Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Newspaper Demise

No, this is not another post ripping on the Erie-Times... although, from what I've seen lately, the Times, like most other print newspapers is probably hurting. I think I read something a month ago about some layoff/early retirement packages being offered to a certain percentage of the staff. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across an article on the more general state of the newspaper industry, which detailed how much newspaper advertisting, in particular, classified advertising, was down, and how this was putting print papers across the country in jeopardy. The article did say, however, that smaller town papers were doing better than large metropolitan dailies.

Having worked for a few small town papers back in the day, I have always maintained an interest in the "community newspaper." Even back in the early '90s, we realized our main competition was national/international news outlets - and this was before the Internet. So, at the time, we countered by covering as much local as possible. After all, when I worked in Greenville, PA, papers were about the only source of local news, as the closest TV station was across the stateline in Youngstown... So, you can imagine my shock, when I happened to be passing through Greenville on Saturday, picked up a copy of the Record-Argus, and found the whole thing filled with AP articles. I mean the whole thing. Did they fire the editorial staff because it was too expensive? Were they all just on XMas vacation? I couldn't even find a name on the masthead to contact.

I have no idea what the purpose is of a rag filled with AP copy - maybe just a wrapper for some local advertising - but I was truly dismayed by this development. A piece of my past had suddenly disappeared. Unless I find out that issue was an anamoly, I can never again dream about going back to the simpler days of covering high school wrestling matches, or sitting in the sun enjoying a spring afternoon track meet, taking in the local gossip, and preparing my evening copy in my head....

I wonder if the people of Greenville feel the same way. Do they feel they've lost a piece of their identity? Yes, I'll admit (gulp) that the Sharon Herald did a pretty good job of covering Greenville even when I was there and maybe there was only room for one paper in Mercer County. But still, the Record-Argus is gone? Say it ain't so. My clips, two years of my life, headed for oblivion.

Anyway, we made it to the wrestling tournament we were taking my son to. I saw some people from my past newspaper work there, but didn't have the heart to approach any of them. We then had a wonderful lunch down the road in Sharon at the original (and best) Quaker Steak & Lube, and drove back to Erie. I must admit, however, that I feel like a small piece of me is missing...


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