July 27, 2009

How is it going at the Flint newspaper? Who is going and who is returning?

waving hand

The Flint Journal
Those affected by the changing of The Flint Journal from a daily newspaper to a three-times a week newspaper can talk by phone to some of the editors this week.

John Hiner, the executive editor of the Flint newspaper, announced the call-in on page one Sunday. (As of 2:01 a.m. Monday, it's not online so I can't link to it and my paper copy recycled.)

Taking the calls is one of the last things editor John Foren will do before leaving July 31. Also heading out after an employee-only cake reception Thursday is Adrienne Wells, most recently director of employee relations.

Why Foren stayed

Foren planned to leave May 31 but stayed when the woman who now has the top role in the newsroom found out May 12 she would be a mother. Ten days later, Marjory Raymer and her husband brought their son home.

She's been gradually returning to work, with her official full-time start Aug. 3. She'll answer calls Wednesday night with Hiner, Foren and others, including the Bay City-based features editor.

Raymer likes how the news is being covered.
"I must say it has been so rewarding to watch how the dedicated and talented crew in the newsroom has adapted to our new model. There is a real hunger in the newsroom to continue to find new and better ways to hone our craft on the Web."

Raymer ready to return

She's anxious to get back - it's the longest she's been away from a newsroom since college.
"This is an exciting time for us all. Reporters have been empowered like never before. And, we are all encouraged to be innovators -- question the way things always have been done and to try things differently. This feels like the new frontier in journalism and The Flint Journal is blazing the trail."
Foren praised Raymer, who he said "is not only a colleague but a friend. I'm not sure I would have basically canceled my summer plans for anyone else."

GM blog praised

Raymer praised Ron Fonger's beat blog on GM and said plans are to continue increasing the number of videos posted.
"There is also a renewed dedication to finding other content of interest to our readers. By aggregating content, our Web site will be the best and most complete source for news and information in Genesee County.

Along with our dedication to developing our Web presence, you will find the same hard news and investigative journalism that makes The Flint Journal great."
Foren, 48, was named The Journal's interim editor in December when Tony Dearing was tapped for an Advance Internet project (AnnAbor.com). Foren got the permanent job in January.

Advance changed Michigan newspapers

Then, this spring Advance Publications announcd changes that affected nearly every newspaper in the family-owned chain. In Michigan, besides pay cuts and pension changes, the changes included the July 24 shuttering of the Ann Arbor News, reducing three mid-Michigan newspapers to three tmes a week while changing their personnel and news structures and creating the AnnArbor.com.

Changes include one publisher and executive editor now over sees the Flint Journal, Saginaw News and Bay City Times. Each news organization also has a female Community Editor (Raymer's new title). The three newspapers, which also became morning newspapers on June 1, share some services and printing through what has become known as Booth MidMichigan. A joint weather package is offered to the Great Lakes Bay Region. A joint business package is labeled Mid-Michigan Business News.
"It was my decision to leave and, while it was a tough one, it feels like the right time to do it.," John said.

Foren ready for new pace

The married father of two teenagers says he looks forward to being around Lansing and his family more.
"My daughter has a year left before college; my son will be a high school sophomore in the fall and has football, basketball and baseball on the schedule. I really want to be around them as much as I can in the next few years. "
Nothing is lined up
"Given the hectic pace of the past few months, I'm also just looking forward to a break. I'm in a position to do that and for that I'm grateful. - Ultimately, I'm guessing I'll steer toward something political in Lansing; I like policy stuff but I know whatever I do will probably also involve writing in some form.

Foren says 'bye in print, online

Speaking of politics, it was his appearance recently as a moderator in the Flint mayoral debate that got some folks asking why he was still in Flint after announcing he'd be gone June 1.

He had a farewell column - Flint's spirit will see it through to its possibilities for the future - in Sunday's newspaper and online. Much of it focused on Sybyl Atwood, before he ended it with two pleas to the community:

"Keep up the good fight. It will yield results, maybe incrementally and in small doses, but progress will come.

And keep reading The Journal, both in print and online. It's part of Flint's fabric and, like the community, is full of spirit and possibilities."

Foren agreed to stay on through July to help with the transition, praising John Hiner and publisher Matt Sharp for being "very good to me" while the three worked on Flint Journal coverage "in our new journalist world."

Foren's career path

Foren was the newspaper's local news editor, overseeing the newsroom and Flint-area coverage, 1999-2009. He joined The Journal in 1985, reporting on some suburban communities before covering Flint government and politics. From 1990-1992, he covered Congress at the newspaper's Washington D.C. Bureau. He then spent three years based in Lansing, covering the Michigan Legislature and the 1994 gubernatorial election. He returned to Flint as a local editor in 1995.

Raymer's career path

Raymer was named Local News editor in January and promoted to the new position of Community Editor in April. She became the newspaper's business editor in January 2008.

Raymer began as a reporter at The Journal in 2000, covering the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She also covered Flint City Hall, social services and environmental issues. She previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Her husband worked as a copy editor for the Saginaw News before leaving the news business. The last news article on Raymer said her husband, Eric Wisniewski, is an analyst in the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Leaving or coming into a Michigan newsroom? Send me an email with contact information so we can all keep in touch. I've recently wrote about changes in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and Muskegon and even Livingston County.


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