You may have heard, or read, that your favorite weekly paper is becoming the very definition of a weekly paper.
Starting May 1, a couple of days from now, you’ll only get our words of wisdom (no comments from the peanut gallery, please) on Wednesdays. It’s a reaction to a changing world where people still want news, but there are now many more ways to get that news.
Well, maybe not so many ways on the small town local level. While the internet and social media are closing down big city newspapers every time you turn around, small town newspapers are hanging in there. We’ll just be hanging in one less day a week.
If you’re interested in the history of local newspapers (don’t claim you’re not!), for many years, once-a-week newspapers were all Monroe County had. Then, in the 1980s, the competing The Advocate and The Democrat each branched out into two editions. Dan Hicks kinda bounced the old The Democrat around on various days, coming up with something called the “mini paper” for his second edition.
But The Advocate settled on Tuesdays and Thursdays, putting out a thing called a Penny Saver on Tuesdays. It was thrown out to every house in the county as a way to give advertisers full-market coverage. Some loved getting all the sale papers brought to them while others showed their displeasure by letting them pile up in their driveway.
Carriers were told to not throw out anymore after three piled up, but some carriers didn’t pay much attention and eventually somebody would bring about 25 of them and either dump them at the front door (if we were closed) or bring them in (if we were open) and yell at whoever was close by.
Then, in late 1990, it was decided to move the Thursday paper to Wednesday and turn the Penny Saver into a Sunday paper. And not long after that it was announced that The Advocate’s parent company had bought out The Democrat and they would be combined into one paper. The Wednesday paper would remain The Advocate, the Friday paper would be The Democrat and the Sunday paper would be The Advocate & Democrat.
That was when I came aboard, so I never got to be a part of the old newspaper feud that dominated the 1980s, though I suppose we could tell who won. I do remember there didn’t appear to be much animosity between the two staffs. I guess everybody was just glad to still have a job.
For the next 20 years we were a three-day-a-week operation. People came and went, even I left for a couple of years at the turn of the century, but the staff has held pretty steady. Time and attrition has set a few people on the road to a different life, but since 2000, you’ve pretty much had the same faces here.
In 2010 we dropped down to twice a week. Businesses were leaving Monroe County and not coming back. Our readership fluctuated a little, but never really took a deep dive or a high jump. But the internet and social media kept chipping away at things. Why buy 10 copies of a paper with a picture of your son/daughter playing sports when you’ve got 200 shots of them on your phone?
Over the years it can sometimes seem as if Monroe County has become a kind of magnet for news organizations out of the surrounding big cities. If anything “big” happens here you can count on somebody showing up with a TV camera.
And that’s fine for the “big” stuff. But small communities need local people to tell them what’s going on when it comes to the small stuff. You might not know who your city or county leaders are, but we’ll keep an eye on them for you.
As for myself, as far as I can tell, I’ll keep doing this column in the new once-a-week (Wednesday) Edition.
I do write a weekly review that I think is mainly for my own enjoyment. I’m not sure if it will continue to exist. As we attempt to create much more of an online presence it might go there. I’d be happy with that. Since there’s no print cost associated, I might write more than one a week. If you don’t see it in the Wednesday paper and you’re actually interested in it, you can look on www.advocateanddemocrat.com and see if it survived. But we’re still going to be here. We’re just going back to our roots as a weekly paper. Hope you’ll come with us.