Starting this fall, the Birmingham News will print only three editions a week, and the city of Birmingham will be left without a daily newspaper. The paper will print on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Mobile and Huntsville will also be left without a daily—the News‘ sister papers, the Mobile Press-Register and the Huntsville Times, will also switch to the three day schedule. All three papers are owned by Advance Publications.
Editor Tom Scarritt plans to retire when the News switches to the three-editions-a-week schedule, according to a tweet from Birmingham News business reporter Michael Tomberlin.
According to a story on the Birmingham News‘ online home, AL.com, the changes will come as part of a reorganization in which the three Alabama papers owned by Advance are grouped into “a new digitally focused media company” called the Alabama Media Group. That company will be headed up by AL.com president and CEO Cindy Martin. Birmingham News publisher Pam Siddall will lead a support company, Advance Central Services Alabama, which “will handle production, distribution, technology, finance and human resources” for the three newspapers. The shift will be accompanied by “a reduction in the overall size of the workforce,” according to the AL.com story.
“There are always painful choices when you begin a process that will lead to people losing their jobs,” Martin said in the AL.com story. “But at the same time, we must position ourselves to be sustainable businesses going forward.”
The shakeup at the News and the other Alabama papers follows similar changes at another Advance paper, the Times-Picayune in a New Orleans. According to a memo to Times-Picayune staff, the plan at that paper is to begin “publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only” at some point in the fall.
Siddall announced the changes at a company-wide meeting held Thursday, according to tweets posted by Birmingham News business reporter Marty Swant. Siddall said the number of pages on the print edition of the Birmingham News will increase.
Page counts on the 3 published days will go up, Siddall said. “The core of what we do is about the journalism, and we can’t mess that up.”
— Marty Swant (@martyswant) May 24, 2012
According to Swant, Siddall said there was not yet a set date for the switch to a three-day schedule.
Brett Blackledge, a former Birmingham News reporter who won a Pulitzer for his investigations into the Alabama two-year college scandal, reacted to the announcement with shock.
As alum, speechless at what Newhouse is doing with @Birmingham_News, T-P, other pubs. Not confident, but hope they know path to success.
— Brett Blackledge (@BrettBlackledge) May 24, 2012
Blackledge now writes for the Associated Press.