A.H. Belo Shutters Quick

The Quick website is still up but presumably not for much longer. Word comes that the weekly publication has been shuttered. Condolences to those who lost their gigs today. More details as they become available.

Update (2:43 p.m.): Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News, says today was a tough day. “It’s always more fun to start something than it is to shut it down,” he says. “I regretted it. I took a lot of pride in Quick when we launched in 2003 and went head to head with a competitor [A.M. Journal Express] and, I think, did a better job of serving the market.” He went on to praise the Quick staff for their creativity and the editorial voice that they developed.

Moroney says the decision was made to shutter Quick because they couldn’t figure out how to get the publication to do better than break even. So what’s wrong with breaking even? Opportunity cost. Moroney says that as the News adapts to the marketplace and looks for a profitable business model, spending time and effort on a property like Quick that can’t consistently turn a profit doesn’t make sense.

Seven full-time employees and two part-time employees were let go. They have all been invited to apply for open positions at the News, but none was automatically offered a new job with the company.

Update (3:04 p.m.): In 2003, I wrote a story for D Magazine about the launch of Quick and its competitor at the time, A.M. Journal Express. I’ve included that story after the jump.

Newspaper War!
A former News exec launches a new daily — and the News fires back.
By Tim Rogers

To truly appreciate the A.M. Journal Express, the free 140,000-circulation daily paper that Jeremy Halbreich launched in Dallas November 12, you have to track down a copy of the Harvard Crimson from about, oh, 1973. There in the staff box you will find Halbreich’s name alongside that of Robert Decherd, whose great-grandfather was George Dealey, the founding publisher of the Dallas Morning News. The two men worked at the college paper together for three years. When Decherd graduated, he went to work for the family business; Halbreich followed his buddy to the News.

Flash forward to 1998. Halbreich had risen to president of the News, and Decherd had become chairman, president, and CEO of A.H. Belo, the paper’s parent company — which was having its worst year since going public in 1981. In the shake-up that followed, Halbreich stepped down. After 24 years with the paper, he sounded sanguine, saying, “This was my first job out of college. It’s time for a change.” But everyone knew that if Halbreich had jumped ship, he’d done it with a hand planted squarely in his back.

Halbreich says none of this history is relevant to the launch of the Express. Now CEO of his own newspaper company, American Consolidated Media, he says his new venture is strictly business. Nothing personal. He saw other companies starting free dailies in Chicago, Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia, and he spotted an opportunity. Strictly that. In fact, Halbreich says he’s not even competing with the News.

He says the Express — with its mix of national and local stories, each brief enough to be read at a stoplight — will reach those who don’t currently read a daily newspaper and “expand the universe of people reading print products.” He says, “All of our research shows that we won’t take readership or advertising.”

His former co-workers disagree. While the News actually had begun research on its own free daily about a year ago, when executives there learned of Halbreich’s plans, they sprang into action.

It started on Tuesday, October 28, the day Halbreich sent out his press release announcing the new paper. At 8 a.m. he placed a courtesy call to Belo to inform them that in about two weeks he’d be launching Express. Belo executives were just as stunned as outside media observers. Halbreich and his staff had kept their secret exceptionally well. One veteran publisher, when told the news, said simply, “That’s impossible.”

The News’ publisher, James Moroney III, was out of town when Halbreich made the courtesy call. Two days later, Moroney had a previously scheduled meeting with the publishers of the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Based on very good information from other markets where these products compete, there is some sharing of advertisers and readers,” Moroney says. “Yes, it’s competition.”

On Monday, November 10, three days before the Express hit streets, the News launched Quick, a free daily with a circulation of 150,000. In a story that ran in his paper, Decherd sounded almost nonchalant, saying that because Belo is “able to leverage the infrastructure and content of the Dallas Morning News, the incremental investment to produce and distribute Quick is not material.”

The investment may not be material, but the impact on readers and on the News’ once-solid monopoly may be. Dallas is once again a two — and now three — newspaper town. Dallas hasn’t had so many daily newspapers since the 1920s.

Media observers are licking their chops at the prospect of a return to Front Page days when competing journalists knew how to get down and dirty. For example, in 1907, after Denver Rocky Mountain News owner Thomas Patterson called Denver Post owner Frederick Bonfils a blackmailer in a cartoon, Bonfils attacked and beat Patterson as the 67-year-old was taking a stroll.

The first victim of the Dallas war will be the News’ monopoly advertising rates. If that doesn’t cause a street brawl, the competition for readers will.

Comments

  • B. L. Powell

    RIP.

  • Jay Sunmeier

    If they are smart, they will put Hunter Hauk on the music beat at the DMN.

  • OH no! Now what’s going to fill the space formerly occupied by that weekly publication that i never read, that is right next to that other weekly publication that i never read?

  • who cares

    Quick was always the douchier free weekly in town. good riddance.

  • @Jay Sunmeier: Yes, then DMN can toss that Mario Tarradell hack!

  • J-No

    save hunter

  • J-no, agreed.

  • Jerome Weeks

    I’d also like to put in a vote for Keith Gordon — even though, obviously, Quick wasn’t his real meal ticket. But he wasn’t just the columnist-as-drunken-lowbrow-sideshow for the clubgoers and sports fans. Sometimes, on an issue, he was smarter than the DMN’s metro or op-ed columnists.

  • JD

    Now will they stop throwing it in my driveway?

  • Billy

    Tim, saying Belo is doing this is not exactly accurate. To be accurate it should be A.H. Belo Corporation is doing this. Belo is a different, separate, has nothing to do with A. H. Belo company and owns WFAA.

    Belo separated the papers out in 08 and formed a new public company with the original name A. H. Belo. It is confusing but Belo is TV only and not connected.

