Alabama news changes this week

Published 1:45 am Saturday, September 29, 2012

When I looked up from my computer and saw that it was 5:04 Friday afternoon, I got misty-eyed. Because I knew that at another newspaper office in another city, my dear friend and former college roommate, Robin, was walking out of the offices of The Birmingham News, the last day she’d leave as an employee.

For those who’ve forgotten, this week marked the end of The News, The Huntsville Times, and The Mobile Press-Register as  daily newspapers. Beginning next week, what has been the state’s three largest daily newspapers will publish print editions on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and deliver news on their website,, other days. Recently, they said there will be an “early Sunday” edition in the racks only on Saturdays, with prep football coverage.

As part of the process, at least 100 employees last their jobs. Robin was one of the lucky ones. She was asked to stay as an enterprise reporter in the Birmingham market. The offer was right in her wheelhouse, but ultimately, she decided not to accept, opting instead to move to a public relations opportunity.

Staying, she said, would just be too sad. She couldn’t stand watching what was happening to her beloved newspaper. So, like the careers of many other fine people in Alabama, her journalism career came to a close yesterday.

Earlier this week, Paul Davis, the pioneering journalist whose reporting changed the standards of care for the mentally ill and mentally retarded in Alabama, died at age 74. Davis was still writing, and still taking on the establishment, primarily Auburn University and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

Of Davis’s passing, Bill Keller wrote on Facebook, “A big tree fell in the forest.”

Indeed, lots of big trees fell in the forest this week, changing forever news as we have known it.

So when I looked at the clock Friday afternoon, I dialed and left a message. “I am teary-eyed at the thought of this being your last day,” I said to Robin. “I hope you are celebrating. You’ve done great work. I’m proud of you, and I love you.”

Later she sent me a text. “When neither of us will cry, let’s talk.”

Never is the only time I’d thought I’d still be working in the industry and she wouldn’t. But I left for a public relations job once, too. Here’s hoping she didn’t end her final copy with -30-. I still believe the world is a better place when reporters are poking around, working to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. She was a past master.

The very best to each of those journalists whose jobs ended this week. Thank you for your work to make our state a better place.