Dillon Davis is the income and opportunity reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer. He covers topics such as business, downtown development and the Kellogg Co., which is a huge entity to report on since when most people think Battle Creek, they think Kellogg. A majority of his stories cover retail and business development. I follow Dillon’s stories frequently, since I have come to like his style of writing. He sounds intellectual, well researched and I can tell he asks some really great questions.
Recently he wrote an article titled, A better Battle Creek at the heart of ‘Progress.’ He writes about the everlasting question: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
Often pondering this question myself, specially about the journalism industry, I talked to Dillon on the phone last week to get his take on his community, the industry and the looming notion of “change” overall.
Meg Dedyne: How do you measure prosperity and success in Battle Creek?
Dillon Davis: I think you look at a number of things. It’s my job to come up with a theme and to send it out to the community. I usually have to dig to find some ideas. I often think, “What will Battle Creek look like in 10 years?” I think about the kind of jobs I see in the area and the kind of companies that are coming in.
You are looking at some industries that have good jobs and that pay well. If these jobs stay in our community, people can afford a higher quality of life. You want to want to have homes that can support people. In Battle Creek specifically, there’s an older housing stock, which makes it tough for millennials to find housing.
There is also a trend where people of our demographic are going and moving to cool places and to larger cities. Our community needs to accommodate for the demographic that is going to spend money. I would like to focus on a welcoming community and catering to the working poor. We have to realize that 10 years isn’t that long so what does it take to get there?
MD: How do you measure success in the media industry?
DD: If you ask most people, prosperity in 10 years is simply existing in this industry. We see fewer and fewer staff members, and I think we have found ourselves at a crossroads. We find ourselves asking questions like: Do people want quality content or do they want quick content? We see more articles in listicles and alternative story forms.
I think it’s a mix between watchdog reporting and quick updates and I think newsrooms are still trying to find this balance.
I think companies will be making different decisions. We all now consume news on our phones, so this obviously changes things.
MD: Why do you think people wonder so much about where things will be in 10 years?
There is a yearning in our industry to always wonder what’s next. Are you going to be able to sustain a life? What are the kids of that time going to be into?
I think the obsession of always knowing what’s next in our culture is prominent. We just always are wondering what the next thing is and I think that is a place where a lot of industry trends come from.
MD: What is your favorite aspect about the growth in this industry?
DD: I really enjoy being able to tell people’s stories. Whether it’s about Kellogg or someone opening up a small barber shop, telling stories is something we always need to hold onto. We need to be able to tell stories in an effective way. In trying to utilize the resources we have, we see them get fewer and fewer. It’s tough to know what’s expected in newspaper or magazine today, because with the digital trends, the industry doesn’t look like what it used to.
Circulation numbers are lower, but Battle Creek actually has more readers than ever because of what we are doing with our content and on our website. Hopefully at some point, I get to spread what I’ve learned to other communities too.
MD: What’s the one most important aspect you can think of day-to-day in the newsroom?
DD: Content is king and this won’t change. There are more ways to be effective with it, but stories and content still matter. We now just have to be critical in thinking what stories are getting the most inches in the paper and on our website. Which stories connect with people?
MD: What are your fears?
DD: It’s hard to believe that now instead of having designers in each newsroom, the industry is now moving toward things like design studios. It’s crazy how fast these parts move.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.