Goodbye Akron Beacon Journal

I’m really cranky this morning. I wanted to run outside. But freezing rain greeted me at 6 a.m. So I headed for the treadmill in our bedroom. I’m sure my wife will start talking to me again sometime this afternoon.

But the freezing rain wasn’t the worst part. Four weeks ago I subscribed to the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I read The Times – the actual printed version – every day. And I figured this would save me a few minutes on Sunday mornings since the paper would be delivered along with the Akron Beacon Journal.

Wrong. After four weeks the Beacon Journal delivery guy is two for four.  Not bad in baseball. Not great when it comes to getting the paper. I can read both online virtually anytime I want, day or night.

But I love to read the print editions. Is there anything better than sitting in a comfy chair, reading The Times after work, watching Wolf Blitzer and Jack Cafferty on CNN and nursing a double gin and tonic? Hey, at my age it doesn’t get any better than that.

So I called the Beacon Journal and pleaded my case. Wouldn’t it be possible for the delivery guy to take The Times in one hand and the Beacon Journal in the other and head the 10 yards from the street to my porch? It doesn’t even require two trips. Well, the customer service person told me she would make a note of it. But if I were really unhappy about it I would probably have to call The Times and cancel delivery.

Ouch. Maybe the newspaper industry isn’t in as bad shape as I thought. OK. I’ll play along. My reply: How about if I don’t get The Times delivered next Sunday I’ll cancel both.

Goodbye Akron Beacon Journal.

I’ve been a subscriber for more than 30 years. But truthfully, I take the Beacon Journal now mostly out of habit, not because there is much worth reading in it. My uninformed opinion is that some poor management and lack of corporate support over the last few years have crippled the paper’s ability to be much more than an OK local newspaper, if that.  I can scan the headlines online – and I can head to Starbucks Sunday morning and get The Times.

But thinking about that, I wonder if newspapers like the Akron Beacon Journal are working toward the day when there are no print editions. If newspapers lose people like me (and I probably won’t be around forever in any event) who is going to read the print editions? Not the generation that is in high school and college today. They haven’t developed the habit. They won’t either.

Oh well. I started in the newspaper business delivering copies of The Pittsburgh Press after school. I placed a printed copy on almost every home in the neighborhood, seven days a week. The Pittsburgh Press is gone now. Too bad. I bet there is a kid somewhere in Pittsburgh who could deliver a copy of that paper and The New York Times at the same time. Of course, that’s if anybody still wanted either.


10 responses to “Goodbye Akron Beacon Journal

  1. Rob-

    I genuinely hope you are wrong! I guess I’m an old fogey, but I like the ritual of reading a print newspaper. My dad was in the newspaper business (circulation side), so we always had a paper in the house growing up. I agree that is not the case today, especially in households headed by those under 40. It is a troubling trend.

    The newspaper model is undergoing a substantial rewrite, so to speak. Although I hope the daily print edition survives, I wouldn’t be surprised if home delivery was eventually eliminated, and print editions could only be bought in stores. That would be a shame, because I think the broadsheet is a better format for ads and photos than a computer screen.


  2. I’ll admit that I hope I am wrong as well. I grew up reading two daily newspapers: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press. It became a habit — and an enjoyable one. I just have a hard time understanding how print newspapers can survive over the long run unless reader habits change and there is a way to reduce or eliminate costs, circulation being one. Your idea about eliminating home delivery makes sense. And it looks like I’m heading in that direction with the Beacon Journal. Unfortunately.


  3. Dad,

    Don’t worry. Reading Friedman’s new column and watching Cafferty rant, while having a double gin and tonic is good at any age. I think you are right though. I’m still more comfortable reading it online than in print. It is just easier, and you don’t get ink smudges on your imac.


  4. Brian,

    Well, you’re most likely right. The double gin and tonic certainly doesn’t hurt any. But you know Bruce. What’s my chances of getting The Times next Sunday?

  5. Maybe I’m too much of my father’s daughter… but I need the print edition. I like the way the ink smells. And even the stains it leaves on my fingertips. Something a bit romantic about the print editions. And if I could afford a subscription–or gin–I would be a happy lady!!!

  6. Poor customer service can doom the best of companies, Rob. But in this case, the ABJ’s delivery woes are symptomatic of problems throughout. Declining advertising leads to a smaller staff of reporters, thus less news worth reading.

    Sad, because the paper still has some fine reporters. But it has fewer and fewer competent editors to oversee their work. And it has an owner who paid way too much for the property and now must demand an unrealistic return on his bad investment. In my 16 years here, the ABJ went from a Pulitzer-winning paper to a $165-million white elephant.

    In the immortal words of that great philosopher, Merle Haggard, “Here I am again, mixin’ misery and gin…”

  7. Sorry for the delay in posting some of these comments. My Internet connection isn’t working at home. I’ve entered the black hole of technical assistance.

    But, Bill, I agree with your comments about the Akron Beacon Journal. Like most businesses the Beacon Journal and other newspapers are now faced with making tough decisions about costs. That’s why I find Tim’s comment so interesting about the possibility of eliminating home delivery at some point. Newspapers can’t pass costs on to readers — or, apparently, to advertisers. And they can’t find ways to generate substantial new revenue. That’s a tough position to be in.


  8. The rate of consumption and waste seems lower with the LCD screen here than using the paper, that has pretty much trumped the wants I had to again experience the fond and familiar smells and sounds of a newspaper.
    I’ll admit it used to be pretty cool though,
    and you never know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.
    Of course that works at least two ways IMV, the other side being environmental impact of widely distributed paper presentations.

  9. Pete,

    Thanks for your comment. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago there were plenty of stories talking about the “paperless society.” We’re not quite there yet. But I guess we’re heading a least a little in that direction.


  10. I absolutely agree with this article. I love to read the morning paper, but the ABJ just doesn’t want to allow that anymore with the poor excuse of support you get when your paper turns up missing 2 weeks straight, they still want to bill you for it. I can know understand why Terry Pluto left there to write for a real newspaper. Good job on the article.

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