The sun sets on an Empire

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

Today marks the end of civilization as we know it.

Thinking Out Loud

Steve Reed is managing editor of the Empire. He can be reached at streed@juneauempire.com.

Already you're thinking, "Oh, really? To what does the tom-fool editor refer now?"

The war in Iraq?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome?

The erosion of moral values?

None of the above, although they command our attention and fuel our angst to varying degrees.

Today's ink-on-paper version of the Empire is likely to be the last afternoon edition ever published. "Never say never" is good advice, but I cannot imagine the Empire converting from an afternoon edition to a morning edition - as is scheduled to happen on Monday - and then converting back to an afternoon edition. A 40-year trend indicates we will go "A.M." and never turn back.

This is it, the last one, the end of an era. Monday marks a new dawn, as the marketing campaign has emphasized.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? We're counting on "good."

The newspaper and its readers settled into a symbiotic routine generations ago. The paper has changed in content and appearance (we haven't always had color photos - and the color photos haven't always reproduced as well as they do now), but we've been distributed in the afternoons for decades.

A local banker told us a couple of years ago that no matter when we distribute the Empire, he'll read it in the evening when he gets home from work. Fair enough. But I intend to call him in a few weeks and ask if he stuck to his guns.

Seems like it was only last month we survived the fretful period that accompanied the total makeover known as "the redesign." Turns out there wasn't much basis to fret. The redesign was in capable hands, and, it didn't launch until it was ready.

Appearance is subjective, but it is our subjective opinion that the redesign produced a better-looking and more readable paper. Readability is quantifiable, by the way. Experts earn nice livings identifying "entry points" on pages and what page elements contribute to your holding the paper in your hands a little longer. Thank God the experts include news content and the first paragraphs of news stories among those elements.

When what we put in the paper and how we construct news stories no longer matters, it will be time to go fishin'.

Come mornings, the redesign remains in play. Also, our best efforts to provide news and information that is useful and interesting.

So what will change, apart from your being able to read today's Empire over your morning coffee - and night owls being able to get a head start with the posting of the on-line edition around 1 a.m.?

Not that much, really. The arts and entertainment magazine called "this week" will move from Thursday afternoons to Friday mornings; its Best Bets column will be replaced by a column (same writer) written from a broader perspective; some of Thursday's local business standbys (Profile, Briefs, On the Move) will move to Mondays and to page 7; Juneau Color profiles will move from Friday to Monday; and the weather capsule on page A1 will include today's weather, not just tonight's.

Not moving: Food (Wednesday), Neighbors (Wednesday and Friday), Outdoors (Sunday), Inside (Sunday).

Not moving but arriving fresher for your reading pleasure will be our City Hall-Assembly meeting coverage and sports.

Producing an afternoon paper has required the news staff to report to work early, but it also has allowed many of us to slip away before 5 p.m. We won't be showing up at 6 a.m. any longer, but the newsroom will be staffed until midnight every night except Friday.

To contact us by phone after 5 p.m. and on weekends, dial the Empire's main number, 586-3740. The recorded message offers options that begin with entering "1" for news, sports and photos. As the night wears on, staff will dwindle to a couple of people who may be on the phone or in the press room when you call. If you don't reach us "live," leave a message and we'll call back.

Not having converted from afternoons to mornings previously, our plan is an informed, best guess. If we nail it, hey, piece o' cake, never any doubt. If we stub our toe, please let us hear from you. We'll adjust on the fly.

Steve Reed is managing editor of the Empire. Contact him at streed@juneauempire.com.



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