Journalism professionals respond to changes happening with local newspaper

June 20 will mark the first time in 110 years that The Eagle won’t land on doorsteps every morning
KBTX News 3 at Six Weekday EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - In less than a month big changes are coming to the Bryan-College Station’s paper of record. June 20 will mark the first time in 110 years that The Eagle won’t land on doorsteps every morning.

The Bryan-College Station Eagle will soon only have three print editions throughout the week. The change was announced in an op-ed published on Sunday. According to the announcement the new schedule will have papers published on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The paper and its parent company Lee Enterprises promise each paper will now have a “Sunday” reading experience.

These changes come as the newspaper industry as a whole adapts and evolves to new models, Leonard Woolsey, president and publisher of The Galveston County Daily News said.

“Newspapers are finding themselves having to make economic decisions,” Woolsey said. “Where is the future of our business? At the end of the day, this is about journalism and what we provide to our community.”

Woolsey said many newspaper audiences, such as their own, have transitioned to digital.

“There was a recent Texas Press study coming out that was done in March. Out of 1,000 Texans, 80% of them are gathering news from newspapers on their phones. So we know that’s where that audience is going, so you’re seeing media companies make changes in where they go,” said Woolsey.

Mike Reilly was once the vice president of news for The Eagle’s previous owner, Berkshire Hathaway. He said the news of the changes was shocking, but not a surprise.

“Newspapers have never survived just on subscription revenues, print subscription revenues, it was always mainly advertising distribution,” Reilly said. “For the past decade, newspapers have been fighting a losing battle to make money on the internet because that is where the advertising has moved.”

The Eagle is not the only Lee Enterprise paper making the change. Near word-for-word stories have run in about a dozen Lee papers across the country.

“It’s a tragedy, but it’s a reality,” Claire Regan, President of the Society of Professional Journalists said. “Look at it in an optimistic way, luckily the paper is still there, it’s still committed to the community just in a new way and if I was living there I would make it known that it’s important for them to stay.”

Another change coming; the newspaper will now be delivered by the United States Postal Service. Reilly said he is concerned about the pace at which the deliveries will show up.

“I hope The Eagle really tries to make their three print publication more of a magazine style because immediacy is already lost to television, the radio and the internet,” Reilly said.

Regan said issues like this are concerning because papers like hers, The Staten Island Advance, are able to promote change in the local community. She provided the example of the world landfill which her paper reported on in an effort to get it shut down for the community.

“That’s the power of local journalism it can take on a cause like that,” Reagan said. “Eventually the landfill was closed a little over 20 years ago. Now it’s becoming a park. That’s what a local paper can do. It can take on a local situation and campaign for or against it for the community that it serves. That’s really the power of local journalism.”

Despite changes in the industry, Woolsey said print journalism is still incredibly powerful with readers.

“The newspaper is like any other industry it evolves, ebbs and flows,” Woolsey said. “The well-run organizations with good content, good management and good direction will survive.”