Editor's Views: Gazette covers Beloit stories with broad interest

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Scott Angus
Saturday, August 30, 2014

“Why don’t you do more in Beloit?”

That’s been a common question of The Gazette through the years, and the answer has never been simple.

We’d like to do more in Beloit, but it would take dollars and people. We never have too many of those, so we’re not about to allocate them without considerable thought and a good chance that our efforts will pay off.

Frank Schultz’s excellent package last Sunday on the summer of shootings in Beloit shows we are willing to venture south to cover stories that we think have broad interest in the region.

That’s generally our standard for when we cover events or news in Beloit: If we think the story will interest readers in Janesville and other parts of Rock County, we’ll go after it.

The reason we don’t do more has nothing to do with what we think of Beloit. In fact, most of us think it’s a swell city with good things happening. Culturally, Beloit is an attractive place with good restaurants, music, architecture and much more. Having Beloit College in its midst gives it an eclectic element that Janesville lacks.

Beloit and the people who love it have worked hard over the last decade or so to revitalize downtown, attract businesses and give the city new life.
Beloit has always had challenges with poverty and crime, however, and this summer’s shootings have drawn attention to the issues in two of the city’s more troubled neighborhoods.

We sell hundreds of papers in Beloit, and we’re confident we could sell more if we covered the community aggressively and consistently. We’re not sure, though, that we could make money doing that. Selling papers is only part of our revenue equation. The other is advertising, and we’ve never been convinced that the city has enough advertising potential for us to justify the cost to provide day-to-day news and full distribution there.

The fact that Beloit has a daily newspaper, the Beloit Daily News, affects our decision, as well. It would be hard for us to out-local the local newspaper, and the Daily News offers an alternative for advertisers to reach the city’s customers. The Gazette distributes in all of Rock County, and most Beloit businesses couldn’t justify the added expense of reaching people in Edgerton, Evansville or Milton.

In the newsroom, we regularly discuss what Beloit stories to cover. We don’t attend council or school board meetings, and we’re not staffed to report on routine happenings. We monitor crime and report on the big stories, but we’re conscious of how covering just that news would present a false and unfair image of the city.

So we go after other stories that show how interesting Beloit can be. We promote exhibits, concerts and other happenings on Beloit College’s campus and beyond. We’ve documented efforts that led to the downtown’s resurgence and growth of Gateway Business Park. We’ve covered the proposed casino and the debate over its impact. We’ve profiled people who work to make the city a better place.

In this discussion, it’s important to distinguish between the city of Beloit and the town of Beloit. I’m writing about the city. In fact, we cover the town more aggressively. It’s Rock County’s most-populated town; it’s closer to Janesville and our primary circulation area, and it doesn’t have its own newspaper.

All of this could change someday. The news business is evolving at a clip never seen before, and we need to consider all of our options for growth. For now, however, we’ll continue to monitor Beloit and report the news that we believe has value to a large number of our readers.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications; email sangus@gazettextra.com.

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