SJ-R veteran reporter set to depart

But paper gains an editor

Dean Olsen, longtime State Journal-Register reporter, is leaving the paper for a job in media relations and communications for Memorial Health System.

His last day at the paper will be Dec. 13. Olsen has worked at daily newspapers since 1982 and at the SJ-R since 1999, starting out as a statehouse reporter and becoming the paper’s healthcare reporter in 2003. He’s focused on healthcare issues ever since.

“It’s bittersweet,” Olsen said. “I think this is the right decision for me and my family. … It’s been difficult at the SJ-R the past couple years, both from a pay standpoint and seeing the staff continue to dwindle.”


Raises have been rare at Springfield’s oldest paper since it was purchased by GateHouse Media in 2007, and reporting ranks have been reduced through attrition, layoffs and buyouts. Assuming no one is hired in the next week, Olsen’s departure will bring the number of news reporters to four, including two writers who focus on state government. At least 15 writers, editors and photographers have left the paper in the last six years without being replaced. Courts, cops, city hall and schools are among beats that no longer have fulltime reporters assigned to them.

Last month, GateHouse and Gannett merged to form the nation’s largest newspaper chain in a deal financed with $1.8 billion in debt that carries an 11.5 percent rate. The company now publishes one in six U.S. daily newspapers and is called Gannett. Executives have said they’ll need to slash $300 million in operating expenses to cover costs.

While Olsen is departing, the SJ-R this week hired Leisa Richardson to replace interim editor Kate Schott, who resigned last month to take a job at University of Illinois Springfield. Richardson last worked as a regional planning director at the Indianapolis Star in Indiana, a job that entailed planning news coverage, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before that, she was an editor and reporter at the Star, where she worked for more than a decade before leaving the paper last January. Richardson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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