The comments have been critical of everyone from Graber and Davison to GateHouse Media, to Rick Rogers, John Hacker, Chip Watson, and as usual, me.
I have grown used to people who comment on this blog making negative references about everything from my teaching ability (which not one of them knows anything about) to my reporting ability, to my motivation for writing this blog. One childish commenter was so upset that I deleted his post which included an obscenity, that he wrote an even more childish response.
One thing seems undeniable. Even though all of the national reports say newspapers are dying, the people who are interested in them are passionate about that interest. Count me among that group. I have loved newspapers since my dad, driving a truck for the Neosho Nurseries at the time, used to bring me copies of the Tulsa World, the Daily Oklahoman, and the Kansas City Star. We always subscribed to the Joplin Globe and the Neosho Daily News, and I used to pay 15 cents every afternoon to Alan Oxendine for a copy of the Joplin News-Herald.
Every afternoon, after school, I sat in the back of Gum Mercantile with my friends, drinking a Doctor Pepper, as we waited for the car to arrive with the Neosho Daily. Newspapers were important, they're still important, but the times have changed and so have the newspapers.
One of those who commented last week said the Press has been declining for years, and that is absolutely true, but that was not the way it was before American Publishing (later Liberty Group Publishing, later GateHouse Media) took over. When that happened, The Press had a larger circulation and a better newspaper than the Neosho Daily and it remained that way up until my last day at The Press in May 1999.
But the moves that eventually cost The Press much of its support in the community had already started while I was there. I wrote about it in the July 14, 2004, Turner Report:
A page one story in The Carthage Press tonight dealt with The Press' purchase of the building that used to house Honey's Restaurant on Central Avenue. The article saddened me.
It's not that I'm that connected with the present Press building, though I have plenty of good memories of my nearly 10 years there, the final five and a half as the managing editor. The reason behind that move is what is depressing.
The Press is currently located in a three-story building at 527 S. Main. The building is far too large for the newspaper's needs...primarily because the newspaper has been gutted by Liberty Group Publishing, the company that owns The Press, the Neosho Daily News and The Big Nickel.
About six years ago, after Liberty bought the newspaper from Thomson, the company decided it could save money by pulling out the press, selling it, and sending the paper 25 miles to Neosho to be printed. Sure, it improved the company's bottom line, and it improved the Neosho Daily's bottom line, but it cost The Press plenty. The Press was printing nearly every high school newspaper in the area at that time, as well as a few small-town weeklies. Also, the sense of ownership a town has about a newspaper is diminished when it is printed somewhere else. Those things were sacrificed for the bottom line. Also sacrificed were the jobs of the three people who ran the press, including one who had been there for nearly three decades. Chalk another one up to progress.
I didn't know until early last month that there is no longer a composing room at Carthage. That, too, is also done at Neosho now. These steps have saved the company money and improved the bottom line, but they have forced artificially early deadlines on The Press, which can no longer deal with any kind of breaking news in the morning. That doesn't appear to be a problem that bothers anyone connected with Liberty.
Whatever happened to a newspaper being in the business of providing a public service?
That public service aspect of newspapers, like the importance of the medium, may soon exist only in memory.