Amid shrinking local news staffs, a group of South Bend journalists is turning to the public to keep local reporting strong in the future.
Gayle Bell has been at the South Bend Tribune for more than 40 years and currently works as the newspaper’s sports content coordinator. “You know, I can remember the day when we’d be out to every single high school football game on a Friday night in town, and that doesn’t happen anymore,” Bell said.
The Tribune’s newsroom has gone from about 45 people to just 14 over the past five years. That means that a lot of local news doesn’t get covered — not only arts and sports, but also crime and education.
“Obviously, there’s crime in our community. We don’t have a crime reporter,” Bell said. “At the moment, we don’t have an education reporter, although I believe that position is posted.”
Now, the South Bend News Guild is holding a community summit. Bell says the goal is to generate ideas on how to bring in-depth local coverage back to the paper, but also simply to raise awareness.
“We’ve come to find out that the public isn’t really aware of where we’re at and what’s going on,” Bell said. “They probably just think, well, we’re just not covering things, but it’s just, we don’t have the people.”
The event will feature guest speakers from local organizations like the chamber of commerce and the community foundation, as well as representatives from the Chicago News Guild and the National Trust for Local News.
Bell notes that these discussions could have ripple effects beyond the South Bend Tribune and maybe even spark a renewed appreciation of local newspapers nationwide. “There’s a lot of newspapers in the Gannett chain that are in the same situation as us, and that are probably in worse situations than us,” Bell added.