Rick Bragg got his start at The Anniston Star. That’s where he first began telling his distinctively southern tales that eventually led him to The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize. So it’s not surprising that Bragg reacted with wistful sadness when he learned that the Star will stop printing every day sometime this fall.
“I fully understand the economics behind it,” he said in a phone interview from the University of Alabama, where he’s a professor. “I fully understand the technological and sociological reasons behind it. I understand all that. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean I have to like seeing a print paper fade.”
He added, however, that “if this is a strengthening of the paper as a whole … then I’m for it. But you hate to see any change in things that have been part of your life forever.”
The newspaper announced this week that, starting around October, it will stop printing on Mondays, among other changes. Circulation is lowest on Monday.
The announcement makes the Star the fourth Alabama paper (and the first one not owned by Advance Publications) to recently announce plans to cut back on print. Bragg also worked at The Birmingham News, a much larger paper that is pursuing a more aggressive Web-first path.
Bragg, who grew up near Anniston, came to the Star when he was 20, after dropping out of college and doing a short stint at The Daily Home in Talladega, Ala. He covered sports.
“Any writing life I have, I owe in some way to The Anniston Star. It’s where I learned my craft,” he said. “It’s where, on a few hundred Friday nights, I wrote a deadline story about high school football. I learned how to write in a hurry.”
He still reads the paper when he visits his mom outside Jacksonville, Ala., like last weekend. “Part of my ritual is to get an Anniston Star and sit at a meat-and-three, usually the Village Inn or a little Chinese restaurant in town called the Golden Dragon.”
He described his routine: sports section first, then to page 1, always heavy on local news, around to the features and ending with the comics. “It’s a small daily, but it’s a good one, and I have always found it to have the things in it that I needed to know.”
“I’ve never had a day on this planet that didn’t have something to do with The Anniston Star,” he said, including, he figures, his birth announcement. “I’m pretty sure my obituary’s gonna be in it.”