I’ve cancelled my subscription to the News & Record, my employer for 27 years and the paper I was editor of for 13.
If this were Twitter, I’d end the above sentence with “That’s the tweet. 27 years.”
I didn’t cancel because the paper laid off several of my friends yesterday. I cancelled a few months ago, when there was so little in it that I could no longer justify the rising cost.
Yesterday, the paper sent more than 100 years of memory out the door. It now has no graphic artist. No sports columnist. The owners even laid off the editor. (I assume someone will get the title, although probably not in Greensboro. Worth noting that the owners haven’t had the decency to tell the community that it sent the editor and some of the most recognizable names out the door.)
As I understand it, there are now six news reporters to cover the third largest city in North Carolina. One sports reporter.
This is difficult for me to write about; I know the role I played in the decline of the News & Record. I’m not going to revisit that. Jeri Rowe writes about part of that eloquently here. (Although I hate that that photo of me explaining the first layoff in 2007 is becoming my legacy.)
Greensboro and Guilford County deserve better, but it won’t get it. Warren Buffett’s purchase of the paper didn’t save it. It’s not clear that Lee Enterprises has any intention of doing anything more than taking whatever remaining money it can out of Greensboro.
The editor, Cindy Loman, wrote on Facebook: “The revenue impact of COVID really is beyond comprehension. I think N&R revenue dropped by 90 percent for most of the months of the pandemic, and that’s not counting “bad debt” from customers who just can’t pay their bills.”
I used to hear that laying off newspaper journalists was no more important than laying off furniture workers, which happened a few decades ago in Guilford County. I’d often smugly reply that manufacturing a sofa isn’t protected by the Constitution. (Yes, I can be an asshole, I’m sorry to admit.)
I’m aware that by canceling my subscription I have contributed to the paper’s demise. And it’s funny, because if the ownership had presented a vision for the future of its journalism — how it was investing in the community,, what it was doing to understand the needs of its readers, how it was trying to meet me where I am — I’d pay top dollar to help sustain it.
But it hasn’t. And by this move yesterday, it is clear it won’t. I hate it for my friends still there.
Soon, there won’t be a daily paper in the third largest city in North Carolina. It’s time to imagine whether that matters.