DEWAYNE'S WORLD - Passion knows no address

DeWayne Bartels

The Times-Observer has been all over the local blogosphere, of late as a result of our move to #1 News Plaza.

Blogger CJ Summers wrote: GateHouse Media, which now owns both the Journal Star and the Times-Observer, has consolidated the two newspapers’ offices ... Could this be the beginning of the end for the venerable Times-Observer? If I were a betting man, I’d bet that GateHouse will discontinue the Times-Observer by the end of the year, but retain DeWayne Bartels as a reporter/columnist for the Journal Star.

I’d be happy if my prediction didn’t come true, however, and the Times-Observer continued as a separate publication. But I can’t help but feel like the handwriting is on the wall.”

Anonymous blogger Peoria Life wrote: I read in this week’s Observer that they will be moving to #1 News Plaza, now the home to the Journal Star.

I can count on at least one interesting, well written local article coming out of that building.

And, finally blogger Bill Dennis wrote: If GateHouse were going to close the PTO, I think it would just go ahead and do it. I think as long as they can sell ads through the PTO and it’s sister newspapers in Morton, Chillicothe, Washington, East Peoria, etc., that they can’t through the PJS, they will remain open. Not one minute longer though.

I’m surprised that they maintained separate offices for as long as they did after GateHouse bought them out. The chain’s entire business model revolves around buying newspapers both large and small in entire geographic regions, then consolidating operations to save money. That means once-competitive newspapers are operating out of the same offices, using the same printing presses and often sharing reporters and stories.

Ironically, every single TimesNewspaper publication was itself an independent newspaper, based entirely in the communities they covered. They were consolidated by other news organizations and consolidated into a central location long before GateHouse came around.

That’s a good bit of speculation.

But, we knew this speculation was going to come.

It’s a circumstance, I admit, made for the blogosphere.

Speculation has been the Times-Observer’s lot since I came here 12 years ago.

I came over from my editor’s post in Morton to help convert the Times-Observer from the “North Peoria golf ladies paper” into a newspaper that savored hard news and tried to find a good mix of news and features.

And, in the process, we would try to scoop the Journal Star every chance we got.

We started the transformation with a package on the economic impact of the adult entertainment business in Peoria — with a stripper on the front page getting a dollar bill tucked into a garter.

That got attention.

Yours truly and the paper were denounced from the pulpit by preachers in North Peoria.

We followed up with a package on the gay lifestyle in Peoria.

Carriers began quitting.

Then, the scoops started coming.

Over time, the Times-Observer began to gain a reputation as a newspaper full of surprises.

I’m proud to have been part of that.

A couple of years ago we were sold to GateHouse. That’s when the speculation  really got hot and heavy.

It was assumed by some TimesNewspapers would lose its identity.

More than a handful of people asked me if the Journal Star’s editorial writers were going to direct our editorial page.

The answer then was, and still is, “No.”

The Times-Observer and Journal Star may belong to the same family, but we are still friendly rivals, proud rivals.

What I do know is that it feels right here in my little corner of the basement at #1 News Plaza.

It matters not where the newsroom is.

What matters is the passion and dedication within the newsroom.

And, those things are not altered by location.