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Media Moves: Tazewell Weekly Papers Consolidate, New HOI Weekend Anchor

Tim Shelley / WCBU
The new Times-News Reporter

Three century-old weekly newspapers in Tazewell County are no more.

Or rather, they're now all one. 

The East Peoria Times-Courier, Morton Times-News, and Washington Times-Reporter merged with the relatively new Woodford Times to create the new "Times-News Reporter."

In an unsigned note to readers, the new GateHouse publication said readers will continue to receive their free paper on Wednesdays.

"Thank you for your continued support of our brand of journalism - reliable, accurate and community-focused news," read the note. 

The first edition of the Times-News Reporter is filled with Peoria Journal Star stories from Tazewell and Woodford counties. The only staff listed are President and Publisher Paul Gaier, who serves in the same role at several Illinois GateHouse publications; a production manager; and three sales representatives. 

It was only a few years ago that the Tazewell County weeklies each had their own dedicated editor producing original journalism. The weeklies shared a sports editor who covered Tazewell County teams. 

Daily no more

The Galesburg Register-Mail is dropping its Monday edition.

The daily newspaper serving Knox County and west-central Illinois told readers on Thursday it will drop Mondays starting on Oct. 13. 

"We’ll continue to report on the issues important to you, such as the city’s decision to zone for marijuana distribution and the school board’s plan to close schools and invest in the high school campus. Further, we’ll do so with the measured and ethical approach that earned us the distinction of being the best small daily newspaper in Illinois in May," said the unsigned statement. 

The note called the decision part of a "broader digital transformation" as more people get news online. The paper noted subscription rates and expiration dates will remain unchanged. 

The Pekin Daily Times dropped its Monday edition in 2017, dropping down to Tuesday-Saturday circulation.

On Thursday, the Canton Daily Ledger also announced it is dropping its Monday edition starting Oct. 13.

GateHouse manages many of the papers in Central Illinois. Last month, its parent company, New Media Investment Group, announced it was acquiring rival Gannett in a $1.4 billion deal.

Newspapers still produce the bulk of local news

The struggles faced by newspapers in an era of consolidation and adjusting to the digital era are not new or unique to Central Illinois. A Pew Research Center analysis released last month found newsroom employment at papers declined 47 percent between 2008 and 2018, from 71,000 employees to just over 38,000. 

Yet when it comes to producing local news, newspapers still dominate the market. An August study by the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University released last month found that local newspapers regularly outperform TV, radio and online-only media when it comes to local newsgathering. 

Local newspapers accounted for about 25 percent of all media in the study's sample, but more than half of all local news. Local papers accounted for about 60 percent of original, local reporting addressing a critical information need, compared to just 10 to 15 percent for all other media. 

The sample included 100 media markets across the U.S. 

Familiar face on the anchor desk

Kyle Beachy will be the new Weekend Anchor for Heart of Illinois ABC. He replaces Mason Dowling, who recently left Peoria to take a management job at WAOW-TV in Wausau, Wisc. 

Beachy came to Peoria from Columbus, Ohio about a year ago to take a job as a multi-media journalist. 

He made the announcement on Instagram on Thursday.

View this post on Instagram One year ago I moved from Columbus, Ohio to Peoria, Illinois to start my career as an on-air journalist. I’ve made so many memories telling the stories of the people of Central Illinois. Today I am proud to announce I am taking the next step. I’ll be the next Weekend Anchor for Heart of Illinois ABC in Peoria. So thankful for this opportunity and for everyone that has helped push me to get here! . . . . . . . #Peoria #Home #HardWork #TVNews #NewsAnchor #News #ABC #abcnews A post shared by Kyle Beachy (@kylebeachy) on Sep 12, 2019 at 1:43pm PDT

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.