Newspaper’s print edition still special in many ways

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

By Staff
Terry Connor
The images will live forever:
The heartbreaking moment caught in time when firefighter Chris Fields carried the body of baby Baylee Almon from the rubble of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995;
The fiery Twin Towers just seconds after two airplanes crashed into them and minutes before the buildings collapsed into an enormous cloud of dust on Sept. 11, 2001;
The smiling face of then-president-elect Barack Obama holding hands with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha as thousands cheered on election night 2008.
Quite simply: Three historic photographs displayed on front pages everywhere exemplify the staying power of newspapers.
There are few, if any, of you reading these words who cannot recall those photographs or other front-page images that made an impression yesterday or yesteryear.
There is something special about a newspaper’s front page that pundits who want to say goodbye to this enduring industry just don’t understand. As is often said, “They just don’t get it.”
For many of us who entered this industry because we really do live the cliché that “ink is in our blood,” it’s too early to type “30” at the end of the Fourth Estate’s story. There are still a lot of presses that have not yet been shuttered.
In today’s constantly changing newspaper industry, it’s community newspapers — both print and online — from San Marcos, Texas, to Albemarle, to Gloucester, Mass., to Ottumwa, Iowa, and towns from coast-to-coast that continue to capture events and deliver information better than any other medium. It’s these same community newspapers that serve as a mirror of where we live.
Overall, the newspaper industry that was one dimensional for years is now a multimedia platform with a larger audience than ever before. And in the communities they serve, there is likely no stronger brand than the local newspaper.
Additionally, what other medium continues to deliver information without an agenda? With the exception of newspaper journalists, who are consistently asking the real questions and not those with a predetermined answer? Not television. Not radio. Not blogs.
In most communities, it’s those other media outlets that typically play catch-up to local newspapers when it comes to delivering news, including the watchdog-type journalism that our founding fathers considered when drafting the First Amendment.
Research shows that millions of newspaper readers are not ready for a world that consists of mostly videos, sound bites and blogs with little substance. Here are a few facts: Almost 50 percent of all adults read a newspaper on an average weekday; more than 50 percent of adults read a newspaper on an average Sunday; just more than 65 percent of adults read a daily newspaper in the past five days; and almost 70 percent of adults read a Sunday newspaper in the past month — all pretty significant statistics.
Walk into any coffee shop and see if anything goes better with a good cup of java than today’s newspaper.
Stroll through an airport and count the hundreds of people entrenched in today’s headlines while they await their flight.
Sure, the newspaper industry continues to change, but what business doesn’t?
Despite the constant demise being spewed by naysayers, especially those recently-ordained experts who have little knowledge of the business, newspapers are no different than any other industry working through a difficult economic period.
There’s no doubt that tomorrow’s newspaper will be different from today’s, including content, format and delivery options, but change is good and will only make the industry better.
However, there will always be something special about holding a print edition in your hands.
And it doesn’t matter if that print edition displays a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo or a local photo that will be clipped and displayed on a proud parent’s refrigerator.
Terry Connor, a former editor and publisher, is now a vice president and division manager for the Gulf Coast Division of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.