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Pressmen's requiem a product of time

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

You don't hold on ... and then it's gone.

-- James Brown

Those Albany Herald employees like me who have no use, time or understanding of the business world settled into shock Tuesday as our boss, John Hetzler, explained the reality of our situation.

The jobs of 26 of our fellow employees -- for some of us, people we call friends -- were being eliminated, casualties of an economy that just won't get better and of an enemy none of us has the power to fend off: time.

Here's the reality of the situation: The Herald's press -- that amazing behemoth of a monster in the bowels of our building that has never ceased to spellbind me -- is on its last legs, has been for decades but has been magically and heroically patched together with spit, paper clips and bailing wire. To replace it or even do major repairs would cost a whole lot of money. Like million-dollar kind of money.

After some gut-wrenching soul-searching, the powers that be reached the conclusion they had to stop the bleeding. And, thus, it was decided to eliminate the printing component of this newspaper. That part of the equation is now being farmed out to a newspaper in Tallahassee, which has the equipment and the staff to print its paper nightly as well as others throughout the region.

The move makes all the sense in the world from a business standpoint. It lessens the bite of the salary/benefits part of the financial equation, makes talk of repairing or replacing the old press moot and eliminates the need to buy ever more costly paper and ink that are the lifeblood of the printing process.

Sadly, though, the move means that certain jobs in The Herald's pressroom and mailroom will soon be obsolete. And 26 people, for the most part 26 damned good people, will no longer be a part of this paper and its storied history.

There seems to be a good bit of misunderstanding in the community about The Herald's new world order, which was announced in the paper Wednesday. Worried readers have called or come by to ask if The Herald was in danger of closing its doors. That question's easy. Unless there are unforeseen circumstances, that ain't happening.

Others want to know how the Tallahassee paper is going to be able to provide coverage of news happening here in Albany. That's not it at all. The same reporters and photographers and designers and ad sales reps and carriers and everything else will put the paper out on a daily basis. The product that we produce will be emailed to Tallahassee -- I may hate all these new-fangled computers because I really suck at trying to operate them, but they truly are amazing -- every night and trucked up to the carriers here on Washington Street.

From reports I've gotten, the new product will be cleaner with sharper images on a higher-grade stock of paper.

(Incidentally, much of the reader confusion over the changes at The Herald are the product of cheap-shot snipes taken by other local news media, who've offered misleading explanations in an obvious effort to stir up such confusion. Journalists indeed.)

I'd call the changes about to take place here a win-win all around ... if it weren't for those 26 soon-to-be former fellow employees who will no longer load the plates, line up the paper, and pull and push all those magical buttons that disperse just the right amount of ink to print The Herald. And here's what really hurts my heart about those guys: Together they have 364 years of experience here.

Selfishly, I'm excited about the potential of the new-look Herald, excited about the product we'll be putting out and delivering every day. But even in the best of times, I think about those 26 people whose careers were turned upside down. And, damn, I feel a hurt that just won't go away.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 2 years, 1 month ago

Journalists indeed. Like when Carlton Fletcher tries to explain about the 47% and the 99% and the 1% by doing ZERO research and pulling stuff out of his butt.

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waltspecht 2 years, 1 month ago

Welcome to the real world. Miller had seven reductions in force. When it started there were over 1200 employees. Then you can ask the teachers about furlough days, and those that were let go due to stopping their programs. It happens, and until we stop the jobs loss, and bring jobs back to America it will continue. There should be jobs for those willing to work that will provide them with a decent living. Remember, you can look it up on the Inter-net. The average person on the dole earns the equivilant of $8.89 an hour here in South-west Georgia. Plus close to $20.00 an hour if in one of the big cities. Lets raise the State minimum wage to at least match the Georgia average, which is close to $12 / hr. Then hold all the price increases so there is an incentive to work and spend. To raise the minimum and then adjust costs up is self defeating.

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LoneCycler 2 years, 1 month ago

I can’t see how the Herald can give their product away for free via the internet. Everything that is in the print version is also at albanyherald.com. Well, everything except for the coupons, ad inserts and cartoons. I suppose those bring in a lot of income for the Herald, but I’ve noticed that the US Post Office is trying to generate income by delivering more paper coupons and ad flyers too. And look where they’re headed. No, I don’t get the business model being followed either. It’s my guess that print is serving an ever diminishing group of people that don’t like using or have computers or smart phones. While the Herald will always have the poor I fail to see how this will result in its prosperity. The Herald should offer digital subscriptions with content others don’t get. Like an improved mobile website without those annoying pop-up ads. Or a member’s only comment blog that Mr. Fletcher has to read (Sister Ruby would pay money for that). Exclusive content can also generate ad income. Take the story on Oct 2 “Early fall a busy time” about gardening winter flowers. It could have mentioned that pansies were sold at certain big box stores in Albany for a certain price, and that you could also pick up a rake and mulch while you were there too. When you see a movie where the actor picks up a can of Coke the producers didn’t just choose that over Pepsi, they got paid for it. The point I’m trying to make is that when you cater to the lowest common denominator your future is tied to it. And that future does not often have a pleasant outcome.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 1 month ago

Finally a honest statement from Carlton. I have no use for or understanding of the business world. WELL WELL without our world your world WILL NOT survive. .........Another good example of money takers having no idea of where and how their money comes from. Yet they have no problem demanding more money from the money makers. So Carlton keep campaigning to raise taxes on the "Rich" and see if a poor man can afford to hire you.

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Local 2 years, 1 month ago

"Incidentally, much of the reader confusion over the changes at The Herald are the product of cheap-shot snipes taken by other local news media, who've offered misleading explanations in an obvious effort to stir up such confusion. Journalists indeed."

R-E-A-L-L-Y!! The media ALWAYS reports the truth. Why would they "want" to stir up confusion. If it's in print it's got to be true, right?!? Journalists indeed!!

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The_Dude 2 years, 1 month ago

I think you missed the point there smarty.

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Cartman 2 years, 1 month ago

Good article Carlton. Unemployment and a collapsing economy take on a whole different character when its someone you know and care about. Unfortunately its becoming all too common. I'm glad the Albany Herald will survive. But I just said a prayer for the press gang families.

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billybob 2 years, 1 month ago

Carlton, I hate to break it to you, but the other media aren't wrong. The Herald will not survive long-term, unless it makes major changes. Newspapers that are going to survive the change to totally electronic media will have to change their content. You are going to have to focus on real journalism: investigative reporting, good features (not uninteresting fluff), well researched editorials. You need to have content that is compelling enough to drive traffic to a well designed website and generate page views to justify profitable ad revenue. The actual printed paper is going away. It's just not practical in the age of e-readers, tablets and laptops.

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