If you’re a couple of decades old you might remember the Pulliam Family, longtime owners of Arizona’s 123-year-old newspaper. When the family sold the Arizona Republic to Gannett in 2000, there was talk then of the possible loss of loyalty towards readers. “Would a corporation put community service before profits?” Lifelong readers, like myself, have watched with sinking hearts.
Love it or hate it, it’s disconcerting to see our statewide newspaper struggling for life. Newspapers, as town criers, tend to unify neighborhoods, if only to debate the latest “awful” editorial. Reports tell us Gannett has lost 30 percent in revenue over the past four years (according to Bloomberg News). Offered up to the deficit gods were 29 jobs at the Republic and various suburban bureau offices. The future for Republic readers portends more disappointment.
With the Republic’s cutbacks, it appears we will no longer enjoy the luxury of community/suburb conversation such as those formerly offered for the Ahwatukee, East Valley and Scottsdale sections. We’re told, print and most online opinion, such as “My Turn” are gone, only leaving opinion in the general paper.
It can be considered fair play to re-think Gannett’s choices at a time that print news is on the gallows’ edge. Why remove the voice of the readers, especially when the Web offers absolute evidence that people seek instant feedback, including their own? Check out a book by Professor Brian Anse Patrick: “Rise of the Anti Media.”
Patrick discusses a “horizontal, anti-media interpretive community,” created by “co-equals, who create, share and interpret their own world.” In other words, like begets like. Newspaper readers no longer want to be written to. We want to write back. We’re addicted to our own voices and sending out our signals to find our own kind.
Patrick says commonality is found through the delivery vehicle allowing contributors to by-pass controlled media which, as we see with the Republic’s decisions, are offering less sharing space. Patrick’s example is the commonality success of the “conceal carry” population, but gay marriage is also a superb example along with the Tea Parties and ObamaCare. Citizens simply go around regular media to build their power base. Patrick refers to the process as a revolution that has forever changed how we share information.
With such clear evidence, why would a newspaper, a delivery system struggling to find its niche, cut out the core element of communication that attracts and is driving readers?
We can see Gannett’s recovery decisions have every possibility of benefiting the Ahwatukee Foothills News, as well as the East Valley Tribune, which in my opinion are models for how newspapers can survive with “up close and personal” service. They reflect, through our own voices, who we are in our own neighborhoods, why we think the way we do, why Arizona culture is worth protecting and is a commodity attracting world citizens and industry. And, critically important, supporting the forum are local merchants who need to promote their products and services.
Give us less manufactured national and world news. We get that elsewhere. Give us more local information produced by skilled, ethical reporters and voiced through customer feedback and chatter.
All roads appear to be pointing to community forums; why kill them off when they appear to be the answer? Maybe the silence in the Republic’s newsrooms will be so deafening and financially damaging, someone will turn the talk-spigot back on.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.