Tag Archives: Lubbock A-J

Media leadership takes another hit

The new owners of two West Texas newspapers appear to be watering down their commitment to the communities the papers serve.

Now, I say this from afar. I no longer live in West Texas. I have watched all this play out from my new residence in Collin County. However, I have a keen interest in the future of one of those communities and, yes, of the other one as well.

GateHouse Media purchased the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal from Morris Communications in the fall of 2017. GateHouse made some promises about its commitment to community journalism. Morris, meanwhile, got out of the newspaper publishing business totally.

So, what has happened to the new owners’ commitment to community journalism? A friend of mine sent me a note informing me today that the Globe-News and the Avalanche-Journal now have a “regional associate editor” who’s in charge of running both papers’ opinion pages.

Follow me here: Amarillo and Lubbock are 120 miles apart at both ends of Interstate 27. The new “director of commentary” lives in Lubbock. He’s going to continue to live there, or so I gather; that means he’ll drive to Amarillo during part of the week. I suppose he’ll need to show himself in Amarillo to pretend to be a member of the community.

The days he spends away from either community, though, is going to diminish the each paper’s editorial voice. It will water down its leadership in both communities. The editorial page of the G-N and the A-J will be muffled to a significant degree. One individual cannot pretend to know all there is to know about two communities that have disparate interests, differing power structures, different sets of movers and shakers, varying concerns.

This is an absolute shame.

I long have subscribed to the belief that newspapers that pursue a cogent and lively editorial policy are an essential element to any community’s well-being. Sure, readers complain about what a newspaper thinks about an issue; they take the editor and publisher to task. Or, they might agree and applaud with whatever position the opinion page has staked out.

Opinion pages promote community discussion and debate.

The West Texas newspapers already have a “regional” publisher who lives in Lubbock and commutes to Amarillo, along with a “regional” executive editor who lives in Amarillo and commutes to Lubbock. Now they have what used to be called an editorial page who lives in Lubbock.

GateHouse Media’s so-called commitment to the communities it pledged to serve is facing a serious challenge with the way it is structuring the leadership of two once-stellar voices for their respective regions.

Man, I hope I am wrong. If I am, I’ll swallow the crow whole.

I fear I am not.

This news was no surprise, but it still hurts

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.