Featured Leader: Harry Saltzgaver
Leading three popular community newspapers
Its name might sound funny to many, especially those outside Southern California, but The Grunion Gazette is a real and highly appreciated weekly community newspaper in Long Beach, Calif. A grunion, by the way, is a small, silver-colored fish known for its unique behavior of riding the surf onto the beach to lay its eggs in the sand during early morning hours of high tide from March through August.
Gazette Newspapers also publishes The Downtown Gazette, The Uptown Gazette and gazettes.com.
Executive editor Harry Saltzgaver is the man who directs the news coverage for this media operation, as he has for more than 20 years. Saltzgaver, a published author, had 15 years of newspaper experience in Colorado before joining Gazette Newspapers. He's a believer in contributing his efforts toward worthy causes within his community. For example, he is the president of the Long Beach Water Commission. He served on the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Commission, he is chair of Goodwill Serving the People of Southern Los Angeles County, and is a board member of the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach.
Saltzgaver describes the publications he leads and explains a little about the way he operates.
NL: What are some of the unique aspects of your paper and the way your staff covers the news?
HS: Gazette Newspapers publishes three free controlled-circulation weeklies in Long Beach, with a total circulation of 57,000, and maintain a robust website — www.gazettes.com — with the full range of mobile apps. We are a general interest publication, competing with the daily and two web-only news sites for hard news.
We focus strictly on local news, drilling down to neighborhood level. We are heavy on precede stories — letting people know what they can do — and consistently provide more art, theater and music coverage than any other outlet.
We are totally locally generated, including a prep sports section, using a small staff and a strong stable of columnists and stringers. Our reporters take their own pictures, supplemented by freelance photographers.
NL: How do you come up with the story ideas? Do you make all the assignments or do your reporters pitch ideas?
HS: I have been in my position for 23 years, and have developed a strong network of sources. We have a good presence in the city, with submissions and requests for coverage coming in constantly. There are, of course, the typical government and organizational agendas and calendars.
We are very community-oriented, and I serve on several boards. My editor has followed that lead.
Reporters and columnists have beats and generate some story ideas. I typically make final assignments, but give strong consideration to stories writers want to pursue. Sports writers, for instance, come up with all of their feature subjects.
NL: How would you describe your management style?
HS: I lead from the front. I write an average of five stories a week in addition to the editorial and a personal column. I won’t ask my staff to do something I won’t do.
In large projects such as special sections, my team collaborates on stories and production. Especially with newer hires and younger writers, I try to edit stories with them next to me, explaining changes and approaches as we go. I find that I often learn more than they do!
We try to do post-mortems on past papers and projects, although time is always an issue. Most of all, I try to instill the sense of purpose I feel in serving the community through providing a quality newspaper. So far, it seems to have worked.