Introduction

In 1981, the Globe-Times was the dominant newspaper in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. By the end of the first quarter, it had 39,572 subscribers, about 4,000 more than its normal circulation, having scooped up all the readers it could from the recently deceased Allentown Evening Chronicle. What h did not know, however, was that the cost of maintaining a geographically diverse population was much higher than the rewards of added circulation and advertising revenue. It also had not counted on a recession, a population shirt to morning newspapers, a significant reduction in the newspaper-reading habits of most Americans, and a demographic time bomb that was about to explode when the advertising industry increased its emphasis on quality of numbers rather than mere quantity.


Then in 1982 the newspaper alienated many of its readers when it added a Sunday edition, partially to counter a circulation falloff Despite stiff competition from a half-dozen other Sunday editions, the Globe-Times raised its rates and forced its readers to accept a seven-day-a-week delivery. Subsequent questionable decisions by Globe-Times Management and good planning by the competition led the Globe-Times further into crisis. By mid-1988, the Globe-Times was in critical condition. Its circulation had plummeted to below 21,000, service to subscribers was poor, advertising was down, and the news operation--once one of the best of small-town Pennsylvania dailies had begun to slide. Morale in all departments was deteriorating quickly.


In an industry of one-newspaper towns, the Globe-Times should have had a comfortable monopoly, challenged only by weaker radio, television, or billboard advertising. The Globe-Times and the Easton Express, a 45,0()({circulation newspaper to the east had defined their own geographical areas, and neither encroached upon the other. Until the late 1970s the Globe-Times, with circulation hovering around 35,000 and city zone penetration of 67 to 70 percent dominated Bethlehem. Furthermore, readers knew that the feisty little newspaper was not afraid to make noise when it thought it to be in the public's interest.


The problem was that Bethlehem is a city of 73,000, in the nation's seventieth largest metropolitan area, which includes Easton and Allentown. The principal competition lacing the Globe-Times was not the Easton Express, eleven area radio stations, two Allentown TV stations, billboards and shoppers, but the Allentown newspapers. With the 100,000 circulation Morning Call and a 20,000circulation Evening Chronicle to hold the evening market, the Allentown newspapers were sleeping giants. In news coverage, as well as in advertising and circulation revenue, the Bethlehem newspaper had a successful bureau in Allentown; similarly, the Allentown newspapers had a successful bureau in Bethlehem.


By the mid-1980s, the Morning Call had a daily circulation of about 135,000, a Sunday circulation of about 181,000, and every intention of becoming the dominant newspaper in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. With an overall stronger news product, combined with a larger zone circulation, more upscale demographics, and better regional advertising rates, the Morning Call, after absorbing its evening paper in 1980, had successfully invaded the Globe-Times territory and had begun outselling the Globe-Times in the Bethlehem City Zone. Ironically, the Globe-Times, when it had been in control of the market a decade earlier; had had little to fear from competition.


The Globe-Times solution was to order a massive restructuring of the newspaper in 1988. The result was an increased concentration upon the presentation of image and the firings of much of its editorial staff as well as most senior managers and several other veteran employees, many of whom were in their forties and fifties and had worked for the newspaper for two or three decades.

Mass firings, restructurings, and layoffs aren't new. CBS-TV and NBC-TV, General Motors, IBM, and Sears, among hundreds of other large businesses, have all imposed massive layoffs on their staffs in recent years. In the Lehigh Valley, Mack Trucks of Allentown and Bethlehem Steel, the two largest single employers, laid off several thousand employees and threatened the economic wellbeing of the community.

But newspapers aren't industrial conglomerates that can relocate plants, retrain, or lay off workers to meet economic realities; only so many reporters can be laid off before coverage suffers. Further, knowledge of the community is as important to a journalist as technical skills, and continuity is as important to a newspaper as is the availability of newsprint. The firing of almost half its editorial staff for reasons of economics, differences in personality, and what some managers claimed to be lack of journalistic competence-a shaky claim since many of those fired were the best reporters the newspaper had ever had-caused a severe loss in continuity and left the newspaper with no product to sell The manner in which this restructuring and the dismissals of veteran employees were carried out led to a deeper crisis in the newspaper and a severe lack of confidence by the public. It would become the crucial factor in the newspaper's existence.


