Dave Simpson: We Didn’t Know How Good We Had It

Dave Simpson writes: “What is happening at the Casper Star-Tribune, sadly, is par for the course at large corporate-owned newspapers. They are struggling with the paradigm of advertising dollars migrating to the internet.”

Dave Simpson

May 17, 20234 min read

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If ever there was a case of putting lipstick on a pig and calling her “Monique,” this is it.

In journalism, one of the basic rules is to not “bury the lead,” meaning you should write what's most important in the first sentence.

By that measure, a story on Page 2 of Sunday’s Casper Star-Tribune may have set a record for buried leads.

You had to read down six paragraphs to learn that as of June 13, the Star-Tribune's print edition will be cut back to three days a week, instead of the current five.

Only after five paragraphs of telling readers how the paper has been “your leading provider of local news” for 130 years did we learn that the once daily paper would endure another cutback.

The headline, incredibly, proclaimed, “Star-Tribune to publish expanded editions.” 

A smaller subhead said, “New schedule for newspaper will begin next month.” 

This, apparently, to reflect beefier papers three days a week and digital news throughout the week.

Earlier this year the Star-Tribune announced that the doors of its office would be locked, and to talk to someone in person you would need to make an appointment.

I've been in the newspaper business for 50 years, and the notion of a paper that isn't open for folks to stop by for a chat is crazy. Can the mayor stop by? How about a U.S. senator? Is this paper part of the community or not?

What is happening at the Star-Tribune, sadly, is par for the course at large, corporate-owned newspapers.

They are struggling with the paradigm of advertising dollars migrating to the internet. It was announced a couple weeks ago that the majority of Lee newspapers (parent company of the Star-Tribune) would be going to three days a week of producing print papers. Images of circling the drain are inescapable.

That said, the vastly diminished status of a once-leading entity in Wyoming — a place where our state was top of mind and open for energetic discussion every day of the week — is lamented by those of us who once called the paper home, and by readers.

Dan Neal, former editor of the Star-Tribune, wrote this to current Star-Tribune Editor Joshua Wolfson and newspaper president Kevin Austin this week regarding Sunday's announcement story:

“I was sorry to see the CST engage in the worst kind of PR spin in its disingenuous announcement regarding cost cutting job losses and reduction of daily coverage for its print readers.

“In Sunday's story about the paper's major changes in service, there is no mention of the number of people who will lose work. There is no announcement of any prospect of adding more reporters and other journalists to the staff to improve the local and state reports. We are told instead that these reductions will be great for us and our community, and even will help us improve our relationships with our children. George Orwell warned us all about this kind of double-think.

“We have enjoyed the delivery service of our current carrier. What happens to him?

“Further, there is no indication that readers can expect any reduction in price associated with these cuts to the service we pay for.

“I am sorry to see this happen to a once great and greatly needed newspaper.”

I once had the job of state reporter for the Star-Tribune, allowing me to travel around the state and write stories. Best job I ever had.

Every afternoon, wherever I was in Wyoming, I could tune in to the News Hour on KTWO and find out the latest from Pete Williams, Susan Anderson, Charles Brown and other remarkably talented journalists.

Then the next morning I could pick up the Star-Tribune in any city or town in the state and read a paper prepared in Casper by the likes of Phil McAuley, Dick High, Rob Hurless, Bill Landen, Sally Ann Shurmur, Anne MacKinnon, Dan Neal, Greg Bean, Ron Franscell, Warren Wilson, Adella Harding, Tom Bishop and many others. What a team.

Those of us who love Wyoming didn't know how good we had it.

Three days a week for the Casper Star-Tribune?

Forgive us for the tears many of us are shedding.

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.