Our history is 185 years in the making

Published 5:05 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

Next Monday will be a pretty interesting day for the history of newspapers in Alabama. It will be a day when the largest three daily newspapers in the state — those in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville — stop publishing a newspaper every day, moving instead to publishing just three days each week.

For months, the newspaper industry has discussed, debated, argued and knit-picked the decision by these newspapers’ parent company, to move away from a daily newspaper, focusing more efforts online.

And because these three newspapers — the largest newspapers in Alabama — have made this decision, those of us who also work in newspapers have had to field questions and defend the state of our historic industry.

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My response to those questions — and my position today — is that regardless of what this company has decided is the best route for their newspapers, the state of newspapers is strong and getting stronger.

These newspapers did not make this decision to purposefully lose money, they made this decision based on what they feel is the best decision for them and the markets they serve. This is the same strategy we take in every decision we make in the markets we serve.

There is no cookie-cutter formula used for success in any business, and newspapers are no different. What works for The Selma Times-Journal in serving the readers in Alabama’s historic Black Belt, might not work for The Eufaula Tribune or the Opelika-Auburn News.

The only similarities we share with those newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville is that our product is printed on paper and we use words and pictures to share the news of our community.

In previous columns, we have shared how strong your community newspaper — The Selma Times-Journal — truly is. We’ve reported on more than one occasion that the audience the Times-Journal and its products reach has never been bigger.

When you combine the number of subscribers, and those who purchase a daily newspaper, with those who subscribe to our online edition and those who follow updates on both Facebook and Twitter, the Times-Journal reaches an audience that far eclipses anything in the newspaper’s 185-year history.

And it is that history, which will also make news next Monday.

When The [Mobile] Press-Register stops publishing a daily newspaper — moving to three days each week — your hometown newspaper, The Selma Times-Journal, will become the oldest daily newspaper in Alabama.

Yes, I know, we do not print a Monday newspaper, but a newspaper is classified as a daily newspaper if it produces an edition five or more days each week.

For 185 years, this newspaper has covered some of the most momentous events in our region’s and nation’s history; a mission I am proud to say we carry today.

With such history and tradition comes tremendous responsibility.

As I have said in earlier columns, this is not a newspaper owned by one man or one company. Those who operate today’s Times-Journal are simply the stewards of a great tradition and a great name.

It is our responsibility to maintain and grow the Times-Journal, putting it in an even stronger position — both financially and editorially — to continue to serve for decades to come, led by those who are likely far too young to read or not even born.

It is with great pride our building sits at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma’s historic downtown. For a newspaper, it’s fitting that we be right in the middle of everything.

So as some in the newspaper industry move through a massive transition in the next few weeks, we will continue to do what we do best; a job we’ve done for the past 185 years. And that is to provide the readers of Selma, Dallas County and the Black Belt with the best daily newspaper we possibly can.