Adapting to change in a gigabyte world|Futrell family legacy to be honored

Published 11:52 pm Saturday, June 19, 2010

By By Ray McKeithan
Associate Publisher

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Futrell family has an agreement in principle to sell the Daily News. How you learned this news provides a case study of the new media environment in which we live; and how we, as a news organization, are trying to keep pace.
Soon after owner and publisher Brownie Futrell informed the staff on Wednesday afternoon of the pending sale, I began receiving cell phone calls, e-mails and text messages from friends all asking, “What’s the deal?”
I deflected this question with one of my own, “How did you find out so quickly?”
Then I realized that they, too, had access to cell phones, texts and e-mails. None of them were hearing the information firsthand. They each had their own, incorrect, version of events transpiring here at the WDN. Some were so off base they were comical.
It seems the electronic rumor mill was grinding the grains of truth at the speed of a gigabyte (whatever that is). Such is the nature of news in the digital age; where truth and accuracy take a back seat to immediacy.
The word was out in the community through a network of friends talking with other friends, casual acquaintances and anyone who happened to be on their e-mail distribution lists. “Hey!” I wanted to shout, “That’s OUR job!”
We were being scooped on our own story!
To counter the spread of misinformation, we posted the story on our Web site. We had an obligation to get an accurate story out immediately, even if it meant the front-page article in Thursday’s Daily News was old news to some. We certainly didn’t want other local media outlets to break the news before we had done so officially.
Newspapers are the oldest-of-the-old traditional media dinosaurs. We existed long before radio or TV and long before the birth of “social media.” We’re aging, but not extinct. We’re evolving, but not abandoning our past.
Thankfully, our soon-to-be new owners see value in responsible journalism and smart business practices. They understand that the stakeholders of the company include the owners, as well as the readers, advertisers and employees of the Washington Daily News. They intend to honor the Futrell family’s legacy of journalistic excellence and devoted service to the Pamlico region.
We’ll remain committed to the printed product, as long as you want to read it and businesses are willing to advertise in it. Our goal is to remain the most trusted, immediate source of information about the community, whatever form that takes.
You may even see us on Facebook and Twitter.
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher and general manager of the Washington Daily News, his e-mail address: Boone Newspapers of Tuscaloosa Alabama will have controlling interest in Washington Newsmedia, LLC after closing, anticipated for July 31. McKeithan will be president of the newly formed company and publisher of The Daily News, The Scuppernong Reminder and affiliated publications. Ashley B. “Brownie” Futrell, Jr. and McKeithan will hold minority stakes in the company. To learn more about Boone Newspapers, visit their Web site: