What’s Going On With the Atlanta Journal-Constitution?

From the Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution business columnist Maria Saporta, who now has her own website called the Saporta Report, dropped a major story last week about her old employer. Saporta wrote that the AJC will discontinue its daily print edition and go to a weekend print edition. It will continue to have a digital news operation around the clock.

Saporta, who said her report was based on a half-dozen interviews with people close to the paper, wrote, “The time frame to implement the discontinuation of the daily print edition has not yet been decided, but sources say it likely would happen sometime in 2023 — most likely within a year from now.”

Saporta reported that senior editors were informed of the plans during a Zoom meeting last week. She also reported that there will be an all-staff meeting this Thursday. According to Saporta, Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, told staff in the invitation to the meeting, “It’s been a while since we’ve had an in-person newsroom staff meeting, but don’t worry, I promise there won’t be any shoes dropping at this meeting. Instead, I would like to get together and share exciting information as we plan for our future. The leadership team hopes you leave the meeting feeling as optimistic as we do about our path forward — a path that allows us to continue to produce our meaningful work for a long time to come.”

When asked by Saporta if the paper was dropping a daily print edition and would only print on Sundays, Riley told her, “No such decision has been made.” However, Riley did tell Saporta, “I can tell you that everyone knows that the future of our business is digital.”

Atlanta’s Fox5 reached out for a comment on the Saporta story and was told by AJC general manager Bala Sundaramoorthy, “As of now, we do not have concrete plans to scale back our seven-day print delivery, but eventually, that day will come. When we do decide to reduce our print schedule, it will be because our business is ready and our employees, subscribers, advertisers, and partners will be the first to know.”

The Journal-Constitution is owned by Cox Enterprises. The Saporta report comes on the heels of the news that Cox has reached an agreement to buy Axios for $525 million. But Saporta wrote, “According to people close to the AJC, Cox’s decision to acquire Axios was not related to the decision to discontinue the daily print product of the AJC.”

If the AJC does decide to eliminate several days of its print product, it will not be the first major metropolitan paper to do so. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times do not print several days a week. Although, the Times does have an e-edition, which looks just like a print newspaper but is published digitally.

Longtime AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz, who is now at The Athletic, tweeted, “Unfortunately economics and deadlines have made deadlines unworkable for writers and severely damaged the quality of the print product everywhere, not just at the AJC, my former employer. Most writers probably will be happy not to rush to jam an inferior product into the paper.”

Schultz added, “To give you an idea what it’s like for sportswriters, at the time I left the AJC I would have to have my print column in at 6 p.m. which is tough when a Braves game would start at 7:30. I could update/rewrite online as much as I wanted but the paper story was the lesser product. The obvious ripple effect is fewer people bought the print product in a digital age, and fewer companies bought ads, which impacted revenue streams. It’s a sad reality for a once great business that many of us grew up in and were passionate about. I fear for more job losses.”

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