It has not gone unnoticed by me that, when I go to retrieve the daily newspaper from the driveway, I have no neighbors doing the same.
As I write this, I am still a subscriber to the print version of The Tennessean. I know I am a vanishing breed.
That was underscored no more significantly than by the headline in the same publication last Thursday, on page 10A, in the business section (which I find interesting), that read, “Tennessean sets new home delivery plan, digital boost.”
The story under the headline explained how The Tennessean, along with most Gannett (The Tennessean’s owner) newspapers, “will cease delivery of Saturday editions, in response to the ongoing dominance of digital news consumption.”
According to Michael E. Anastasi, the paper’s vice president and editor quoted in the story, “print will remain a key part of our multi-platform product mix.”
I am sure that is the intention, but I cannot help but believe this is the beginning of, if not the end, at least a further reduced print product from Gannett and The Tennessean. This latest action was foreshadowed Christmas and New Year’s weekends when there was only one edition over a three-day period (with no credit to a subscriber’s account for those missed editions, I might add.)
And it’s not like it’s any surprise. Not only do I not know any neighbors who still get the print newspaper; I can’t name any friends or acquaintances who do. Gannett is printing for an increasingly smaller audience.
My prediction is, after the Saturday print edition is no more, it is only a matter of time until other days are added to the no-print list. It will likely go the way of other papers across the country that now print only on Sundays, or not at all.
For some time now, I have been considering digital-only. While I mean no disrespect and I enjoy many of the writers at The Tennessean, dealing with Gannett has become daunting.
Price increases are frequent and print subscribers are forced to pay for special supplements, even if they don’t want them. Digital-only will save money.
So with this latest announcement, I am done. As soon as I can muster the energy to call customer service, I will tell them I will be a digital-only customer.
Call me sentimental, but this will come with some sadness on my part.
As soon as I moved here in 1997, I started reading The Tennessean and The Nashville Banner (which would soon go out of business, making The Tennessean the only game in town.)
At that time, The Tennessean had a robust section called “Williamson A.M.” that was essentially a newspaper unto itself, and tremendously informative as to news and happenings in this county. I was here without my family at first, and it was a must-read as I scoped out the area.
Williamson A.M. was eventually culled from The Tennessean’s offerings, and there is now an occasional section on our county simply called “Williamson,” but it does not come close to the former Williamson County publication.
It was in Williamson A.M. that I became acquainted (through their writing) with Laura Hill, Mark Cook, Susan Leathers, Jill Burgin and others -- professional journalists and columnists whose writing was a pleasure to read.
But out of ashes comes beauty. The publication you are now reading was founded by Susan. Jill was a columnist for a while and Mark did a stint as editor.
In my opinion, they each went from an excellent publication to an even better one. Today Williamson Home Page is the top resource for everything Williamson County and I’m not just saying that because I happen to write a column for it. So, although I have fond remembrances of Williamson A.M., I no longer miss it.
But I will miss the print edition of The Tennessean.
I realize my views are archaic, but since I learned to read, I have read a newspaper every day, with few exceptions.
As I was growing up in El Dorado, Arkansas, my parents subscribed to two dailies – the El Dorado News Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
We called the News Times “the El Dorado paper” and it was the go-to source for news in the area. It was not perfect, and had more than the occasional typographical error, but it was our paper. When I worked on my high school newspaper, my fellow editors and I would go to the News Times offices and lay out our pages, which would be printed on the presses there.
When I married, my soon-to-be wife’s picture was published in the society section of the El Dorado paper (my mother thought it poor taste to have an engagement photo that included the male part of the couple), along with an announcement of our upcoming marriage. The day after the wedding, a full-length bridal portrait ran, with a detailed description of the ceremony.
The Democrat-Gazette was (and still is) a statewide publication and included the usual news, sports, business and editorial sections. My parents read it cover to cover and occasionally, much to my embarrassment, wrote letters disagreeing with editorial policy.
In both publications there were also columnists – both news-related and the personal, everyman-type. It was reading their pieces that first sparked in me the desire to someday do what they did. It took about four decades for that wish to come true – in a digital publication, no less.
My folks would also read the comics before working the Jumble. My mother religiously worked the crossword. All of these are now part of my daily routine.
I like the feel of a newspaper in my hand. I like the ink that sometimes smears on my fingers. I like turning the pages and folding a page to the precise item I want to read or, in the case of the puzzles, engage with.
But it is time to put that part of the past behind me. All of what I have just described – except turning and folding pages -- can be done online, and I can print the puzzles to work them if that makes me feel better.
It’s been a long time coming. I don’t have any affinity for the Saturday edition over those of the other days of the week, but it’s that announcement that pushed me over.
I’ll keep reading digitally, but it won’t be the same. And I’m at peace with that. Times change.
Heck, I once thought I couldn’t live without a land line.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].