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An Open Letter to Bulletin Publisher Gordon Black 

A letter to The Bulletin's publisher on the occasion of the paper's bankruptcy announcement.

Dear Gordon,

I was disappointed I had to hear the financial news about your Chapter 11 filing from your newspaper. You don't call anymore. I know I haven't been any better about reaching out, but I can't believe we have grown so distant that it has come to this.

To be honest, it wasn't the most delicate way to approach the subject with readers. What were you thinking, giving Costa a front-page column to drone on about your predicament . . . right next to your news piece about the very same thing? I told you before, you gotta rein that guy in. BofA was a "trusted partner?" Who is Costa kidding? He's not doing himself any favors when he spends one week telling everyone they need to be more accountable in his column, then in a moment of crisis starts conjuring up creditor boogeymen, and strange bank accounting to blame for your financial woes. If you have to do it again, Gordon, trust your readers and let your news article stand on its own.

I hope you know, nobody is rooting for you more than I am. We print guys have to stick together. It seems like every time somebody starts a website, one of the FaceTwit nation wants to say it is the death of print. When an online resource starts selling discount legal services, we don't hear about the end of lawyers and yet your predicament is bringing these folks out of the woodwork. QR codes, social media and blogs have all contributed to create a richer print and community interchange. A website is ubiquitous with our brands... (although I'm not sure what gives with your pay wall. Might be time to take that down, eh?). You gotta reach out and create a conversation with the community, Gordon. I know change is hard, but now is not the time for "a cautious but effective approach to the vagary-ridden world of Web-based journalism," as Costa assured. Be bold.

I need you. As much as I like to poke fun at your old ways and your ridiculous political endorsements, you're still the big dog. You're supposed to convince people that print is an effective ad medium. But more importantly, you have an army of writers who can still do good work and you have readers who still believe in freedom of speech and want to see differing opinions - and they want them to come from someone local. I know you can't say what everyone's thinking. But if you don't pull it together, some dark-suited Gannet bastard is going to show up and this community is going to watch its hard-earned subscription and advertising coin go whisking out of this community to some McNewspaper chain.

It doesn't have to be this way, Gordon. Look, our business is up this year. I like the prospects for journalism. I've gotten downright giddy at the opportunities that are opening up for educated news gatherers. But you're going to have to change.

I think you know what I'm talking about. It's going to take more than trimming an inch off your newspaper. You need to shake it up, something like the good ol' days when Costa rode into town and systematically hunted down and fired almost every one of your award-winning staff. You need to do something big.

Mistakes were made, 18 million of them, but it's not too late to right the ship. C'mon, Gordon, we're counting on you.


Aaron Switzer, Publisher

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