  • RIP

    To those who say good riddance…it’s nice to know you dont have any kind of heart for the people that actually worked on the product, were passionate about it, and LOST their jobs. Hope you’re rolling in $100’s.

  • @Billy: You’re right, of course. I changed the headline.

  • CSJ

    this makes me want to throw up. seriously – save hunter.

  • thank you RIP. whether it was your favorite free weekly or not, some folks (myself included) lost a job today. i don’t read the thrifty nickel but i wouldn’t dance a jig if the writers and editors there all lost their jobs. you know, because they’re humans and stuff.

  • Billy

    Thanks for the change and update!

  • Jerome Weeks

    Oops. Gordon Keith. Keith Gordon is someone else entirely.

  • rcher

    GTFO! gordon keith!

    only 9 people ran that thing!?? wow
    what will the bums use for insulation in the winter!??
    @amanda you should take a big dump on the desk

  • heelsoftar

    good riddance. Don’t throw anything into our yards if we didn’t subscribe. Instead of RIP, may Quick RIH.

  • mediawonk

    Heels, I think you’re getting Quick confused with Briefing.

  • heelsoftar

    either way, kill em both

  • Daniel

    Keith Gordon actually was a columnist-as-drunken-lowbrow-sideshow-for-clubgoers. He was a carnival freak and a convicted felon.

    Gordon Keith is a different guy altogether, a kind of Bennett-Cerf-cum-Bertrand-Russell character, a rascally cad and gentleman mathematician with the soul of a poet and surpassingly adequate table manners.

    And yeah, Hunter Hauk is good. The local music scene needs a an ink-stained wretch of his knowledge and perspicacity. I always enjoyed your bon mots, too, Amanda Cobra. I was not the demographic for this publication as I am one hundred and three, but the more print media the merrier has always been my motto. RIP

  • Paul

    Very sad for those that lost their jobs today. I remember the same fate while working for A.M. Journal Express. In the end, it was (and is) the lack of a circulation model that killed both of these free publications. Dallas simply does not have the scale of subway/rail commuters to support this type of publication as the similar free weeklies in the Northeast. Stay hard Quick!

  • Eric Celeste

    “Licking their chops” — solid.

  • j.d.w…

    @amandacobra & Hunter H. – I will miss your writing and Quick as the avenue for reading your words. That Quick wasn’t able to turn a profit says more to me about A.H. Belo Corporation’s management and it’s inability to find business model (other than “slash and burn”) that works for any of it’s holdings.

  • Boo

    Does that mean we’re not going to see Kyle Kearbey’s pretty face/get her nightlife lowdown anymore? Bummer.

  • @Eric Celeste: First, I wrote that story in 2003. I didn’t go into CWA (Cliche Writers Anonymous) until 2004. I just got my seven-year pin last week. Second, I am right now tasking an intern with digging up the last thing you wrote for D Mag, before I edited it. Tomorrow I will put up a series of posts on FrontBurner detailing your shortcomings as a writer. (The other shortcomings I’ll save for our discussion at Wild Salsa, in about 40 minutes.)

  • Mark

    @Eric:

    Yes, he was.

  • @ Tim Rogers

    I’m writing my final column now and trying to jam in all known writer’s cliches. If you could forward me that list ASAP, I would be much obliged.

  • jobu

    Alternate headline: The Quick Is The Dead

  • Duane

    I’ve been disappointed with the nightlife column after the departures Lesley Tellez and Farah Fleurima. Loved that they would not only cover the trendy, but also make forays into places that were packed with Dallasites but maybe not the latetst and greatest. Hell, they went in to the VCC 20 years after Cubes was in there…

  • Duane

    My spelling and word-leaving-outness suck.

    latetst = latest
    “of” prior to Lesley

  • C

    @Boo…Kyle Kearbey will be somewhere, soon, showing us her gorgeous mug and telling us all where to dine/party/be seen in Dallas….just you wait. The people that worked at Quick were super nice and a tight knit family. I hope they bounce back soon!!

  • @Amandacobra: clear as a bell, at the end of the day, to avoid something like the plague, to eat one’s earlobes with chopsticks, back of the belly button, drunk as a day-shift dancer at Spearmint Rhino, titmouse, all hat no pants, to hit something like a ton of fish entrails that have marinated in a big drum with head cheese so that it can be used as stinkbait —

    God, don’t make me do this! I’m about to fall off the wagon!

  • Sean

    Loved the nightlife writeup on the Goat a while back….and Adair’s and the Dallasite. All awesome, old Dallas hangouts. Were these some of the “latest and greatest” places you were talking about, @Duane?

    @amandacobra: thanks for introducing me to pickle backs. You’ve changed my life for the better.

  • Way to think outside of the box Tim.

  • HandshakeDrugs

    If D had any smarts about them they would bring back Kyle and use her for bigger and better things… now’s your chance!

  • @Duane — thanks for the love, man! I still have a presence online, so check me out some time!

  • needless to say…despite all the odds stacked against you…you’ve still go it…hot as a Euless parking lot in August…and that’s what really counts.

  • Oh yeah and…(insert lazy reference to either Dorian Gray or Dante’s Inferno)!

  • Ryan Jones’ Moustache

    “Seven full-time employees and two part-time employees were let go. They have all been invited to apply for open positions at the News, but none was automatically offered a new job with the company.”

    Knowing that many of those staffers have devoted goodly chunks of their careers to Quick — and some to the DMN before Quick’s inception — makes this even more disgusting. Way to reward fidelity, Moroney.

  • Kevin D

    I only read Gordo’s column anyway. I’m gonna miss the free paper at UNT, though.

  • Another dark day in the life of publishing in the Metroplex. Sad to see Quick joining the dead and gone 🙁