In Which Billy Eats Some Crow About The Ledger


In a rather harsh article that came out almost exactly one year ago, I declared: “Within two years, maybe sooner, expect The Ledger to compete with Lakeland Local full-time as an online-only magazine.”

I was responding to The Ledger’s decision to dump salary, errr, lay off a number of long-term, experienced employees–including a couple of pregnant women. (We shouldn’t forget that.)

But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a burnt-out shell staffed by dirt cheap college kids: The Ledger started doing some damn good work.

The younger reporters seem to have brought energy, and the more seasoned reporters seem to have stepped up their games. I find myself increasingly drawn each morning to my plastic-wrapped Ledger. I seem to read less about Grady Judd and child porn, and more about the shadiness of The Landings, or the USFP debacle, and a million other issues and areas of focus more vital to the community. The “Eye on Polk” gimmick is a good one, and Rick Rousos and that crew keep churning out good stuff. Glenn Marston’s editorial page is challenging, well-written, and gutsy.

I think, and Chuck agrees, by the way, that The Ledger is covering the intersection of business, government, and institutions better, on a daily basis, than I remember it doing so in a long, long time. Kudos.

I can’t speak for the finances. The Ledger may still be headed to oblivion like every other newspaper. But it no longer seems resigned to that fate. It no longer seems to almost embrace a downward spiral into a pretentious version of TMZ. It feels like its trying to remain vital in the community–not just milk it.

I have been pretty hard on Publisher Jerome Ferson and Executive Editor Lenore Devore on questions of “leadership” concerning the quality and focus of the paper. And if it seemed to me they had used the salary dump just to pocket a few extra bucks in The Ledger’s final days, I would have continued to be hard on them.

Now that I see that’s not the case, fairness and honesty require me to give them credit. They deserve it. (I also suspect Lyle McBride, a truly talented and dedicated local editor, deserves a lot of credit. I heard that several times from people I spoke to about this.)

Leadership, as I’ve said often, isn’t about holding a position. It’s about doing something with that position that genuinely changes the direction of your organization for the better. From my point-of-view, Jerome and Lenore are leading. The quality of the paper reflects it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chuck Welch for Lakeland Local

One thought on “In Which Billy Eats Some Crow About The Ledger

  1. Glad the venerable “Fishwrapper” is improving.  Lakeland Local, combined with other sources almost made me forget about the Lakeland Lapdog.

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