I started working at The Hutchinson News in 2005 after graduating from Wichita State University. It was my first full-time job in journalism, and I was hired as a copy editor and page designer. After a couple of years, I became a reporter and covered everything from school board meetings to capital murder trials.
I’ll always look back on my nearly nine years at The Hutchinson News with fondness — even that time I was chased by a German Shepherd. Despite the stresses that came with the job — rollercoaster work schedule; being overworked and underpaid; pumping breastmilk in a conference room that didn’t have a lock and yelling at anyone who walked in (times have changed) — the experiences I gained from working there are invaluable and irreplaceable. Nothing compares to the camaraderie in a bustling newsroom when there’s breaking news. Or the Election Night pizza that filled that conference room. Or even the giddiness of receiving a tiny new AP calendar at the start of every year.
When I left The News in 2014, there were well over 100 people working there. In 2016, Harris Enterprises, owner of The News, sold its Kansas newspapers to GateHouse Media, which merged with Gannett in 2019 to become the largest newspaper chain in the country. Today, there may be around 35 people working at The News. My first job there as a copy editor no longer exists since they no longer have a copy desk. That’s not to say there aren’t still good journalists working there, and at other newspapers across the state and country. There just aren’t nearly as many.
I’m optimistic when I see new media outlets like The Beacon, a nonprofit digital news organization, stepping in to fill some of the gaps. It’s exciting to see The Beacon launching a Wichita newsroom, and I look forward to hearing Beacon founder and publisher Kelsey Ryan talk about it during WPC’s March 3 virtual program. I won’t dive into the debate on the decline of newspapers, but I will say I believe journalism is imperative to our society. I believe it’s important to support all of our local journalists, and I admire those who are able to continue to do the imperative work that others have been unable to continue doing, often for reasons beyond their control.
– Darcy Gray, WPC president