Jerry Glazer will miss the Baltimore News American, even though he does not live in Baltimore and seldom read the newspaper, which folded Tuesday after 213 years of publication.
Glazer, 29, is an aggressive, bearded salesman for a beauty supply chain, and to him the News American represented a comparatively cheap advertising medium that brought tremendous results.
"We were really sorry to hear about the closing because we're going to lose part of our market," said Glazer, who was in Baltimore on business Thursday from North Carolina.
Now, Glazer said, he does not know how much more his company will have to pay to buy similar space in the dominant Baltimore Sun or its sister operation, the Evening Sun, the family-owned newspapers that created a second furor last week when they were suddenly sold.
Advertisers, distributors, employes and readers of Baltimore's three competitive newspapers were all caught off balance last week when, within a 30-hour period, the Hearst Corp. closed its lively afternoon daily and the A.S. Abell Co. announced that it was selling its Baltimore Sun newspapers, a television station and related publications to the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Co. for $600 million.
News American employes, who had expected the closing for several months, were stunned but fatalistic when the Hearst Corp. announced between editions its decision to sell the money-losing operation.
I do think it's a loss of an institution, a voice that represented a segment of the community," said Lee Lassiter, a News American columnist who spent 21 years at the paper and was familiar with its appeal to working-class and minority audiences. "I don't think most of our readers will automatically shift allegiance."
Reporters and editors at the Sun and Evening Sun covered the News American's demise exhaustively. The next day they found themselves reporting closer to home with the announcement of the Times-Mirror purchase.
By Wednesday afternoon, when Publisher Reg Murphy and Times-Mirror representatives arrived for a formal news conference, staff members looked stunned but dry-eyed, gathering among themselves in small groups to discuss the impact of two consecutive days of news industry quakes.
The double jolt left people at all three newspapers feeling shaky, they said.
"I feel like this vague emptiness," said Wanda Dobson, a Baltimore native who worked for the News American for five years and then for the Evening Sun for 10 years. "I'd been hearing the News American was going to fold for 16 or 18 years, but I never thought it would actually happen."
Reactions elsewhere were less defined. Abe Sherman, the 88-year-old proprietor of Sherman's News Service, which has sold local and out-of-town newspapers and magazines in downtown Baltimore since 1919, said his customers had little to say about the lightning-quick changes. The only people still bemoaning the loss of the News American in his shop, he said, are "souvenir hunters" looking for the newspaper's final edition with its "So Long Baltimore" headline.
Although circulation and advertising lineage had continued to drop at the News American during the past several years, it retained a corps of loyal readers who were devoted to it.
"Everybody's folding up around here so much, I don't know who's publishing," said 78-year-old Carrie Jackson, who subscribes to the Sun but said she has read the News "just about all of my life." The News, the retired teacher said, was "a bit more homey."
Anne Emery, the executive assistant to the city school board and an inveterate newspaper reader who has lived in Baltimore since 1960, agreed. "You could depend on the News American to come up with community stories.
"We can survive with one paper," she added. "Many cities do. But it would be good to have another paper come in."
In the city's business community, newspaper watchers are playing wait-and-see. "Journalistically, I don't have any fears," said Jeffery Valentine, deputy director for the Greater Baltimore Committee, a consortium of businesses. "Business-wise, this is just one more major corporation bought out by outsiders. That is not good news."
Many were shocked at the $600 million price tag, an amount twice what the Gannett Corp. paid for the Louisville Courier Journal and Times less than two weeks ago. But Kenneth Berents, a former Evening Sun reporter who works as a media analyst for the Legg Mason Wood Walker stock brokerage firm, said that, based on other recent industry sales, A.S. Abell could have brought the price up to $800 million. "I think it was an absolute coup," he said. "It was the newspaper buy of the decade."
But the most personal -- and pained -- reactions to last week's changes came from the newspapers' readers and past and present employes.
"I never thought the Sun would not be a family-owned entity," said Dobson, who is now a public information officer for the state. "It's like seeing the corner pharmacy becoming a Rite-Aid."