Ex-editors dish on conditions in corporate community journalism

Business North has an exclusive story that might interest readers of Northland newspapers. The former editors of the Ashland Press in northern Wisconsin recently dished on the reasons they left the American Consolidated Media-owned paper. A taste:

“It was clear to me that if I wanted a day off, I was going to have to retire,” said former editor Richard Pufall, who left the five-days-a-week publication on May 31.

He made the decision more than a month earlier. In an April e-mail to friends, Pufall wrote “I will be 62 in May and after 41 years in the news/sports business I have come to realize that time is more important than work … or money.”

Pufall gave five weeks notice of his retirement plans. He thought company officials would use the time to seek a replacement. After Pufall departed, said night editor Candee Furguson, there was no replacement, so she picked up some of his responsibilities along with special projects editor Bryan Byrns.

“We were killing ourselves. There was no support at all or even acknowledgment of how hard we were working,” she said.

Furguson and Byrns each worked up to 60 hours weekly, she said. The only other newsroom employees were one reporter and two sportswriters.

“It was, all around, the worst situation I’ve ever had at a newspaper,” she said.

The company, like many community newspaper conglomerates, has trimmed expenses at its properties, and these editors allege that they’ve done so by piling work and increased, often unreasonable expectations on remaining staff.

This is a bit of a dicey story for me, as I was editor of a now-ACM owned newspaper 10 years ago and still write a column for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I suppose I’ll say this:

It was my life goal in college to edit a community newspaper. I was honored to have the experience of editing a small corporate-owned daily in my Iron Range birthplace as a young man. It was very educational and opened a lot of doors. I worked an average of 50-60 hour weeks, sometimes starting at 4:30 a.m., other times staying until midnight. I presided over a 20 percent reduction in news staff and the elimination of the composition department. I held the job for two years and two months, which was a longer stint than the three previous or three ensuing editors. (Current editor Kelly Grinsteinner has been there longer). I went back to grad school to teach communication at a community college, which has been a very rewarding career move. My life goals no longer include editing newspapers.



  1. Welcome to the decay of a medium. When things go sour, those left hanging on will be treated like slaves because the company doesn’t have the money for a full staff and the employees don’t have anywhere else to go.

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