Editor's Views: Veteran staff helps Gazette, readers stay on top of news

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Scott Angus
Saturday, October 26, 2013

When I started at The Gazette 35 years ago, we regularly missed local stories.

We too often didn't know about important events or developments or we didn't recognize their significance. Sure, we learned of them eventually when someone called or sent us a note, often with a disparaging comment about our ineptitude, and we scrambled to put something together.

It wasn't anyone's fault. It was a different time. Our staff makeup was much different than it is now, and we didn't have the benefit of the technology and social media that back us up today.

I arrived in December 1978 near the end of a major turnover on the newspaper's staff. We had a good leader in Managing Editor Mitch Bliss, and he had been in the city for a while. Edgerton-born Sports Editor Dave Wedeward knew the local sports scene as well as anybody.

Most of us, though, were new to the area, and many of us were relatively young and new to journalism.

We didn't know much about the big issues in the community, and we didn't know many of the key players. How could we? We did our best to learn on the fly, but nothing can make up for years of experience in a place and the institutional knowledge that you gain in that time.

Today's Gazette newsroom is much more seasoned in many ways, not the least of which is our knowledge of Janesville and surrounding communities. We've got a strong group of veterans who have lived here for decades and have learned about what's important to the people of this area.

If you produce a newspaper in the same place day after day, year after year, you're bound to see what matters to residents and you're bound to recognize the people who make things happen. That puts us in a good position to know what's news and to react in appropriate ways.

Through our years of living here and our involvement in the community outside of the newsroom, we've also made friends and acquaintances who help keep us apprised of what's percolating or what could be a good story.

My 35 years at the paper put me near the top in terms of longevity, but I'm far from alone. At least three of us have more than three decades here. Another handful have more than 20 years, and many others are in their teens.

That's unusual at a newspaper our size. In most ways, I think it's good. It's not that most of these folks couldn't have gotten other jobs and moved on. They've stayed because they like the newspaper, the company and the community. And we and you benefit from their experience.

The other ingredient today that ensures you find the latest and most important news in our paper and on our website is social media. No other news outlet covers Janesville and Rock and Walworth counties as we do, but others get tips, pay attention to press releases and jump quickly if they learn of significant news.

Many of us at The Gazette follow these other outlets on social media. If they post news that we don't have, we get on it immediately, and we typically have the basic news and likely more on gazettextra.com within minutes. We then update the news as we gather more information and pull together a complete story for the next day's paper.

By no means am I suggesting that we're infallible. Some things still occasionally slip by us, and—as I've written before—we need your help. Don't hesitate to email or call if you know something that you think could be interesting.

Generally, though, if it's news in Janesville or the surrounding area, we know about it, and we're on it. That's reassuring to me as the editor, and it should be reassuring to you as our readers.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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