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For 3 big Alabama newspapers, the presses are grinding to a halt

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — It’s getting harder and harder to find sidewalk crates to buy newspapers. birmingham newsHowever, you can find the latest edition at the downtown public library.

Sherrell Wheeler Stewart pulls a food stain-splattered copy hanging from a spindle.

“A lot of people read it,” she says. “Look at this spaghetti sauce.”

A former editor and reporter, Stewart has fond memories of working for a newspaper for nearly 20 years.

“One side used to be a sacred place,” says Stewart. “I picked up that Sunday paper, opened it, and my name was on the top…it was just special.”

But holding onto that Sunday paper will soon be a thing of the past.

A big loss for Birmingham

The Alabama Media Group has said it will permanently suspend press after the last Sunday, February 26, 2023. birmingham news, Huntsville Times and mobile Press registrationThe company had already cut its issuance from daily to three times a week in 2012. This was part of a restructuring by parent company Advance Publications, which also affected New Orleans publishing. Times Picayune.

Stewart says the move to digital-only is a loss for big cities like Birmingham and the nearly 200,000 people who live there.

“It’s not good,” she says. “Birmingham is moving. I think a city like Birmingham needs a printed newspaper.”

While she may mourn the end of the print age, she admits that these days she gets most of her news from, a digital newspaper site.

Newspaper executives say there are readers out there.

Alabama Media Group President Tom Bates said, “In order to reach more people with more news and follow what people are doing, we have decided to stop printing next year.

The numbers back it up. According to Bates, 10 years ago, birmingham news, Huntsville Times When Press registration It was about 260,000. He says his daily reach on is now down to about 30,000, compared to about 1 million.

“Our digital growth has been extraordinary,” says Bates. “If our job is to disseminate important stories, we have to deliver them the way people want to receive them. Our goal is not less journalism, but more.”

The shift will mean the closure of Mobil’s printing facility and the loss of over 100 jobs, primarily in production, distribution and advertising. Her Kelly Ann Scott, editor-in-chief and vice president of content at Alabama Media Group, said no newsroom cuts were expected. She will join the research team and other areas of focus.

“We’ve evolved with our audience to tell stories in different ways and on different platforms, so we added people in different directions,” says Scott. For example, videographers and podcasters. “We have definitely diversified the types of positions in the room.”

The transition from print to digital has long been awaited

A longtime local journalist saw this day come.

“Frankly, I mourned newspapers 12 years ago,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist John Archibald. birmingham news Since 1986.

Archibald says he rarely sees the print version. It may sound like heresy to the old-timer newspaper reporter, but he says it’s the future of journalism.

“I have a nostalgia for print and I love newspapers, but what I love is not newspapers, the concept of going out and reporting the news that people need to know,” he says. “We are in this industry and learning how to do it in this environment.”

What’s happening in Alabama is where the local paper has been headed for some time, says Penny Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“We’ve seen a decline in dailies over the last 20 years, so this is part of the overall progress,” she says.

Abernathy is the author of the annual report on the state of local news across the country. According to a 2022 report, at least 1 in 5 of the 100 largest newspapers in the United States now have print editions he publishes no more than twice a week.

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/Debbie Elliott/Photographed by NPR


Debbie Elliott/NPR

Retired political scientist Natalie Davis and a group of others gathered at the American Legion’s lunch buffet in Homewood, Alabama. birmingham news Gone.

Newspapers that bind communities

Abernathy says that as newspapers disappear, the question is whether digital publications can play the same role that newspapers traditionally have in civic life.

“The best, strongest, most dedicated dailies really help bring nations together,” says Abernathy. “And I think that’s what you’re really dealing with. What’s the relevance of these papers in the digital age? Who sets the agenda for topics to be discussed, debated and decided? mosquito?”

alabama reading birmingham news From the late 1800s.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin says the coordination will not have a printed version.

“It would shock the system,” he says.

Woodfin, 41, is a digital-first news consumer, but he knows that not everyone in this city is wired that way.

“We embrace innovation,” he says. “I hope we can still find ways to communicate with all generations.”

He names his stepmother, Yvonne Fluker Woodfin. She resolutely clippings and collects newspaper articles about Woodfin’s political career. She sounds concerned when he calls her to ask her opinion at the end of her newspaper’s print publication.

“Well, I think a lot of people are going to lose track of what’s going on,” says Mrs. Woodfin.

Digital access is a concern. During the pandemic, public schools here found that about 1 in 5 her household had limited or no internet access.

Still, I don’t see newspapers like the ones that littered the tables at coffee shops and local lunch counters.

after a long time birmingham news Subscribers talked about the end of the paper at a recent lunch buffet at the American Region in Homewood, Alabama, a suburb near the metropolitan area of ​​Birmingham.

Al Lapierre, former secretary general of the Democratic Party of Alabama, said, “We call this the government in exile. He sits here every Wednesday at the long table of politicians.

LaPierre says he’s not particularly surprised that the paper’s days are running out.

“I’ve been noticing for years – you bought Birmingham News on Saturday or Sunday and you saw it on the media site the day before, so why did you get it?”

One of my pleasures in life is reading newspapers.

But on the other side of the table, retired political scientist Natalie Davis defends the paper. She still has the subscription, but she’s worried about what she’ll be missing when it’s gone.

“If everyone could read the article the same way and get the same facts, then there would be a baseline, and perhaps only newspapers would lose it,” says Davis. “That’s the newspaper’s job.”

Chandler McGee, a retired veterinarian, stops by the table and says this paper is his lifeblood.

“I’m 84,” he says. “One of his pleasures in my life is reading newspapers.”

He lives in a retirement community where few residents get their news online, he says.

“I think this means, especially for older people, disconnecting from what’s going on in our city and state,” says McGee.

Alabama Media Group executives say that wasn’t their intention, and that everyone in the three metropolitan areas they serve could access free content online, whether on a computer or a smartphone. I think we should have a way to access it. columnist Roy Johnson came to Birmingham in 2015. sports illustrated When new york times, and various national magazines. Some of them are no longer published.

“I’ve really lived a life that represents the evolution of the media industry,” says Johnson.

He says the distribution method may have changed, but the mission remains.

“One day I will have to explain to my grandchildren why I put words on paper, rolled, rolled, loaded into cars and trucks, driven and thrown into people’s driveways. And That’s how they got their news,” he says. “It’s going to be like the Pony Express for us.”

Johnson’s advice to longtime print readers: This is the digital age.

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