Thursday, November 19, 2009

Newspapers: A love story

I love newspapers. There, I said it.

Anyone who reads my column with any regularity at all will already know that. But as newspapers have struggled to go from one longstanding business model to a new one, I’ve thought long and hard about my chosen vocation.

I got my first newspaper byline in 1976 when I was 18 years old as a part-time sports writer for the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. Six years later I would start my full-time reporting career there. I’d become infatuated with newspapers long before – I worked on the newspaper staff in both junior high and high school. I’ve been living and breathing newsprint and ink for nearly 40 of my 51 years. I confess that I still love to watch a mammoth press churn out 35,000 copies an hour of a quality local newspaper.

While I believe that newspapers contribute to the strength of our republic and are vital to our communities, I don’t believe either will collapse if newspapers as we know them disappear forever. I don’t believe that newspapers are so important that the government should take steps to ensure their survival. In fact, government meddling in the future of newspapers would do far more harm than good.

No, what it required is for people like me, who are passionate about newspapers and their role in America, to leverage that passion into the effort and imagination required to ensure that newspapers like the Post Register make the transition from the simple business model of the 20th century to whatever business models will allow us to thrive in the 21st. We’re going to do that.

There’s a lot of good news about newspapers, too much of which doesn’t get reported. Total print and online readership of newspapers is at an all-time high, including here at the Post Register. The differences between newspapers that adhere to sound journalistic principles and the broadcast and Internet news sources that don’t give journalism a second thought have never been more obvious. And, here’s something – as we approach Thanksgiving, advertising for that bellwether day is up over last year.

So, while we have yet to produce the perfect edition, the people at the Post Register and many thousands of others across the country who are equally passionate about newspapers are getting a lot of things right. Most of the original reporting in our country comes from newspapers. Local newspapers like the Post Register contain more local information in a day than our competitors produce in a week or more. And, we’re getting better and better at finding better ways to put that information into the hands of as many people as possible.

Call me Pollyanna, but that’s pretty exciting and encouraging stuff.

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