For more than three years after the newspaper was restructured; circulation continued to fall, the result of a weakened editorial product poor circulation service, heavy competition, the effects of the recession, and a combination of several questionable Management decisions and failure by Management to adequately implement a revitalization plan. Although Management spent considerable time planning for the future, it was the present that was overwhelming the newspaper's fight for survival Failure to take bold concepts and develop them into a viable strategy of salvation, combined with a failure to aggressively develop and market product rather than promote image, led the newspaper to die on November4, 1991.


Although it might be easy to blame the Globe-Time? Death upon the recession, changing readership patterns, and stronger competition on both sides, the Globe-Times might have survived had it better understood its audience and some basic journalistic principles and if it had carried out a few creative, possibly even radical, steps to ensure its future.


The journalists now at the Easton Express and Morning Call who had been fired from or had voluntarily left the Globe-Times may have had strong opinions about certain individuals and about how the Globe-Times operated, and some may even have been overly sensitive on sonic issues, but they did not want the Globe-Times to fold Journalism professors, advertisers, and the public did not want to lose another voice, no matter how small. They just wanted the newspaper to find its identity and improve its product so that a healthy climate of competition could continue.


Since 1980 more than seventy-five daily newspapers have died. 3ournal-ists and the public did not want the Washington Star with 340,000 circulation to fold in 1981; nor did they want the Philadelphia Bulletin with 400,000 circulation and the Cleveland Press with 316,000 to fold the following year; nor the Memphis Press-Scimitar, Columbus Citizen-Journal, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Baltimore News American, Corpus Christi Times, Miami News, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, or Scrantonian Tribune to fold during the remainder of the decade, or the Dallas Times Herald, with 225,000 circulation, to fold at the end of 1991, the Pittsburgh Press with 230,000 to fold in 1993, or the sixty-five dailies to become weekly publications. But they did. And nothing could bring them back Unfortunately, the story of the Globe-Times cannot be dismissed as unique in American journalism.


I have made no attempt to do a microscopic analysis of every problem or strength in the Globe-Times' history. Although this book includes some analysis and commentary on the Editorial, Circulation, Advertising, and Production departments, as well as overall management, it is not an in-depth critical examination of each of those departments.


There are critics who would question why so much time and effort was spent researching the last decade of a small Pennsylvania newspaper when equal energy could have been spent reviewing much larger publications. If the lessons of the Globe-Times of Bethlehem were unique, then the study would have little interest beyond Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. However; the problems and issues that the Globe-Times faced are common throughout newspaper publishing as well as throughout all mass communications and private industry. Further, more than half of all daily newspapers in the country, and almost all weekly newspapers, have circulations about or below that of the Globe-Times.


The issues arc universal in American labor especially when employees must weigh loyalty to their profession and their community against loyalty to the corporation that pays their salaries, 'mowing that they could be reprimanded, demoted, or fired at any time for any reason.


The Globe-Times, which seemed to have more problems within a short timeframe than most newspapers have in many years, is a microcosm of what is happening in American newspaper journalism. My hope is that we might learn from the Globe-Times in order to prevent other newspapers from developing the problems that could lead to diminished roles within their own communities. And, certainly, there are lessons about human relations and labor relations that might be applied to all businesses, not just newspapers.


My role was to be an observer and analyst digging out facts, verifying them, letting them speak for themselves, identifying motives, and spending inordinate amounts of time either substantiating or discarding rumors and gossip. As best as I could determine, very few of my sources willfully or maliciously lied to me. But, throughout the study, I was keenly aware that there were numerous perceptions of the same events.


A study of this size and complexity 1 involving thousands of facts and interpretations may result in some errors-or what certain persons perceive as errors. I have made every attempt to reduce the possibility of error, verifying all significant facts, opinions, and interpretations and finding whenever possible at least two independent statements regarding a single incident. If a charge was made against Management or if


Management made a statement against an employee, I sought to verify all claims

This study will probably be attacked by some of the former Globe-Times staff. This is to be expected in a society that values the free and open exchange of ideas. My goal has always been to present the facts as well as the truth surrounding those facts. By describing the history of the Globe-Times, especially its last decade of life, I hope that others, especially those working on newspapers, will better understand American media. And, most of all, I hope that this study will hold a mirror to contemporary journalism, to help both workers and their management's to improve the quality of newspaper journalism.