December 13, 2002
We really are a one-paper town

The Houston Chronicle bought out the Houston Post in 1995 in order to acquire its better printing facilities. The Post was shut down, with barely a chance to say goodbye, and Houston has been a one-daily town ever since. The last vestiges of the Post for most people was via the Chron's archives, which included stories from its former rival going back to 1985.

Alas, not any more. Thanks to the SCOTUS decision in New York Times v. Tasini, the Post archives are permanently offline. The case was one in which freelance writers who sold articles via contract sued because publishers were making those articles available in archives such as LEXIS/NEXIS. The contracts had expired, so the writers alleged that this was an unauthorized republication of their work. The Supremes agreed, so bye-bye archives, including the Post's since no one at the Chron knows which stories would be affected.

I really have mixed feelings about this. I sympathize with the writers, since their writing is their livelihood and they deserve to get paid for it or to agree to waive that pay. But it really sucks that the practical upshoot is that an entire class of information gets lost because there's no way for the Chron to tell what's covered by this decision and what isn't. The Chron's own archives are free to subscribers (I believe they're also free to non-subscribers if you register, but I don't recall offhand), as was the case before this happened. They're surely not a cash cow for them, so where's the harm? It seems like it's analogous to things like Napster - what may be lost to illegal downloads may well be offset by the increased exposure to a wider audience.

My annoyance is slightly out of proportion here because there's a particular Post story from circa 1989 that I've been wanting to find. It'd take me hours to slog through microfilm, since I don't know the exact date of publication, just a rough estimate. So much for that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2002 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

That's why they took the Post archives offline? Thanks for the heads up - I had no idea it was a legal question. I agree with your analysis, essentially. I used to use the Post archives for a number of things, and was upset when they were removed, but on the other hand I do believe in intellectual property. It's just a shame 10 years of articles are just sitting in a database now.

I'm also upset because my family subscribed to the Post until 1995 when it shut down, and I hate the Chronicle. We certainly need another paper in Houston.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on December 13, 2002 1:58 PM

I was a Post subscriber continuously from 1988 when I arrived until it was shut down in 1995. I miss it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2002 2:36 PM

Re finding that article you're looking for: there may be an index to the Post. Ask at your local library. If not, the Chronicle may have kept the Post's in-house clippings index.

Posted by: Simon on December 13, 2002 5:20 PM


My father was a Houston Post subscriber for most of his life, and he saved a bunch of clipplings. I have copies of Post front pages from the Kennedy assassination, Nixon's resignation, and the challenger disaster hanging up at my apartment. I also have a copy of the completely nondescript last edition of the Post.

(Sigh) The memories... As I said before, we need a new paper.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on December 13, 2002 7:43 PM

If I may be really nitpicky, this gives the impression that the Chron bought out the Post, then shut it down. The Post announced it was shutting down and then the Chronicle came in to buy its assets.

Posted by: Greg Hlatky on December 13, 2002 8:45 PM

Looks like you're right, Greg. I went and checked the Chron archives. This is from a Q&A for Post subscribers:

Q. Why did The Post shut down?

A. According to Dean Singleton, president of Consolidated Newspapers, the recent unprecedented rise in the cost of newsprint made it impossible for the city's second newspaper to survive.

Q. Did the Chronicle buy the Post?

A. The Hearst Corp., which owns the Houston Chronicle, purchased the Post's building, presses and certain other assets after the Post's owner, Consolidated Newspapers, closed the newspaper.

Q. Why didn't someone buy the Post and continue to operate it?

A. Consolidated Newspapers hired a broker last fall to seek a buyer for the Post. After a lengthy and exhaustive search, it was determined that there were no buyers for the newspaper.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2002 10:02 PM