Those who cared have been whispering the news at ballgames and lunches. Bob Gernert published the rumor. We were all just waiting for the shoe to drop. It has. The Ledger, formerly of Lakeland, recently of Polk County East & West, has purchased the News-Chief of Winter Haven.
The Ledger article gives a few details. One change I find great news:
In coming months, The Ledger plans to discontinue its East Polk Ledger section, with The Ledger local section incorporating news relevant to all of Polk County and The News Chief focusing on news of East Polk.
It was just a few weeks ago that the Ledger’s Managing Editor/Digital, Barry Friedman, asked readers what changes they’d like to see in news coverage. It was a question near to my heart:
Here’s where I think the Ledger can shine. Separate the sections into East Polk, West Polk, State, Sports, Human Interest, and Classifieds. Give us all the same edition of the newspaper. Don’t fall into the middle of the East vs. West Polk news coverage debate. Maybe we’d learn why we have differences instead of blindly complaining about “the other side.” — A Perspective That Matters
I really think all of Polk County will benefit by getting the same paper. The Ledger has been the de-facto paper of Polk County for a long time. The News-Chief was often no where to be seen. Not to discount Billy’s hard work for the Trib, or the occasional Sentinel foray into the county, but the Ledger has the staff and resources to cover an area this large.
With Ledger covering the whole county and the News Chief just a sub-set of the populace what will happen to the papers? Of course, only the Ledger publisher knows for sure, but as I said, we’re now free to speculate.
Josh sees the possibility of an afternoon paper. I’d love that, but I don’t see it as a possibility in today’s advertising market. Competing papers owned by the same company offer too much of an opportunity for cutbacks. I saw it in Louisville when the Binghams owned the morning Courier-Journal and the evening Times. The news staff even worked on the same floor. Internal competition was fierce, and both papers were better for it. In the end, the afternoon paper just couldn’t compete with the evening TV coverage. With the Internet there is even a slimmer section of the populace willing to buy an evening paper.
I also don’t believe the Ledger wants to grow another brand. Since the 70s they’ve pushed they weren’t a Lakeland paper. Other than a few jibes from some nut sitting in his living room there hasn’t been an outcry to rename the paper the Lakeland Ledger. Why undo those years of branding? I believe this move was to eliminate competition for advertising dollars. The Ledger saw a company willing to sell and jumped at the chance.
I’ll go out on a short, sturdy limb and say the News-Chief will gradually disappear. The Ledger will eventually turn the News-Chief into a weekly, then close that and add a line on the Ledger’s banner “incorporating the News-Chief” and on down the line we’ll only see it mentioned in the Sunday paper editorial page.
I’m more excited by what the Ledger can now do online with polkonline.com in cooperation with polkvoice.com. Thoughts on that, polkmoms.com, and that news I promised this weekend….later tonight.