"It Ain’t Worth &%#*!"

That’s how my grandfather describes the new three-day-a-week publication schedule for The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.

He’s 85 years old and has earned the privilege to use some colorful language on occasion. I have griped on this blog and in person about how much I hate Advance Publications’ decision to cut the Times, and several of the company’s other newspapers, to three-day-a-week schedules.

Hold on — I’ll get to the digital argument shortly. But I still strongly believe these decisions are based on financial reasons, not on what’s best for the communities these newspapers serve.

Case in point: my grandfather complained to me today that acquaintances have died and were buried before he and my grandmother even found out the people are dead. My grandparents — and I’m sure this is true of yours, too — scoured the newspaper obituaries every day, looking to see if someone they know has passed on. Under the new publication schedule, if someone dies on a Saturday, my grandparents likely won’t find out until the Wednesday paper arrives at their doorstep.

That’s not good service to the community.

My grandfather has been a loyal Times reader for his entire life. He was born into a family that subscribed to The Huntsville Times. He carried on that tradition when he became an adult. He and his family have been subscribers for more than eight decades.

Here’s today’s sad fact. He’s decided that the Times‘ new publication schedule is no longer providing him with the service he desires.

My grandfather is going to let his current subscription expire.

He’s not going to renew it.

My grandparents are not a statistic. They are real people who live real lives. They read (past tense) the newspaper every day. It has been important to them.

Advance Publications claims that digital is the new frontier, more and more people are going there, and newspapers have to meet their readers there. I’ll be the first among many to say that yes, this is true.

But we’re being fed a false choice, and I’m urging you not to swallow it. The journalism industry doesn’t have to abandon print to incorporate digital. In effect, by abandoning print (like Newsweek is going to do), organizations are abandoning millions of people who have no access to digitized information.

Admittedly, I feel like I’m yelling at a hurricane. But when journalism organizations start taking access to information away from the elderly, the economically disadvantaged, and those with less education, journalism has truly become a tool of the elites.

My grandparents aren’t on the Internet. They no longer have a daily newspaper. Heads up, local television news. You’re about to become the only source of information for at least two people in Madison County, Alabama.

I suspect that will be true for many others, as well.

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