The Journal | Top Stories | Photo Collections | News | Subscriptions | Contact Us

Subscriptions to
The Journal
start at only
$20 per year.
For details
click here.
Disappearing Ink
Click here
for more
opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the January 26, 2022 issue of The Journal
   Until last week, every single issue of The Journal ever produced (1,352 of them) had rolled thru the printing press of Judd Publishing Company in Macon.
   For 26 years, the Judd family and their employees took good care of us, as well as their other customers.
   However, they eventually fell victim to the declining print market and made the painful decision to shut down their business.
   It's sad any time a family owned and operated business closes, but the closing of Judd Publishing Company hit me harder than I expected.
   First, their closing had absolutely nothing to do with how good they did their job. They were top-notch printers, who offered a crisp, clean product at a competitive price.
   Secondly, after 26 years, you can imagine that I had gotten to know the people very well. They not only cared about doing the job well, but also cared about their customers. They are hard-working, kind, salt-of-the-earth, God-fearing folks.
   However, commercial printers have seen a steady decline in their customer base over the last couple of decades. Most (but not all) of Judd's weekly newspaper customers continued to publish, but other jobs (college and high school newspapers, magazines, sale papers, etc.) became increasingly rare. In the end, their remaining small-town newspaper customers weren't enough to sustain their business.
   This "disappearing ink" is a sign of the times. Each of the local newspapers previously published by Judd have found new printing presses, but we all realize that our industry continues to face challenges.
   According to The New York Times, over the past 15 years, more than 1-in-5 papers in the U.S. have disappeared.
   Communities everywhere should find that worrying. While no newspaper – this one included – is perfect, communities lose much more than their local paper when it goes away.
   As an example, The Times quoted a resident of Mount Dora, Florida several years after its paper folded. He said: "After years without a strong local voice, our community does not know itself and has no idea of important local issues or how the area is changing. ... We are a nameless and faceless town defined only by neighborhoods.
   "A few local blogs pick up commercial events that are relayed on Facebook, but aside from that, we only hear of murders and fires and hot-button controversies — the stuff of TV news."
   The former reader of another defunct paper spoke of missing local government news, school news, upcoming local events, and advertisements from local businesses. He also said, "There is no way to reliably learn about decisions of local governments, or even about the issues being raised."
   In other words, like the Mount Dora resident said: The community does not know itself.
   Local newspapers may seem quaint and old-fashioned in the modern digital age, but they offer important things that simply vanish if they go away.
   A former local resident who still subscribes to our paper once told me about how his colleagues in a big-city firm loved looking at our "little paper" and marveling at all of the little bits of community information. They found it astounding (but in a good way) that a civic group could actually get free publicity of its BBQ fundraiser, a church could tell about a guest singer scheduled to perform, every single kid who got a single hit in a ballgame could get his/her name mentioned, every vote by a local government board could be known, etc., etc.
   In short, a community could know itself.
   While we've found space on a different printing press and have no plans to stop publishing anytime soon, we hope this change can be a reminder for not only us, but also for the communities we serve. We thank you for your support over the last 26 years and we hope you'll help us keep the presses rolling for at least another 26! Let's not let the ink disappear.