start of 2018, I was the interim executive editor of the Kenosha (Wisconsin) News, on board until the permanent editor could relocate. It was refreshing to work again with young journalists while writing editorials and columns of local interest.
That starts anew at the Times Vedette.
Journalism has been in my blood — I bet if you sliced me open, ink would flow out — since I was sports editor of the Hempstead Equestrian, the high-school newspaper in my native Dubuque, also nestled on the banks of the Mississippi, in northeast Iowa.
Community journalism has taken a beating in recent years. Not because of the Internet, that’s an asset offering myriad opportunities for us to disseminate news and advertising on a daily bases. Instead, it’s been the gobbling up of community newspapers by hedge-fund operators and the gutting newsrooms that make quality, local reporting almost impossible to achieve. That won’t happen here.
Our news pages will continue to cover important matters. We’ll reserve our opinions for an opinion section. To me, the news pages make up the heart of a newspaper, the opinion section makes up its soul, and the two shouldn’t intermingle.
We’ll also continue to cover things that matter to readers — school and church activities, ribbon-cuttings, youth and school sports. It’s what community newspapers do.
Having served on many committees, including as president, I was honored to receive the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Master Editor-Publisher award in 2016. That same year, I received the Iowa Freedom of Information Council’s highest honor, the “Friend of the First Amendment” award.
Awards are one thing — it’s great your efforts are recognized by your peers throughout the state - but actions are much more important. To that end, I’m going to be an on-site owner, establishing roots in the county once I can secure suitable housing.
I hope to be involved in matters that help the county prosper. Having chaired economic development and chamber of commerce boards through the years, I hope that experience is helpful in securing more business and industry to the county. The Times Vedette will be an involved entity on such matters.
I could write a lot more about my years in this business, but it’s time to get down to business. Sometime in the coming weeks, we’ll have a meet-and-greet at the newspaper office. But feel free to stop by anytime, if only to introduce yourself. If you have a good news tip, I’m all for that as well. Likewise, if a news tip comes to you when the door is closed, leave us a message.
Most newspaper editors wouldn’t do this, but my after hours and weekend direct line is my mobile device. The number is (319) 759-1324. The e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to deliver a tip that way if you wish.
The Times Vedette has changed hands, but it remains the county’s newspaper. We pledge to deliver the news, offer an opinion and help advertisers get their message to consumers.
It’s exciting being on the doorstep of local history as it’s being made. It’s also an awesome responsibility. We’ll make it happen.