Newspapers must have courage to change with the times
Jan 26, 2013 (Opelika-Auburn News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
I still believe in newspapers.
The industry is dying, I hear. Newspapers across the country, even a few of the large ones in Alabama, have either closed shop, or mostly gone the way of the Web.
Let's face it, the economy stinks. Advertisers aren't spending money like they used to. Subscribers are resorting to alternate means to get the news and revenue simply isn't what it used to be. That's the nature of the beast.
Important words to corporate newspaper investors are profit margin, stock value, and "How can we become more profitable " This is a business, not a charity.
In the wake of this difficult economic era and industry change, the business has left a load of great people behind in recent years. Layoffs. Furloughs. Hiring freezes. You get the picture. There are many talented reporters looking for work, so those who hold employment had better bust their tail , be thankful they receive a paycheck every other week and pray to God profit margins are high enough for the execs in fancy suits every business quarter.
Newspapers can either wilt and die, or change with the times. Since the dawn of time, the communications industry has changed with the technology available, whether it was words chiseled into stone tablets, words scribbled onto ancient scrolls, and later that wonderful machine we now call a press. There are few sounds sweeter to this ear than the hum of a press rolling at full song, accompanied by the intoxicating smell of ink mixed with newsprint.
It's the scent of news.
The way of the press is slowly going away. That's why it's important -- no, brutally necessary -- that the newspaper business change with the demands of the readers. Slowly, we have done that, via electronic means, though I'm not sure how to do crossword puzzles on a phone.
It's exciting to read the news from your iPhone or Droid, isn't it
Newspaper revenue from electronic means may not match revenue from the old printed version -- but it's catching up.
One day, many newspapers will rely solely on electronic means to deliver the news. For some in Alabama, the future is now. You can call some organizations media groups, dot coms, or whatever, but to me -- they will always be newspapers.
I still believe in newspapers.
I believe in newspapers that inform the public, expose wrongdoing, tell the heart-wrenching stories of life and death, celebrate heroes, and answer the basic questions for readers: What does this matter to me Why should I care And very importantly, but often overlooked -- How
I believe in the hard-working reporter who obtains police reports in the morning, covers the auto accident in the afternoon, then city council at night. He isn't paid enough. He isn't appreciated enough. He wants to give his readers the insight on political activity, details of a murder story (because you know you'll read it) and write those occasional feel-good stories we all need from time to time.
I believe in community journalism. The more local reporters a newspaper has, the more local stories a newspaper should publish.
I believe in the hard-working photographer whose pictures capture the events and lives of readers. Great photographs tell a story and this newspaper has been blessed with that over the years.
I believe in the diligent copy-editor and page designer whose work at night often goes without love. It's hard to make everything perfect and I challenge anyone to take on this role for more than a week. Try it and you'll find a new appreciation for this job and be glad you do something else.
I believe in printing the truth, not propaganda designed to paint an illusion of a perfect society. It's a newspaper's job to expose problems. This is a public service, though some folks choose to turn their backs to perceived negative news.
I believe in printing facts. Not rumors. Not unnamed sources. All letters to the editor must be followed with names and their claims must have attribution. Credibility is a must.
I believe in the underpaid, overworked journalist who must have dinner in the front seat of his car, types his fingers to the bone, brings readers into his stories, has two hours to write three stories, and can't seem to do enough to please everybody.
I believe in inspiring columns, thought-provoking editorials and sports stories that go beyond the box score.
I still believe in newspapers. I believe in printed editions scattered across fast-food restaurant tables after breakfast in the morning, single-copy racks scattered across town, and newspaper carriers scattered across the county, dodging deer and fighting sleep in the middle of the night.
I still believe in newspapers. What else would you wrap your fish in
I still believe in newspapers. But to prosper, each newspaper must believe in itself and have the courage to change.
Joe McAdory is the former editorial page editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be followed on Twitter @JoeMcAdory.
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News (Opelika, Ala.) at www.oanow.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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