By Jay Coulter
Well it looks like this internet thing is here to stay. And the daily newspapers around the country are paying the price. Before our very eyes, we are seeing the demise of an American staple. Reading the paper is as much a habit as screaming at your kids to hurry up and get dressed in the morning.
Now it appears to be coming to an end.
In recent weeks a slew of big name newspaper writers have walked away from their jobs after years on the beat. Phillip Marshall left The Huntsville Times last month to begin an online venture with ESPN.
Christa Turner of The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer left her job as Auburn football beat writer after a round of cuts at the paper. Now the names are getting even bigger.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is offering some of its top writer’s lucrative buy-outs to leave - and they are taking them. First on the list is Furman Bisher, perhaps the most widely known and heralded sports writer in the history of the Southeast. The 89 year-old legend is said to be on his way out after a 58 year career at the paper.
Joining him is the person I consider to be the best college football reporter in the nation, Tony Barnhart. He is simply the best at covering the SEC – period. And let’s not forget that Barnhart voted Auburn number one in 2004 when most of his colleagues didn’t.
Barnhart commented on his blog this week about the move, without giving any details. “I want to acknowledge and say thanks to those of you who wrote words of encouragement concerning an upcoming change in my relationship with the AJC, said Barnhart. “Given the realities of the blogosphere the word has gotten out about some of the tough decisions a lot of us in this business are having to make. I’m not in a position to talk about it now but I hope to be able to do so soon. But I did want to thank you for the kind notes.”
The bottom line is this: the daily newspaper is obsolete. With news available 24 hours a day online, there’s little need for a newspaper. When that paper arrives in your mailbox each morning, it’s already outdated. Your laptop, blackberry and iPhone already have more current stories available.
Newspapers around the country have yet to figure out how to move to an online format and remain profitable. You simply cannot sell ads for the same price you do in print. The market is just not there yet. We’ll continue to see more and more of the big names in journalism go to work for online news services.
There’s never been a better time to be a sports fan. It’s not humanly possible to read all there is about Auburn football each day. But in some ways it’s sad. It’s the end of an era.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of me and my father driving 30 minutes to Auburn on a Sunday morning after a big win to buy the Birmingham, Montgomery and Opelika-Auburn newspapers. I can still see the big headlines and the color pictures of my favorite players celebrating after wins over Alabama and Georgia.
It was like opening a gift on Christmas morning. Now all I have to do is turn on the computer.