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Jun 22, 201504:23 PMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Nothing to read here, folks. Still only $1

(page 1 of 2)

The Wisconsin State Journal, Madison’s newspaper of record, is not covering the biggest story in town. That would be, of course, the blood-letting in the State Journal’s own newsroom late last week.

Six writers given pink slips — four of them involuntarily — and a seventh reporter not being replaced. Credit to my old editor at Isthmus, Bill Lueders, for breaking the story in his old newspaper.

It’s like the empty desk in high school home room after one of your classmates proves teenagers are too immature to drive. They’re just not there any more. And no grief counselors.

Gone are columnist Doug Moe, sports writers Andy Baggot, Dennis Semrau, and Brandon Storlie, higher ed reporter Dan Simmons, and books editor Jeanne Kolker. And we’re told that investigative reporter Dee Hall is not being replaced. Total: 7.

I have a directory of State Journal staffers dated July 1996; it bears 95 names. Frank Denton was editor, Tom Still wrote blistering editorials with the help of Sunny Shubert. Joe Jackson and Roger Turner were crack photographers; Jeff Mayers covered the capitol, and Bill Wineke wrote religion. Religion! Imagine!

The newspaper’s roster I found online today lists 60 names — the seven departed have not yet been scrubbed. So make that 53 staffers today compared to 95 two decades ago. Cut almost in half. Still the largest news staff in town, still worth reading, but indisputably diminished. Wasting away in full view.

Mothers, don’t raise your children to be journalists.

This is a story being writ in city after city — only not by the newspapers themselves. Even The New York Times is hemorrhaging; the corporation is said to have a capitalization of only the value of its Manhattan real estate.

Blaskas bottom line The one constant is change.

Back in the day, I marveled that the international news editor could review the world’s events on his green screen, a dumb terminal attached to a mainframe. I had not the wit to imagine that everyone would someday have similar machines — only 10 times more powerful — in their homes and now, on their belts. The news business is changing. (Three networks on television?) Hell, the world is changing.

Even Mt. Everest is moving a few feet each year, in a northeast direction, propelled by continental drift. The Nepal earthquake actually jolted the mountain back a few feet.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Jun 22, 2015 05:23 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Sorry Mr. B, but the State Journal is no longer worth reading and hasn't been for some time. Layoffs will continue, daily paper publishing will end gradually, and eventually the paper will expire with no one left to report the end. Sad, but entirely predictable.

Jun 22, 2015 06:13 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Good column/commentary/blogge/whatever-you-call-it, Dave. (I hope that praise doesn't cause you problems with some of your fans.) This a disturbing; where is real journalism to come from if the print industry continues to go under? Online? Where do you think us lazy anonymous commenters get any real information? I depended on and subscribed to the State Journal for 30+ years.
"The thinking that went into Moe but not the likes of Rickert?" Good question. He's like the nerdy suck-up the teacher always liked. Rickert likes to see himself as Eastside cool, but he'll never bite the corporate hand that feeds him.

Jun 23, 2015 08:46 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Shocked that Doug Moe was a casualty, but I won't miss Baggot's annual strut around the sports pages when it came time to cast votes for the Heisman Trophy. He always managed to mention that he alone controlled that ballot.

Jun 23, 2015 09:54 am
 Posted by  JNT

"Even Mt. Everest is moving a few feet each year, in a northeast direction, propelled by continental drift. The Nepal earthquake actually jolted the mountain back a few feet."

Inches. David. Not feet. Inches.

Also, continental drift is an outdated term, implying that the continents drift along the ocean floor, as proposed in the model by Alfred Wegener in the early part of the last century. Instead plates that make up the lithosphere move on top of the asthenosphere, which is plastic in nature. That model is called plate tectonics.

Jun 23, 2015 11:28 am
 Posted by  madisonexpat

Dear Whomever,

Please send me some large federal grants for the science of ... Wait for it...

Anthropogenic Plate Tectonics. Papers to follow.
It is settled science (in that both my dogs agree but my wife is an outlier) and is caused by fracking and possibly the Koch brothers.

Jun 23, 2015 12:30 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

In a recent issue of "The New Yorker" a writer pegged the drift of contemporary culture perfectly by describing how our lives spool out in "an app-happy cloud of anesthetized convenience." Why would anyone who's been lulled into a technology-induced coma make the effort to page through a newspaper and come away from the experience with ink stains on his fingers? The real wonder is that any newspaper still exists in print form.

Jun 23, 2015 12:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

They just need to "donate" 10,000 to walker, the apply to the Wisconsin Economic Disaster and Corruption board. Bingo. Problem solved by the working suckers who are really paying taxes.

Jun 23, 2015 02:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Where did the New York Journal-American go, the New York Herald Tribune, The New York World-Telegram, The New York Sun, to mention just a few dead New York City daily newspapers?

A few merged with other newspapers, many died with the advent of television news, a few others died in the 116 day printers union strike of 1965.

BUT, the long term trend for daily newspapers has been downhill for a long, long time.

Jun 23, 2015 03:10 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Don't confuse dave with that science stuff.

Jun 23, 2015 07:02 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

It's sad, but the State Journal has drop the ball on true news reporting for a while now - unless it pleases the majority political crowd in Madison (need to sell papers!). I thought Doug Moe added some great stuff to the paper. Rickert contorts himself trying to stay alive ( but hey its a talent!). Lets hope for the best.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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