I’ve seen an empty newsstand like this many a time, but never because The Times didn’t produce a paper to put in it, as is the case now.
It would be hypocritical of me to complain too much since I’ve been an on-again off-again subscriber for years, and am currently off-again. If the reason they went from seven days a week to three days a week is dropped subscriptions, I helped contribute to their problem.
But it’s more than just declining print subscriptions, and it’s not exclusive to Huntsville. It’s the current state of print journalism.
When the change was announced earlier this year, I didn’t know I felt about it (see my post from back then, The Latest News). I still don’t, not completely. But a few thoughts I do have:
On the one hand it’s sad, especially for those who love print. A lot of my feelings toward printed newspapers has to do with nostalgia — things like memories of ink-stained hands after a Sunday afternoon of flipping through the entire volume and being enthralled with the content I had found. I fell in love with newspapers at a very young age and even though I no longer partake of them the way I used to, the memories are fond.
Times have changed. Technology has changed. People and industry have both been drivers of that change, as well as victims of it.
Personally, I’m just not convinced that papers have to respond by making themselves less relevant. Instead of printing less often and forcing people to go online or to other news sources, papers should make themselves more relevant by doing what only newspapers can do, especially what only a local paper can do. Being relevant in the digital realm is important too. I just don’t see why it has to be one or the other.
But, hey, they didn’t ask me, and what’s done is done. Guess we’ll just wait and see how it plays out.
I was just 16 years old when the Huntsville News printed its last edition, pictured above. But I already had a healthy appreciation of newspapers and a small inkling to want to write for one someday.
The Huntsville News was the morning paper, and The Huntsville Times was the afternoon paper.
It’s hard to believe that this city used to support two newspapers.
But that was before the Internet. Everyone likes to blame the Internet for the downfall of newspapers right?
I don’t know what I think about the Times (and other major newspapers in Alabama) downsizing to three days a week and the huge swathe of layoffs. I’m kinda shocked. The slow demise of newspapers as we know it isn’t anything new, but I never thought I’d see the largest papers in my state make such a move. I’m tempted to call it a stupid move because I don’t think it will work, but then I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish. If they’re trying to slowly kill the print edition and shift to online only, then it just might work. If they’re trying to salvage the print edition, making it less relevant by publishing less often and forcing people to go online for news — that doesn’t seem like a good strategy.
Of course, aside from saving the institution as a whole is the impact to the content available. Half of the Huntsville Times newsroom was cut. Half?? What kind of content will we even have Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, or daily online?
I just never thought that someday my last edition of the News might be joined by a last edition of the Times. At least not in my lifetime or on my watch. Now, I’m not so sure.
Today is one of those days where everyone remembers where they were — where they were when the first plane hit, where they were when the second plane hit, where they were when the towers fell.
I was at work, still in the newspaper industry back then. We had just broke from our morning meeting, going over the details of what would be in that day’s paper, other things we were working on, etc. Our education reporter, who sat caddy-corner behind me, was doing an interview for a “where are they now” valedictorian story. The woman she was interviewing lived in New York City. Reporters across the room were working on the overnight police news. I believe I was writing about the night before’s city council meeting.
News of the first plane crash came over the wire and word spread around the newsroom. There was talk — oh my, what happened, how could that happen, where do we put it in the paper, etc. — and one of the sports guys turned on the TV in the sports department to get the latest. Hearing the commotion and curious, I stood around the TV, with several others, watching the news coverage when wham! the second plane hit. I, like so many who watched that second plane hit on live TV, was shocked at what I saw. What?!? I couldn’t make sense of it. What was actually happening — terrorists attacking America — never entered my mind.
I was naive.
“Terrorism” was not a word I encountered all that much back then. That was something that happened somewhere else, in other countries, not at home.
The seasoned writer who sat on the desk next to me said very matter-of-fact that this was obviously a terrorist attack.
A “terrorist attack”? What is that even? I remember looking at him all confused like and asking, “terrorists? really? how do you know?”
I feel so ignorant having been so naive then, but I had never been exposed to anything like that. I had heard, of course, about the Oklahoma City bombings and recalled an earlier attack on the World Trade Center and a bomb at the USS Cole. But those were car bombs (or boat bombs), not airlines full of people being used as bombs. Who would fathom such a thing possible?
The rest of the morning and day gets a bit blurry. After the second plane hit and everyone realized this was no longer a random accident but now the story of the day, the editor called us all together to come up with a new plan for that day’s paper. Assignments were made — call the mayor, call the local military base, go to the corner coffee shop and get local reaction. And remember that education reporter on the phone with the valedictorian in New York? That became our lead story because now our “where are they now” hometown hero was on the front lines of a major terrorist attack on America. All of this unfolded between 8 and 9 a.m. at a paper that was to be printed and on racks by lunchtime. Our staff bustled to get as much local reaction as we could round up, and by lunch our readers had the latest from New York but also the initial reactions from our city. We came out with a second edition a few hours later and worked the rest of the day on 9/11 related stories. It would be several days and weeks before we would return to any of the stories we had been working on that morning.
There was a run on gas that day and that was one of the stories passed along to me — go to the gas station and talk to people about their reactions to the day and about the run on gas and the apparent price gouging.
Even as young and naive as I was, I quickly figured out that Sept. 11 was my generation’s Dec. 7, another “day in infamy,” the kind of day that when it comes around every year you remember where you were “when.”
Originally published Sept. 11, 2010.
I read Newspaper Blackout today and was inspired to create a poem like the ones in the book. The book is a quick, quick read (less than a day, start to finish) and highly enjoyable because it’s just poem after poem like this one, except the ones in the book are way better. I highly recommend it for a light, fun read.
Oh, and what do you think of my poem? Not bad I thought for my first try at it. I had fun; try it!