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Posts Tagged ‘Des Moines Tribune’

One of the best things about being a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald was that we were always on deadline.

Even before digital publishing gave constant deadlines to all journalists, the World-Herald had a never-ending succession of deadlines for our evening edition and four morning editions. Whenever news broke, we were always scrambling to get our best story into the next edition.

When I posted some lessons last year from my decade at the World-Herald, I double-checked to see if it still was publishing the evening edition, because that seemed kind of unlikely. It was, but Publisher Terry Kroeger announced Monday that the evening edition would end March 7.

I can’t let the announcement pass without some fond memories of the “all-day” World-Herald, other afternoon newspapers in my past and the place of afternoon newspapers in the past and future of the newspaper business.

The all-day World-Herald

I joined the World-Herald in 1993, a little leery of the fact that it still had an evening edition. The deaths of afternoon newspapers in Des Moines in 1982 and Kansas City in 1990 had caused considerable disruption in my journalism career. And in 1992, I had overseen the newsroom aspects of a switch from afternoon to morning publication as editor of the Minot Daily News. While the World-Herald didn’t maintain separate news staffs (as Des Moines and Kansas City had done), it did have two shifts of editors and two production and circulation shifts. This seemed to me another disruption waiting to happen. (more…)

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Kansas City Times final editionI was present for the deaths of two newspapers: The Des Moines Tribune in 1982 and the Kansas City Times 24 years ago today.

The first time I was an editor at the surviving paper, the Des Moines Register. It was rough watching our sister paper die and it was rougher watching 50-plus journalists on both staffs lose their jobs. But it was unquestionably better, if you kept your job, to work for the surviving paper.

In Kansas City, the death was shared between the two staffs. The evening paper was dying, but that was the Star. And the name of the surviving paper was the Star, so the Kansas City Times was dying, too.

The company pretended that both papers would live on somehow in the new morning Star. The final edition of the Times didn’t even merit an above-the-fold mention. The story is at the bottom of the page, with the bullshit headline: “Death of a newspaper? No, a grand rebirth”: (more…)

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Des Moines Tribune front page, Jan. 20, 1981I had fun reviewing the front pages my father saved from the Kennedy assassination. So I’ve decided to make a look back at historic (or just interesting) front pages an occasional feature of this blog.

Since this is Jan. 20, I have to remember the day a bigger story pushed a presidential inauguration to secondary status: Jan. 20, 1981. Ronald Reagan taking the oath of office was a huge deal, but after 444 days of captivity in Tehran, the release of American hostages from Iran was bigger.

Of course, the capture of the hostages and Jimmy Carter‘s failure in attempts to free them by a military surprise rescue mission or by diplomacy was a key reason Reagan was taking his first oath as president rather than Carter taking his second. (Soaring prices and interest rates were other reasons, but the hostage crisis was the biggest humiliation and failure of the Carter presidency.)

I worked at the Des Moines Register at the time, and the Register and our sister afternoon paper, the Des Moines Tribune, worked frantically to cover the varying developments over the last days of the Carter presidency and the first day of the Reagan presidency.

The stories and pictures of both events came from the wire services, but this was a local story, too: One of the hostages, Kathryn Koob, was a native of Jesup, Iowa, and both papers had covered her captivity intensely for more than a year. And, of course, one of the thrills of working on a newspaper is putting together a historic paper, whether the story comes from your staff or not. The local staff writes the headlines, edits the stories and lays out the whole paper, including that historic front page. (more…)

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

David Witke

David Witke

Editors should be aware that we’re role models for the future editors on our staffs.

The editor who most shaped my own leadership is David Witke, who was managing editor of the Des Moines Register when I started working there in 1977 (the editor who hired me, in fact).

Dave has given me lots of advice through the years, but nothing he told me was as important as watching him lead. Here’s my favorite example of Dave’s leadership: (more…)

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I learned a lot when the Des Moines Tribune died 30 years ago. The last edition of the Trib published Sept. 25, 1982, but that followed a summer filled with lessons (some of which took some time to sink in).

A little background before I review the lessons: I started working at the Des Moines Register in 1977. The Register, distributed each morning in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, covered the whole state. The afternoon Tribune covered central Iowa.

We competed feistily in a few areas such as Iowa politics, state government and Des Moines news, but it wasn’t exactly a fair competition: The Register had a larger staff and a national reputation. Even though the Tribune had several outstanding journalists who measured up with the best anywhere, the Register simply had more firepower. It also wasn’t a genuine competition: However fiercely we competed as journalists, we were owned by the same company. Whatever profits we made helped the same bottom line and whatever resources we wasted hurt the same bottom line. (more…)

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At my invitation, Arnold Garson, former Des Moines Register managing editor, shared his thoughts on lessons from the Des Moines Tribune (which died 30 years ago today). As a reporter, Arnie broke the story that the Tribune was closing. My observations on lessons from the life and death of the Tribune are a separate blog post. In a third post, I publish some Trib memories from Arnie, Ron Maly and me.

Arnold Garson

The most important lesson to emerge from the closing of The Des Moines Tribune was the lesson not learned.

I arrived at the Des Moines Tribune as a reporter from the Omaha World-Herald in October 1969. Ed Heins, then the top Fourth-Floor news executive for The Register and Tribune, actually hired me for The Register. But before I arrived he changed his mind saying that he wanted to inject some new energy into the Tribune.

Under the leadership of its newly appointed managing editor, Drake Mabry, The Tribune, which had grown a bit lethargic, would become a harder edged news product for Central Iowa and hopefully would stabilize its future.

The Tribune’s new mindset: We will focus on hard news and enterprise. We will concentrate on the market our advertisers care most about. We’re as good as anybody in the business. Happily, the Tribune had a news staff that could execute superbly against this strategy and the transformation came quickly.

It was a great formula for the time, and it was kept strong through periodic reevaluation and refinement over the years that followed. (more…)

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The Des Moines Tribune published its final edition 30 years ago today. In separate posts I reflected on some lessons from the life and death of the Trib and Arnold Garson reflected on a lesson the news business failed to learn. I asked some former Register and Tribune colleagues if they wanted to share some memories of the Tribune. Arnie, Kathleen Richardson and Ron Maly responded. Their memories follow some of mine:

I never worked for the Des Moines Tribune, but I came close once. I interviewed for a reporting job (consumer reporter, as I recall) at the Trib in 1979 while I was a copy editor for the Register. I preferred the Register over the Tribune, but I really wanted to become a reporter and I gave the job serious consideration.

I was really impressed with the pride and passion that the metro editors, Tom Tuttle and Rich Somerville (co-metro editors, as I recall, or it might have been a different arrangement), showed for their paper. They desperately wanted to hire someone away from the Register (we hired more away from the Trib, giving rise to the “practice paper” insult), but I turned down the job (angering Tom, but Rich and I later became close and remained friends until his death). As I recall, concerns about the Trib’s longevity were a factor in my decision.

Soon after turning down the job, I became an assistant city editor for the Register, supervising a lot of the fiercest competition (including the Trib’s last season of legislative coverage).

The Tribune’s top three editors (except Jim Gannon, who was editor of both papers) have since died: Bill Maurer, City Editor Chuck Capaldo and Rich Somerville, who by then had become News Editor. (Tribbers, please correct me if I’m forgetting any top leaders.) (more…)

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