Al Cross: ‘AJC’ Cutbacks Will Have Rural Fallout

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By: E&P Staff

After word spread this afternoon about the 80 job cuts and newsroom “realignment” at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (see separate story), Al Cross posted the following at the The Rural Blog carried by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, where he serves as director.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution made news this afternoon by announcing a sweeping reorganization and an early-retirement offer for up to 80 employees. But the early national reporting on the changes ignored the impact on rural Georgia, where the AJC will be less available and its reporters probably more scarce.

Starting April 1, the paper’s direct distribution will be limited to the 73 Georgia counties closest to Atlanta. That is fewer than half of Georgia’s 159 counties, so those beyond Macon and Augusta appear likely to be left out. The paper’s news release said more than 70 percent of Georgians will still be able to get home delivery. (We’ve asked the newspaper, the largest unit in Cox Enterprises Inc., to provide a map.)

“These 73 counties represent a population of approximately 7 million people,” the release said. “The new service area matches the AJC?s distribution with the primary needs of its advertisers. This distribution change affects less than 5 percent of the AJC?s circulation base,” which the paper says is 1.1 million readers on weekdays and 1.8 million on Sundays. Its Web site has more than 3 million unique monthly visitors.

The release noted, “Consumers outside of the 73-county area can still enjoy AJC news coverage via ajc.com and the AJC?s mail subscription program.” But when newspapers shrink their circulation areas, they usually shrink their coverage areas, too. The moves in Atlanta reflect similar changes made recently by papers in Dallas, San Francisco and Louisville, and earlier by those in Omaha and Des Moines.

In Atlanta, “It’s too early to answer that question yet,” AJC spokeswoman Mary Dugenske said. “We will be restructuring the entire newsroom, and that will certainly be one of many factors to consider during the redesign process.”

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