Once upon a time, when Delaware residents wanted news that was really close to home, what was going on in their own neighborhoods, they knew that once a week they could turn to the Crossroads section in The News Journal.
Crossroads dead-ended a week ago, the announcement made through a headline on its cover — “This is our last issue. Details on Page 3.” The details hardly constituted a fitting obituary. It was more a description of how what little remained of the once strong courier of community news would be transplanted into other sections of the daily paper.
But the truth is that Crossroads had been on life support for probably a decade.
In its heyday, back in the early 1990s, there were six separate Crossroads editions, five for different areas of New Castle County and the sixth for Kent and Sussex counties, each with individualized content targeted for the areas it served. It was the place to go for news about your town council, your school board, your civic association, your senior center, the rezoning for the little shopping center proposed for that big vacant lot down the street — the stuff you cared about in your everyday life that might not have fit in the local section of the daily paper.
The sections were popular with advertisers too. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, sometimes they grew to as many as 40 pages. When the editors realized what a success the weekly sections had become, they added a Crossroads page in the daily paper. Another success.
I had the good fortune to have edited those Crossroads sections for about 10 years, and I left The News Journal as Crossroads’ decline began. (No cause and effect here; that’s just the way it happened.)
Editors lost their belief in zoning. They thought it would be more efficient to keep the zoned labels but run the same news in all the sections. They didn’t fool the readers or, more importantly, the advertisers.
By the time it died, Crossroads had but one zone — the News Journal’s entire circulation area — and its final edition was a mere 12 tabloid pages, with only one feature story inside. Fittingly, it was written by my dear friend Nancy E. Lynch, a Crossroads contributor since the sections’ birth in the early 197os.
Readers might not miss the Crossroads that died on February 11, but they (and some writers and editors too) no doubt have some fond memories of how that section once satisfied their need for hyperlocal news.
Perhaps a new generation of editors and publishers will recognize that there’s more to gain by giving readers more local news unique to their areas than by homogenizing their content under some national logo.
I hope so.