When newspaper executives get together, we usually wring our hands and bemoan the changing role of print media. We have a passion for what we produce and we know there is a segment of the population that values what we produce. But, unfortunately, that segment is aging. I just lost a 101 year old subscriber and, during renewal time, I often get little notes telling me their age — 67, 76, 89 — scrawled next to the senior discount box. No one ever tells me they’re 23.
As executives we recognize modern technology. No, most of us have seen technology advance first hand at a faster pace than ever before … from manual typewriters to linotypes to electronic editing to pagination … from bulky cameras with bright flashes to development baths to digital cameras to smart phones … from lead cast to aluminum to direct to press plates. All in less than a generation.
But I think the Internet caught a lot of us off guard. And with the advent of smart phones, tablets and other technological advances, HOW and WHEN people get their news has changed, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
I think the industry will eventually figure it out, figure out how to use modern technology to its advantage. Right now a lot of us are hanging on to the “old days”, just giving up or jumping on the technological bandwagon without proper preparation. As they say, timing is everything.
Personally, I think it will be a blend of old and new technology. There is no doubt the print industry cannot compete with the immediacy of the electronic media. It physically takes time — minutes, hours — to report, write and produce. Even television needs physical time — albeit a lot less — to get on scene, figure out what is happening and start reporting. But someone with a smart phone can upload images or texts NOW, as it happens.
And that’s the difference, and quite frankly what executives in my field have to wrestle with … getting information out quickly and updating it as more facts becomes available. Newspapers like to deal with that pesky thing called facts. I’ve seen stories held because the facts didn’t quite make sense.
Right now, at least, you can’t trust the veracity of most Internet posts (I’m thinking about one of the latest State Farm commercials). There are no editors. There are no filters. And, sometimes you end up with a “French model” for a date.
I follow a lot of media websites and it drives me crazy when they tease you with a breaking event, then either post inaccurate information (without removing it) or forget about updates for hours on end. It infuriates me when scrolls on television include misspelled words or acronyms/abbreviations that just don’t make sense … endlessly. We all make mistakes (I’ve made my share) but wouldn’t you think a major television network would proof read the scroll once in awhile and actually change a misspelled word after the first or second scroll cycle?
And we won’t even talk about organizational websites with obsolete information.
But back to newspapers. There is also that tangible piece of newsprint that I don’t personally think will ever be fully replaced. While I certainly can see modern technology covering major national, regional and even local events, I don’t see it able to cover the third grade’s latest project, the latest community theater play, the accomplishments of a native son or daughter or Aunt Millie’s obituary. Those stories are cut out and placed in scrapbooks or the family Bible. And there’s something nostalgic and heart-warming when you come across a yellowed clipping years later.
I suppose that information could be printed from other electronic sources, but do we? How many pictures are stored on your computer?
I thought about all this, ironically, because of a Facebook post from my daughter showing my grandson reading a newspaper (alas, it wasn’t mine, but it was a newspaper). Her twitter caption was “This just cracks me up. He chose to read a newspaper instead of a kids book.”
Now, if we can only get his brothers, cousins, parents and his friends, their cousins and their parents to read a newspaper.
Maybe there is hope for this generation.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You have to guard your mind. Latch on to the Voice of Victory, the good and faith-filled thoughts. Switch off from the Worry Channel or Defeat Channel or Who Hurt Me Channel or I Come from the Wrong Family Channel or the Gloom and Despair Channel and let those negative thoughts bounce off you like water off a duck’s back.