Dear Ms. Wallace,
I am a long-time AJC subscriber and am devastated at the cuts and changes I’m seeing in my daily newspaper. If bad news comes in threes, the AJC certainly had its share in a second large round of newsroom job losses, the decision to cut the Sunday @issue section, and the news that Cox is putting up all but three of its newspaper holdings. I am saddened, indeed.
My perspective is unique, and quite relevant to the forces you are experiencing. May I explain? I graduated from UGA with a Journalism major (News-Editorial) with a minor in Computer Science. I am an eight-time published author who developed my own website and two blogs, and I do most of my work and reading online. I depend on the AJC for something entirely separate from what I get online, and your management is slowly chipping away at the very properties and personalities that make your newspaper unique.
I grew up reading Celestine Sibley and Lewis Grizzard. I depended on the movie reviews of Eleanor Ringel Gillespie and Steve Murray (I couldn’t care less what Roger Ebert thinks, and I can get his movie reviews anywhere, so why turn to the AJC for them?). As a former Director of Courseware Development for ExecuTrain, I depended upon Maria Saporta for news of the local business community. The only real columnists left are on your Sports page (which as a woman I don’t crack) and John Kessler in the Food section. Get rid of him, the last bastion of enjoyable Southern charm in the paper, and I relinquish my subscription! (I realize you have political columnists, but I live in the north Georgia mountains, so local Atlanta politics have little relevancy for me.)
Section A of your paper is now filled with more AP stories than stories from local reporters. I can get that from Yahoo! news. Movie reviews are from nationally syndicated columnists, also available in multiple places. The local perspective is slowly disappearing from your pages, leaving readers with their own version of the USA Today, printed in Atlanta. I want local perspective on everything in my newspaper, from the war in Iraq, to politics, to movies, art, books (as an author I sorely miss the column from a real book editor), community . . . .EVERYTHING! And you are slowly, painfully, taking every bit of local perspective out of your metro newspaper.
I read local blogs, such as Fitzlew’s Georgia Daily Digest and Georgia on My Mind for local stories, but I rarely know the people writing them. Readers come to know the reporters and columnists they depend on in their local newspaper, and they are slowly disappearing from your pages. I can always depend on Mike Luckovich for a hilarious poke at politics and recent events . . . and that’s exactly the point: I depend on the AJC staff. I know them, I email them (even Elizabeth Landt (?) on her beautiful art), and I allow them to come into my home everyday. But lately, I don’t know the names on your pages. The ones I cared about are gone, and I’m seeing them replaced with “downsized” versions coming from syndicates and news wires.
I have two sons who are being taught by their teachers to use the internet as their main source for their reports. They turn to the AJC only for the comics, sudoku, and News for Kids. As they grow older, I’m hoping the AJC retains enough local news, columnists, and flavor for them to deem it relevant.
The recent essay written by Mike King on the passing of his wife was touching and so much a part of what I miss reading in my daily newspaper’s pages. I enjoy reading the editorials (all three pages!) and especially so now that the editors assign their names to them, and I learned a little more about Mike and his life. Give me a reason to turn to my newspaper everyday for news and perspective I can’t get online or syndicated anywhere else.
I realize how difficult it is for newspapers to remain relevant, but I believe the AJC is moving in the wrong direction. Don’t take away the very elements that set you apart from homogenized versions of national and local news.
Maria Peagler (29 years of reading the AJC)