Have you ever heard of a development you more or less knew was coming but were still unnerved by it when it arrived?
It happened to me today with word that the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for 17 years and 8 months before quitting under duress, is shutting down its presses and will be printed at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 120 miles south.
The A-J is a sister publication of the Globe-News, both of which are owned by Morris Communications out of Augusta, Ga.
Where do I begin in trying to assess what this means to what’s left of the Globe-News’s readership base?
A lengthy essay in today’s G-N by the publisher, Lester Simpson, seeks to cast this news in highly positive tones.
It’s positive, all right, if the intent is to make the G-N even more profitable than it already is. It will do so by cutting production staff, tearing out its presses and perhaps selling the material as scrap or to someone who can use the antiquated equipment. There will be cost-sharing with the A-J in trucking the papers from Lubbock to Amarillo for distribution.
What are the negatives?
Let’s start with deadlines. Simpson said the paper will continue to guarantee home delivery by 6 a.m. That means the deadlines will be set earlier in the evening, given that it will take two hours to transport the papers north on Interstate 27 for delivery. What happens, then, if news breaks at, say, 10 p.m.? It won’t be reported in the next day’s paper, given that the paper likely will have been “put to bed,” to borrow a time-honored term.
The Globe-News used to pride itself on delivering the latest news possible to its readers. That promise, it seems to me, no longer will be kept.
And what does that do to the readership base that still depends on the paper? Well, by my way of thinking, it gives those readers one less reason to subscribe. That will be revenue lost. Advertisers who buy into the paper do so with the hope of reaching more readers, not fewer of them.
Simpson writes that the company remains committed to print journalism. It’s also seeking to enter the digital age, right along with other media companies. And what are those companies doing to compete with each other — and with other media? They’re reducing the number of days they deliver the paper to home subscribers.
Therein, I believe, lies the next step in the Globe-News’s evolution from a once-good newspaper to a still-undefined entity.
The publisher doesn’t address the next step, of course, in his essay. I wouldn’t expect him to do so.
However, that’s the trend. In my time as a Morris employee, I didn’t see much evidence of a company willing or able to resist the national media tide.
Many folks knew this day was coming. It still is a punch in the gut.