Afternoons in Birmingham just won’t be the same anymore — that’s because the Birmingham Post-Herald is no more. Publisher E-W Scripps Company says it just can’t afford to keep the paper running. In a letter to Post-Herald staff Scripps CEO Kenneth Lowe says, quote “Paid circulation of the Post-Herald has declined to … a level at which it no longer makes economic sense to continue publishing. The time has come … for the Post-Herald to join other great afternoon newspapers
that have passed into history” endquote.
The Post-Herald does consider itself one of those great afternoon dailies. The paper traces its roots back to the mid 1800’s; it officially became the
Post-Herald in 1950. The paper made its mark by focusing its energies on long, investigative pieces — tackling subjects like the Ku Klux Klan, life in Ensley and the experience of immigrants in the state.
“Back in the 80’s when I was here and into the early 90’s it was my favorite newspaper, essentially. Arguably, it was the best paper in the state.”
David Perry is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. He says it’s not just Birmingham that’s going to feel the loss of the Post-Herald; he says the paper’s closure is a loss for the entire state.
“One of the things that I would like to see more of in journalism in Alabama is investigative work, you know that has not be the strong point of newspapers in the state in general, and the loss of the Post-Herald is obviously not going to help that.”
Perry’s thoughts are echoed by Michael Hoyt, Executive Director of the Columbia
“That’s a shame to lose that, for one thing it’s good for both newspapers to have that competition. On the editorial page and the OpEd page it’s just, I think, healthy to have two points of view. Often when the second newspaper dies the first newspaper sometimes gets so middle of the road and so fearful of tilting one way or the other they sometimes get bland and don’t say a heck of a lot. I’m not saying that’ll happen here, but it’s a danger.”
Not everyone’s as convinced the loss of the Post-Herald will hurt journalism in
Birmingham. Jan Shaffer, Executive Director of J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism says there will be other media outlets to challenge the Birmingham News. Shaffer adds it was almost inevitable that one of Birmingham’s papers would die out.
“The economic model of the newspaper is under siege and it’s very difficult for communities to support two of them — there’s not the advertising there to do it, there’s not the readership there anymore.”
The Post-Herald has always been the smaller of the two Birmingham papers but UA journalism professor Perry says it began its downward spiral when it and the Birmingham News swapped release times in 1996.
“Historically the larger papers have usually been the morning papers except in industrial based economies, where a lot of people were working second shift at the factory and so forth. And then when the economic base of Birmingham shifted I guess it made sense for the larger paper to become the morning paper, but at that same time that seemed to take a lot of the wind out of the Post-Herald.”
Its circulation the last day it went to print: just 75-hundred.
“It still is a shock for them to finally make the decision to pull the plug …”
Matthew Felling is the Media Director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs.
“All though when you’re looking at just the bare statistics of having, of having a circulation that?s running around 7-thousand as opposed to the other newspaper in town which is probably closer to 160, it makes you wonder how they held out this long.”
Felling says afternoon dailies all over the country are crumbling.
“The morning newspaper it is entrenched in American culture, whereas the afternoons have really been ceded to the cable newscasts and the nightly network newscasts and the local news. So, in a sense, the afternoon newspaper has become obsolete.”
He says most Birmingham residents may not even notice the Post-Herald’s passing.
Just how Birminghamians react to the demise of the Post-Herald remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure, it’s closure is the end of an era in the Magic City.