Opinion - Atlanta deserves a daily paper

While we enjoy the minutely flood of digital information, we miss the old AJC

“Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”

— Mr. Dooley in “Mr. Dooley’s Opinions,” 1901

Gone are the days of the dominant daily, which Chicago writer Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional Mr. Dooley described a century ago as having near-complete sway over the citizens of its community. With local news and information streaming from dozens, nay hundreds, of print, broadcast, and digital sources, today we get to choose our sources of information. By and large, that’s a good thing. We would never want to return to the day when one daily newspaper was a city’s singular news source.

But while we enjoy the minute-by-minute flood of digital and broadcast information, we miss the presence of a major daily newspaper committed to covering Atlanta like the dew. Unlike today’s narrowly targeted websites and quick-hit radio and TV broadcasts, a real daily newspaper boasts a circulation that spans racial, ethnic, political, professional, and other demographic groups and helps bind together a community. It fosters discussion of what a city’s residents have in common, as well as the issues that keep them apart. It takes provocative and informed editorial stands on local issues and people to stimulate discussion. A daily newspaper is, we think, essential to the healthy growth and development of a major metropolis, particularly one such as Atlanta, characterized by increasing ethnic diversity and faced with the problems that come with rapid growth and its equally rapid halt. As the most widely read print publication inside the perimeter, we at CL try to do our part. But as a weekly, we have to pick our shots while a successful daily can offer in-depth coverage on a wide range of issues. As a weekly newspaper, we don’t have the resources to keep constant watch over a city — not to mention a state so plagued with political scandal and ethical transgressions that it’s beginning to look like New Jersey.

The Journal-Constitution once was Atlanta’s hometown newspaper, boasting a daily circulation of 406,000 only 10 years ago — a number that has shrunk to 181,500 today, with only 70,000 of those copies circulated in Fulton and DeKalb counties. We understand the AJC’s decision to concentrate what remains of its reportorial horsepower on Atlanta’s northern suburbs. We understand its decision to move to Dunwoody (although we do wonder when it will drop “Atlanta” from its name). We respect its donation of its downtown Atlanta headquarters to the city.

But we can’t help but note the symbolism inherent in leaving behind not only Atlanta but the statue of Henry W. Grady that stands in the shadow of its former Marietta Street headquarters. It was Grady, managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution during Reconstruction, whose promotion of an industrial New South laid the foundation for the economic powerhouse that Atlanta has become. In this rapidly changing global economy and highly charged partisan environment, who will rally the various interest groups and populations of today’s Atlanta to ensure the city continues to grow and thrive? We’ll do our part. But we miss having a daily newspaper.