Looking forward to the future of journalism

Texas Public Radio: How the San Antonio Express-News dealt with cutbacks

Six months after the San Antonio Express-News cut a third of its newsroom, Texas Public Radio interviewed journalists at the newspaper — including yours truly — to measure the impact of the cutbacks.

Terry GildeaTerry Gildea’s story was featured today on the radio program Texas Matters. Terry interviewed a broad spectrum of the newsroom: Top editor Bob Rivard; City Hall Reporter Tracy Idell Hamilton; Metro Columnist Scott Stroud; and Scott’s wife, Martha, a page designer who lost her job at the paper.

We lost a lot of good, talented people in the newsroom and the newspaper had some tough choices to make. Terry interviewed me about Bob’s decision to keep the paper’s special projects team intact. The team doesn’t usually handle daily assignments — we spend weeks or months digging into each investigative story.

Related: Will blogs replace newspapers? Only if blogs actually make money

The day in late February when the lay offs were announced, I was driving around helping reporter Karisa King work on a story about Raquel Padilla, a mental patient who was dropped off at a downtown Greyhound bus station, given a bus ticket home, and left to fend for herself.

Three days later, Padilla was found dead, lying in the shallow water of a concrete ditch.

When the story was published, readers were outraged by Padilla’s death. State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, wrote a bill that attempts to prevent future tragedies.

“That’s a good thing,” I told Terry. “Good things happen when you give reporters time and resources to dig into stuff.”

Although this next part didn’t make it on the air, I also told him newspapers don’t have a monopoly on enterprise stories. Terry is living proof of that. He’s reported long stories on the radio, such as these heartrending features on a nurse and soldier in the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Related: How to contact an investigative reporter

But daily newspapers have traditionally invested the most time, energy and money into investigations that hold people accountable. That’s why lay offs at a newspaper are a big deal.

(Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/seanmcgee)