RIP HOUS­TON PRESS?

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE -

Dear Read­ers,

Some of us re­mem­ber where we were or what we were do­ing when cer­tain events oc­curred in our life­time. Some­thing like 9-11 or the shoot­ing death of John Len­non or even Kurt Cobain’s sui­cide.

For me, I re­mem­ber the death of the orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion of the Pub­lic News in 1998. Now nearly 20 years later, the ju­nior arts and en­ter­tain­ment news­pa­per, the Hous­ton

Press, folded its print prod­uct fired its staff and with­ered to be­come just another web­site cov­er­ing Hous­ton.

I have read the com­ments from a stunned col­lec­tion of read­ers of the Press. Dis­may and dis­be­lief flooded Twit­ter like blood on the side­walk af­ter a Chicago street killing. If the

Press is to con­tinue in a dig­i­tal (read: web­site) for­mat, they have a huge learn­ing curve to nav­i­gate. The sole ed­i­tor of the Press, Mar­garet Down­ling, is go­ing to find it very hard to do the work of ten edi­tors, on a daily ba­sis on a shoe­string bud­get. Can it be done? Of course it can, but still there are things that have not been thought through. For ex­am­ple, the free press ex­ists via advertising. We all un­der­stand that. But what hap­pens when read­ers chose to use ad block­ing on their web browsers? Ouch! What do you think read­ers do when your web­site is so hard to launch or nav­i­gate? Yep, that’s right, they go else­where for their news.

Another al­ter­na­tive news­pa­per dis­ap­peared without even say­ing good­bye two years ago. The Free Press Hous­ton (styl­ized

FPH) shut­tered their print edi­tion in 2015, even ceas­ing their flip­book edi­tion on is­suu.com. Speak­ing with Omar Afra, FPH pub­lisher, he cited that the av­er­age reader of the FPH was 26 years old and did not pick up print copies nor read their flip­books on is­suu. Although I am twice the age of FPH’s tar­get au­di­ence, I still read the FPH up to the day they dis­ap­peared. Nowa­days for some odd rea­son I can never get their web­site to load on my smart­phone. Even af­ter wait­ing 10 min­utes for the site to load, I gave up. I had bet­ter things to do with my time. Sorry Omar. So what is the an­swer? Did the Hous­ton

Press and the Free Press Hous­ton have to cease pub­li­ca­tion of their print is­sues? Not re­ally. In the case of FPH, it was a choice. For the Press it was in­evitable. The Press had been bleed­ing read­ers since 2005 when their circulation was 105,000 copies per week. Last year the Press cited 42,000 copies per week. The pow­ers that be at the cor­po­rate level waited too long to save the pa­per and the jobs that went with it.

The Pub­lic News is jump­ing into this vacumn pro­duced by the fold­ing of the

Hous­ton Press. The Pub­lic News is go­ing to be a print news­pa­per. Pub­lic News is also court­ing for­mer writ­ers of the Hous­ton Press. So, if you had a fa­vorite writer in the Press, look here in the near fu­ture to see if they have joined with us.

In the mean­time, I’m go­ing to be busier than ever.

Let­ters to the ed­i­tor can be emailed to us at: ed­i­tor@pub­lic­new­son­line.com or snail mailed to us at: PO Box 7491 The Wood­lands, Texas 77387

Ken Petty

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