I’ve been waiting to be an editor since I started in the newspaper business at 16.
Actually, I’ve had ink on my hands since I was 7, when I delivered nearly papers to about two dozen homes on same street as my house in Hagerstown, Md. At 16, I went to work part-time at the local daily newspaper that I had delivered the previous nine years.
My commitment to the task at hand has rarely, if ever, been questioned. I was 14 when my mother attempted suicide. She had a newspaper route, too — more than 200 homes on her motor route that took more than two hours each morning — and the district manager was unfamiliar with her territory. As I watched paramedics load my mother into the back of an ambulance on its way to the hospital, I hopped in the passenger seat of Chris Miller’s SUV and guided him along the route as best we can. Even as a freshman in high school, I woke up before sunrise seven days a week to help my mother deliver her newspapers.
I’ve been editor/content manager at The Daily Journal for fewer than five months. In that time, I’ve been startled on more than one occasion about how much the industry has changed in the past 27 years. That feeling has been compounded by my surprise at being startled, as I have considered myself a student of the industry for the past 18 years.
Companies have worked to manage change in a variety of ways. Staff reductions have become the norm, focusing more on a digital platform that requires less costly overhead, and countless newspapers have changed from two-a-days, seven days a week to five or fewer print distribution days each week. Newspapers have moved to consolidated graphic design, printing and distribution centers.
As the cost of paper and fuel continues to rise — and as technology continues to change — the steps already taken won’t save journalism.
Many have shouted death to print journalism. It’s dead, experts say. Maybe they’re right. The idealistic, optimistic side of me believes those experts are wrong. The cynical side of me believes the best of journalism is, indeed, in the past.
What lies in store for the future of journalism? Part of me awaits with child-like hope; another part of me bemoans the apparent evolution of the craft. I offer this word of caution: Beware of advertorials.
If you haven’t seen this term before, then please, always remember that you saw it here first. An advertorial is advertisement that appears in print almost like a regular newspaper article. The piece is paid, and it usually has some solid information in it. Of course, it might be one-sided or sticking to a particular message because it is, after all, an ad.
The people working in departments inside a newspaper building each play a special role in the production of each edition of The Daily Journal and any other newspaper. Human Resources, Circulation, News, Sports and Advertising. Some might consider it a chicken vs. egg question of which came first, the news side of the newspaper or advertising. That’s history. All I can say now, looking to the future, is that advertising is a much-needed part of the pie; each day, readers and experts alike seem to give less credibility and need to those working on the news side.
Advertising revenue seems to be the what makes a newspaper be able to publish at all. I predict that newspapers will begin to hire advertising people who have the ability to put together a few paragraphs. Those people might not cover a city council meeting or a public hearing on a conditional permit but instead submit information-based reports that offer only part of the equation.
In a way, it could become much like Facebook — information will be shared, but only a portion of the story is told. Maybe one day newspapers won’t have a single reporter on staff. Imagine that.
So before the journalistic integrity declines altogether, please take a moment to appreciate what you have in your hands, or what you’re viewing on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. My level of commitment hasn’t changed over the years. While the job is a bit different than I expected, I still seek to put the best available package of local and regional stories together for your reading pleasure.
I, along with staff writers Amanda Moss and Matt Harrelson, seek to inform the reading public and alert them to the issues of the day, good or bad. We’ll keep doing that for as long as possible. Thank you for reading.