I marked my 10th year at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Feb. 19, 2023. Longest I’ve worked for one employer without interruption.
When I came here, I had 11 people on my staff. They’re all gone now. Only two still work for newspapers, though some are still writing.
A metro/biz/photo contact list, dated Aug. 26, 2014, listed 70 people. Thirteen are still around — one of them works for the editorial page; the other is retired, but still writing. Two editors are left (I’m one). Just four of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo staff are still with the paper.
Sports and Features also have a number of veterans who’ve weathered many changes.
The journalists who remain. I believe, are in it for the long haul, unwilling to jump ship because of their devotion to the institution, to their craft, to their city. They still like what they do.
In the past decade, many people have come and gone. Birds of passage. As we’ve contracted, we’ve basically stopped covering a lot of the region. We’ve closed almost every bureau in recent years, including D.C., which lasted 100 years, from Charles G. Ross to Charles “Chuck” Raasch. We have nobody dedicated to Illinois and the Metro East; we no longer have stringers watching local municipalities.
Parent company Lee Enterprises also is shrinking. It had more than 5,000 full-time employees when I joined the company, serving 51 markets. That dropped to less than 2,800 (FTEs) by 2019. In 2020, Lee acquired BH Media, including the Buffalo News, growing to 77 markets and more than 5,200 FTEs. By last fall, about 1,200 of those workers were gone — and that’s before the latest cuts.
Despite the retrenchment, the Post-Dispatch remains the No. 1 source of local news in the market — with more than twice as many unique online visitors than the next media organization. Right now, it has more than 50,000 digital-only subscriptions; that number climbs to more than 75,000 after adding print subscribers who’ve activated digital access. And that number continues to rise, because the Post-Dispatch still manages the broadest local news content, including investigative and enterprise work, in the market.
Of course, in an industry in which change is the only constant, that could change. But not anytime soon.