Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Newspapers are leaving the building

        It was interesting to me to see the reaction when The Shreveport Times last week announced it had plans to leave the building where it's been located for a half century.
The Shreveport Times building -- but not much longer.
        There are many things about which I'm sentimental. Newspapers buildings are not on that list.
        So when I saw, on Facebook and on The Times web site, repeated references to how "sad" this impending move is, my reaction was the opposite. Here's what I posted:
       No, no, this is not sad. This is progress. That building has outlived its usefulness in newspaper terms. The Times (and Journal until 1991) has been there since 1962, so that's 51 years. No longer a good location, in my opinion.
       If there is a newspaper building about which I should be sentimental, The Times building is it. I worked in that building for some 25 years -- 13 fulltime, 12 as a high school/college student and later parttimer.
       That's where I began my career -- in the summer of 1963 between my sophomore and junior years in high school -- and that where the Shreveport phase of my career ended in late summer 1988. And, honestly, when I left, a whole new world opened for me and my family.
       So I learned a lot about life and newspapers in that building at 222 Lake. There were lots of great days and great times, and a few awful ones. Worked with many good people, and some I could have done without.
       But I am not sad when I think about that building or that location. The parent Gannett Corp. has listed $3.1 million as a sale price, and good luck getting that much. Frankly, my dear ...
       Wherever The Times goes next to put out its newspapers will be fine; it will continue to put out an interesting product. Yes, no matter what, I still enjoy reading the paper.
       Many people will say the newspaper business is declining and certainly the loss of jobs and circulation would indicate that. But the other way to look at it is that it is changing, so the needs within a building are changing.
        Plus, I can identify with the newspaper moving. Because The Times is the fourth paper for which I worked any substantial amount of time that has moved in recent years.
        In 2002, shortly after I left the paper, the Knoxville News Sentinel left the old, cramped building on the edge of downtown it had been in for decades for a building new facility just a few miles away overlooking the long Interstate 40/75 stretch in town.
        In June 2010, just a few months after our first visit to Hawaii since I worked there in 1980-81, The Honolulu Advertiser folded when it was bought out and became part of the  merged Honolulu Star-Advertiser. So the old building at 605 Kapiolani Blvd. -- which we visited again on our trip -- is now abandoned. Built in 1929, it had housed The Advertiser (for 81 years) and the Star-Bulletin.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's former home
           In 2011, shortly after my layoff notice from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the paper left the building -- cold, damp, home to bats, and after five sets of layoffs, too large -- where it had been since 1921 (90 years).
           It went one block east to the then-named Commerce Building; renamed the Star-Telegram Building, and the new fourth-floor newsroom -- where my career ended with one year of parttime work -- has a good feel.   
           So compared to those other papers, The Times' 51 years just off the viaduct leading into and out of downtown Shreveport isn't that much.
        Now, about my sentimental feelings toward old structures. At Louisiana Tech University, they're tearing down the Caruthers and Neilson dorms, which opened when I was a student in the mid to late 1960s. I lived in both places, beautiful then. Now, it's obviously time for them to go.
        I didn't mind when the old Tech football stadium or Memorial Gym were replaced or when decrepit SPAR Stadium in Shreveport -- finally -- was abandoned for Fair Grounds Field in 1986.
        Shreveport really should rebuild the home and visitors' sides of Independence Stadium (once State Fair Stadium) ... if it could afford to, and Hirsch Coliseum was outdated by the mid-1970s when it was 20 years old.
        Didn't bother me to see the old Yankee Stadium renovated, almost totally, for a second version that opened in 1976, or when it was replaced by the billion-dollar newest Yankee Stadium in 2009.
        Didn't care that Comiskey Park in Chicago or Tiger Stadium in Detroit are gone, or the cookie-cutter roundhouse '60s stadiums in Atlanta, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cincinnati were torn down. Good-bye and good riddance, too, to the Kingdome in Seattle.
        The Astrodome? The Eighth Wonder of the World in the '60s, the fabulous new building in Houston? It's just stands now as a long-ago relic, taken over by critters and atrophy. Soon it won't be there anymore, and that's OK.
        Frankly -- and this makes some of my baseball friends uncomfortable, and tees off fans of these particular teams -- I am not enamored by the old "palaces," Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. They've been renovated and revamped, and I think those teams should rebuild modern stadiums elsewhere. Yeah, blasphemy.
        Not very sentimental, huh?
        But, gosh, I do like the tradition of so many of the college football stadiums around the country. Of course, these universities have spent millions (billions) of dollars expanding and updating. Just to name two with which I'm pretty familiar, LSU's Tiger Stadium and Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, don't look much like they did even 20 years ago.  
        And where I'm really sentimental is the schools in my hometown. I wouldn't want to see Woodlawn abandoned, or Byrd, Fair Park, Bossier, Loyola College Prep ... none of the old places, or the newer ones.
        It hurts to see my junior high, Oak Terrace, so majestic and unique and built on a hill at the west end of my neighborhood, sitting empty. I was in seventh grade the year it opened (1959) and started on the path to my sportswriting career there.
        I like that Sunset Acres Elementary, which opened in 1954, is still in operation. Very sentimental about that schoolground.
        But newspaper buildings? Nope. There's a time to go, and often it's way past time. So let The Times move on a new place and a new day. The memories are enough.
        Wonder what they did with that clock that crashed to the floor when Steve Oakey, in one of our frequent ballgames in the sports department, hit it with our wadded-up tape ball  one night?
        Better yet, I remember my little girl in the old Journal newsroom, hissing like a snake as she crawled across the carpet, or posing for the photos in the old studio or up front coloring with Miss Althea. And my 2-year-old boy, even before I was "Dad," asking on his first visit to the newsroom, " 'Bout ready to doe, Neeto?"
        He was ready to go, to leave the building. Now everyone is, and that's good. That's progress.  



  1. From David Henington: Amazing how much I still love newspapers, and continue to be a subscriber. Love your blog.

  2. From Roy May: We were in Shreveport a few weeks ago (attending my Woodlawn Class of '68 reunion) and I walked over to the front of the building on Sunday morning. I could not believe how rundown and dirty it was. There was trash all around the steps going in and the ledge by the walkway was literally busted and falling down almost all the way across. I wished I had not even gone over there. Not the way I want to remember the building where I worked for 28 years.

  3. From Doug Ireland: Well said, Nico! Everything but Wrigley and Fenway. Should we scratch classic art? That’s what they are.