This has been an interesting week in Key West. To explain it, I need to divert from writing fiction to journalism. The daily Key West Citizen also publishes, or did up until last Sunday, Solares Hill, a tabloid paper that has a long history in Key West. For long before I arrived, Solares Hill wrote about taboo subjects and also covered the arts community.
The paper went out of business soon after I arrived and the Key West Citizen bought it. I worked at the Citizen at the time and editor Bernard Hunt convinced publisher Bill Barry that if the paper didn’t buy Solares Hill someone would.
Solares Hill editor, David Ethridge, and writer, Mark Howell, came with the paper. Ethridge retired and now it was editor Mark Howell and assistant editor Nadja Hansen.
Mid-week last week, both employees were called in and told that Solares Hill was no more and its last edition would be Sunday, Sept. 8. Both their jobs were gone. Both employees are two of the most talented and knowledgeable employees at the paper, but that didn’t matter.
I am not surprised that Solares Hill had its plug pulled. It’s the way of journalism. It doesn’t matter about content, only advertising. The Citizen lost a big printing contract from the Upper Keys and needed to cut costs. I’m sure the publisher, a bean counter, found a way to make the two salaries turn the paper’s red ink into black.
Problem is, the daily paper makes little revenue with its four pages, eight pages when folded together. What is missing from the eight pages is advertising. Instead of looking at the real problem, lack of advertisers, the management decided to close Solares Hill and layoff its two employees.
I should mention here, Nadja was also the longstanding editor of Paradise, a week entertainment supplement to the Citizen. As an editor, the often error filled Citizen could have found a better use for her. The joke around town is that if you apply to the Citizen and pass the spelling test they won’t hire you.
Oh yeah, you won’t believe this, but the editor of the paper retired and the publisher didn’t see a need to replace him. So, let’s see, that’s three people in editorial that are gone, but nothing seems to have been done in advertising or to come to reality about the costs the paper charges for ads.
No, get rid of employees that are competent. Readers bring advertisers, but the publisher thinks ads bring readers. The popularity of the paper has fallen since Cooke Communications bought it. It has stopped being a local paper and tries to sell copies in the Upper Keys, cover Keys events, but someone forgot that most days activities to cover (other than small city government) are in Key West.
When asked why there isn’t an advertisement from businesses as close as Big Pine (about 30 miles away) there is only quiet. Bean counters, when confronted with loss, look at cutting costs as the answer instead of making a better product.
The demise of Solares Hill was handled poorly and the dismissal of its two employees should be a criminal offense. Of course, it isn’t in this ‘for profit’ world. This thinking is why our products are made in China today instead of America. It helps the bottom line. Where we once were a country that made and consumed American made products, the bean counters knew it could be done cheaper in China, Korea, Mexico, etc., so the bottom line improved for the business, but Americans were out of work. Is that they American way today? It’s worked out good for China, they own this country, just about, and without firing a shot or dropping a bomb.
Last Friday, the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon’s North of Havana Cigar Social Club (a founding member writing this) burned a hat with the Key West Citizen logo. Kind of a Viking funeral, not for the paper, but for the talented people swept away like dandruff on a Chinese businessman’s suit.Share on Facebook