An Era Ends: The Print Version of the Houston Press Is Dead

This year, I swear to God. Some days it feels like everything in the whole freaking world has been upended, from the insanity in the White House to every remaining musical icon dying (rest in peace, Fats Domino) to the Houston Astros winning the World Series (which, yes, is a welcome piece of good news, but still a pretty massive upheaval) to our friends & neighbors down the street having their homes destroyed.

And now, as of this afternoon, the venerable Houston Press has printed its last-ever actual print edition. Per Editor-in-Chief Margaret Downing, the paper will still exist and will still post stories & whatnot, but strictly in online form.

You can read the full details and reasons why over here — and yes, you really, really should — but the TL:DR version is that the Press finally fell victim to the industry-wide decline in advertising for print publications, kicked over the edge by the devastation that asshole Harvey wrought on Houston’s arts scene.

So Voice Media, the company that owns the Press, decided enough was enough and pulled the plug, at least on the print version. The publishers were able to save the publication’s online arm, which is great, but the downside is that a whole lot of people who worked for the HP, some who’ve worked there for years and years and some of whom have won honest-to-God journalism awards for their work, are out of a job as of today.

Word is that the entire editorial staff has been let go, and I’ve confirmed with now-former Music Editor Chris Gray that he’s one of the casualties, sadly. In fact, from Downing’s article, nearly all of the staff have been let go. The new model going forward will see Downing herself overseeing freelance writers as-needed to produce the Press, as opposed to having a full-time staff.

I’m sure some people will snicker about the loss — and if you’re one of them, go fuck yourself right off a bridge — but for me, this feels like a punch to the gut, and I’m not even one of the people directly affected. Not only do some of my friends now have to scramble to find new employment, but a local Houston institution is never, ever going to be the same.

Don’t get me wrong: I dearly, truly hope that this new, sleek, Web-only version of the Houston Press succeeds. I honestly do; I’d hate to see it die off completely. I’ve witnessed a couple of shifts like this in the past, though, and it doesn’t always work. And once you’re just a Website with some freelance writers attached anyway, well, the people upstairs aren’t going to lose a whole of sleep if/when they decide to shut things down for good.

Beyond that, this kills me because the Houston Press has always been here, the whole time I’ve lived in this city. I used to route my way home on delivery days specifically so I could pick up the latest issue, because that was the only way I could find out who was playing, see what shows I’d missed, or read interviews with musicians I liked.

The Press got a lot of flak over the years for its coverage of local music, to be sure, but I’ve always felt that criticism was pretty goddamn stupid. At least the Press did cover local music, unlike the Houston Chronicle for most of my early years in this city; back then the Chron writers wouldn’t piss on local musicians if they were on fire. The people at the Press, on the other hand, they were allies; they were friends, even.

I know the world has changed. When the above was the case, the Internet was still essentially in its infancy, smartphones and tablets didn’t exist, and print really was still the way you got your information. I know everybody gets their news online now — hell, I get most of mine on my goddamn phone, for crying out loud. So maybe this move was inevitable, and we’ve all just been hoping against hope that we’d have a few more years; I don’t know.

What I do know is that it hurts, and there’s going to be a big damn hole in Houston’s music and arts scene, in particular, where the HP used to be. To all the Press writers and editors and other newly-employed staff out there: we love y’all, and we appreciate everything you’ve done over the years. Things just won’t be the same. And if you need anything, any help at all, drop us a line.

Post by . This entry was posted on Friday, November 3rd, 2017. Filed under Posts.

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