Cook has taken a job in the Huntsville branch of Alabama Media Group, the company that’s being formed by al.com, the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Register.
Cook, a native of Munford, will lead a team of journalists at the company’s Huntsville office covering local and statewide issues.
Citing declining advertising revenue and circulation numbers, in May, Advance Publications, which operates newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, announced it would begin publishing print editions three days a week. The Alabama papers are affiliated with the website al.com.
Last month, Advance Publications announced plans to lay off about 400 of its employees in Alabama, shifting focus away from print newspapers toward digital content.
“I think journalism takes the lead,” Cook said Tuesday. “There has to be content on Twitter and Facebook and all those things. You have to have content, and that content comes from journalism. Going out and asking tough questions, covering ball games. Covering city councils. Holding government accountable.”
The Huntsville Times has long been known for its quality journalism and solid design, Cook said, and he is excited about what lies ahead for him.
“It’s an incredible opportunity, to be in the lead position over a paper of that quality. But also, I see that they’re moving in a direction, they have sort of jumped in where the rest of us are easing, and I don’t think that anybody has the answer,” Cook said. “… I think we’re all kind of feeling our way around and are trying to figure out the right way to do it.”
The publishers of The Anniston Star on Monday announced plans to discontinue the Monday printed edition of The Star and the Friday Escapes section. The move, they said, will reduce expenses and refocus resources toward the company’s growing digital presence.
In his letter of resignation, Cook wrote that his departure has nothing to do with the recent changes at The Star.
“The timing should in no way be confused with the announcement about publication changes for The Anniston Star. The changes here are well-thought-out, and I believe the board has put this company in position for positive growth for years to come,” Cook wrote.
Ultimately, it is up to each company to figure out how to stay profitable, Cook said, and there is no one easy answer.
At the root of it all, regardless of how people get their news, journalism is a worthwhile profession, and one that has given him so much, Cook said.
“We lose sense of it sometimes, being in the daily grind, but this is a very noble profession. The idea of getting information to people who would otherwise be uninformed, and empowering them to make wise decisions. That’s noble,” Cook said.
An internship at the Star in 1993 led to a career of covering Anniston’s struggles with everything from PCBs to drugs to politics, but looking back, Cook said he doesn’t see those things as bad. He was simply covering a community working to improve itself.
“I’ve seen it all, and I’ve reported on it all, but in perspective now, you look back and say, those are just things we’ve had to work through, and we’re still working through,” Cook said.
Bob Davis, editor of The Anniston Star, said that Cook is more than a colleague, and it will be practically impossible to replace him.
“…because he is such a fine journalist and a fine friend,” Davis said. “Anthony is more than just a colleague. He is a good friend and a very, very wise person that I’ve relied on during the time that I’ve known him.”
Cook said he owes a great deal to the people he has worked with and for at The Star, and said he leaves knowing his time with the paper made him the journalist he is today.
“It’s a grand opportunity, and I don’t know that it comes around again for me. So you take advantage of it, but also, this business, the business of journalism, has been really good to me,” Cook said. “Incredibly good to me. I’d like to be a part, if at all possible, of saving it. A part of forging this way forward for the industry.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.