Small newsrooms of today


What it’s really like

By Merrilee Embs - membs@aimmediamidwest.com



It’s not a complaint, it’s a fact — the newsroom is one-third the size it was 20 plus years ago.

I don’t think many people realize just how small we are now.

When I started as a reporter at the Xenia Daily Gazette in 1995, right out of Wright State University, the 13 full-time staff and approximately 10 freelancers had one daily newspaper to worry about. There were six reporters, a city editor, a managing editor, two photographers, an editorial assistant, a sports editor and a sports writer.

Bottom line is now we have five people (that’s including myself) putting out three newspapers: Xenia Daily Gazette, Fairborn Daily Herald and the weekly Beavercreek News-Current.

I take phone calls from various organizations that think we still have someone covering lifestyle or specific beats. That is long past.

As a first-time reporter for the Gazette, I covered Cedarville, did features and did breaking news as needed. Our paper was on the street at noon each day. For me, looking back that was a luxury. Now we cover sports, obituaries, news at all levels 24 hours a day, seven days a week, take our own photos and video, manage our websites, manage our social media sites, cover meetings and events and the list goes on.

With five it isn’t always possible to do everything, so we focus on what we can do. We try hard to include all our small communities like Jamestown, Cedarville, Bowersville, Spring Valley and Yellow Springs — while trying to provide complete coverage of Xenia, Fairborn and Beavercreek. This is no small task. Our time is precious.

All five of us are degreed. Three of us have 20 plus years of experience covering small communities. Two of us are the backbone of social media and web content.

Many times we get criticism for not doing enough of the tough stuff. The news that we have to roll up our sleeves and dig in the dirt to get. We do this as much as we can — but sadly when you have hourly staff and a budget to meet, you spend much of your time covering the things that organizations, officials and the public want you to cover. We never give up trying though.

I have seen some social media comments from people who don’t like how we cover things and tell us we should shut our doors. It’s sad. There is a circulation manager, a front receptionist, a GM and three advertising staff, contract news delivery staff and freelancers getting these newspapers out each day that have families and have given their time and hard work to keep these papers going.

I don’t want pity. We do a job we love and it’s certainly not for the pay that we do what we do.

We want your assistance. Notify us about your event. Notify us about your concern. Share your anniversaries, births, engagements, fundraisers, news, photos and other things. Maybe we can’t be everywhere, but it’s our job to get it in. Send them to editor@xeniagazette.com.

Quite frankly we put in things that our competitors will never put in their publications or on television.

I will never forget one of my former publishers refer to the newspaper as a three-legged stool. If one leg is down we are off balance. It’s advertising that pays our way. It’s subscriptions that allow us to get advertisers. It’s news that draws in the reader.

We know this mantra and we live by it.

What it’s really like

By Merrilee Embs

membs@aimmediamidwest.com