Larry Reisman, 42, is editor of the Vero Beach (Fla.) Press Journal, a 35,000 circulation paper owned by Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. He also is editor of Florida Fairways, a regional golf magazine. Since joining the Press Journal in 1985, Reisman has been a reporter, night city editor and opinion page editor. He began his career writing
obituaries at the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call in 1982. After graduating
from Lehigh University, he covered news and sports for the Bethlehem (Pa.)
Globe-Times. In Bethlehem, he also was managing editor of National Mat News, a newspaper covering college wrestling. He spoke with JournalismJobs.com recently about what it's like to run a small newspaper.
Larry Reisman: The close working relationships with co-workers and readers are priceless. Because the staff is relatively small, each of us has a greater impact in our community. That public service is an intangible that makes our jobs so rewarding. I must admit, too, that I like the challenge of trying to be better than metro papers while operating with the limited resources a small newspaper has.
JournalismJobs.com: Do you have any aspirations to write for or edit a large paper?
Larry Reisman: I don't dwell on it, but, given the right circumstances, I certainly would consider it -- as I would any opportunity. Right now, I'm getting a taste of a larger newsroom as our cluster (three dailies and various weeklies and niche publications) begins to work more and more together. There certainly are some significant benefits to a larger operation.
JournalismJobs.com: What's the future for newspapers -- will they always be around?
Larry Reisman: They'll be around for a long time. I think, though, that eventually they'll be quite different. For instance, I envision newspapers with smaller news holes. More people will rely on the Internet to get stocks, sports statistics, national news, etc., so newspapers will be able to streamline their coverage in these areas; many papers already are doing this. Superior local and regional content will continue to take on more importance and dominate news space.
JournalismJobs.com: Will all papers eventually be forced to charge to read their online editions? Will this cannibalize subscriptions to their print version?
Larry Reisman: I haven't given this a lot of thought, but I don't see this happening anytime soon. I've always wondered about the logic of giving away your complete newspaper online for free, then trying to get 50 cents a day for it on the news stand. Perhaps if we started charging people to read our papers online, we'd have more people buying the print version.
JournalismJobs.com: If newspapers switch their revenue model to put more emphasis on online revenues, will that be enough to sustain them?
Larry Reisman: Newspapers continually have to look for new revenues, so looking online is a given, and we will survive. In markets like ours, where half of our community is over 50 years old, old habits are hard to break. I suspect I'm like many newspaper readers: I'm not going to give up my habit of reading the morning paper over breakfast. Many of us still need to get that newsprint fix first thing in the morning. But there certainly are some good opportunities for greater online revenue streams.
JournalismJobs.com: As you probably know, the FCC is considering relaxing cross-ownership rules for newspapers. Is that a good thing for journalism?
Larry Reisman: As a journalist, I'm excited by the convergence opportunities many of us will have in the future. Will this lead to better journalism? The jury's out. Certainly, there will be pros and cons. In some ways, there will be fewer voices -- if that's what you want to call it. To me, though, good journalists demand good journalism and we're not going to let it get hijacked just because we're involved in convergence. We will have greater opportunities for more high-impact story telling. That should serve our readers and viewers better.
JournalismJobs.com: Do newspapers carry as much clout in their communities as they did 20-30 years ago?
Larry Reisman: Given that there are more one-paper towns, yes. But every community is different, so I'd hate to generalize. Newspapers whose management has insisted on communicating with the community, on a commitment to quality journalism and on maintaining credibility, I would say, have more clout in their communities.
JournalismJobs.com: Do you encourage your reporters and copy editors to use the Internet when researching an article?
Larry Reisman: Not specifically, unless they need to access a particular database -- especially ones operated by various governments -- but we let them know it is a tool at their disposal. The Internet is an invaluable resource, but it's not perfect. Most of our reporters use it for various reasons. Our librarians also do research for reporters.
JournalismJobs.com: Is it hard to run a newspaper that's really considered seasonal? What is your strategy?
Larry Reisman: I don't consider it seasonal. We've got to serve our readers every day, all year long. We used to kick back more in the summer. Before I was editor, we could take our vacations only during summer, when our circulation was down. But we have more and more full-time residents and we can't let up in summer. The real challenge is covering everything that goes on in our season, from January through April. We've got everything from spring training to the world's largest frog leg festival. It's a challenge from a manpower standpoint. We manage the newshole budget to accommodate the seasonal changes. It used to be that one of our strategies was to sell seasonal readers mail subscriptions for when they were up north. But ever since we began our web site, our mail subscriptions have declined.
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