This is the Flyer's 1,500th issue, which means that we're almost 29 years old, if you do the math. My, how time flies when you're having fun! And we are still having fun, that I can tell you, my friends.
There have been a lot of changes since February 1989, and a lot of talented people have walked the funky halls and worked in the humble cubicles of our old warehouse office in downtown Memphis. And a lot of talented people are still working here, of course — cranking out stories for print and online, designing pages, and selling local businesses on the effectiveness of our circulation.
By almost any measure, the Flyer has become a Memphis institution, with a long-established circulation of 44,000 and steady pickup rate of around 94 percent each week, rain or shine, year after year.
So, why is that? Why is it that our humble weekly can survive when so many papers around the country are shrinking, downsizing, and failing?
It's not a secret, really. It's the fact that we are local. Our employees are local, and our ownership is local, not a corporate behemoth demanding ever-increasing profit margins to keep Wall Street happy. We just have to stay in the black and keep our readers happy. Or irritated. Or whatever reaction we can get from you, as long as you care enough to read us.
The media landscape in this country has been transformed over the past 15 years or so, with local media ownership becoming less and less common, as national corporations buy up locally owned properties and go for "economies of scale."
For example, Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia, is the largest operator of radio stations in the U.S., with more than 850 stations (!) under its control. It's much the same in the television industry. You may have read recently that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns more stations than any company in the U.S., is poised to acquire many more, as President Trump's newly appointed FCC chairman loosens regulations — including rules that prohibit corporations from owning more than one station in a market and require local news stations to maintain an office in the community they serve.
Sinclair is a right-wing corporation that turns its local outlets into mini-versions of Fox News, including requiring its stations to run conservative political commentary. They will soon own WREG, it appears. Yay.
And let's not forget the Gannett Company, which owns The Commercial Appeal and dozens of other papers around the country. The company has eliminated the CA's local production and copy-editing operations and laid off many of the paper's best-known writers and reporters. To further cut costs, Gannett prints most of its Tennessee papers in one plant in Jackson, Tennessee. Due to a company-imposed early print deadline, the CA is now unable to publish about anything that happens after 5 o'clock in the following day's paper, in the process, making the print sports section essentially worthless.
There is no way a local ownership, one that was in tune with — or cared about — its community, would put out a product like that. Gannett, Sinclair, Clear Channel, and other media mega-corporations see the bottom line and little else. Which is another reason why we do this annual issue that promotes local holiday shopping. These merchants are us. They aren't big box stores. They aren't working for stockholders. They're working to make a living — creating and selling products they believe in. Sure, Amazon makes it easy to shop from your couch, but Amazon doesn't give a darn about Memphis. So, let's all keep that in mind this year and spread some cash into our locally owned businesses. Shop local. Eat local. Drink local. Be local.
And, yes, read local.