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Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

IMG_3535The copy editors would disappear for a few minutes, perhaps to get a cup of coffee – though the rumor was they were having sex in some back room – before returning to their desks. Sometimes one of them would remember to bring their prop, a mug full of java, though it mattered little to me, so I can’t confirm that detail.

I couldn’t care less that they had significant others. My only concern? That they would finish whatever they were doing in time to edit my copy, because they were easier to work with than some of the other copy jockeys. They usually did.

Random stories make life interesting and I try to hold on to them for moments like this weekend, when I drove by the Register building for the first time in at least a year, on my way to a family get-together in Essex. The building itself looks no different than it did a lifetime ago.

I spent the better part of two years at the New Haven Register, writing whatever the editors needed. If no one was available to cover that Lyman Hall girl’s basketball game, I’d be ready and willing. If the Hartford Whalers beat reporter needed someone to carry the Tandy computer, I’d be at the Civic Center, watching the Whalers play in front of their standard audience, a half-empty arena. Long Islanders, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The truth is even as a sophomore in college, I was being told by professors and “experts” that making a living in media was impossible. At a Society of Professional Journalists convention in Tennessee, a columnist from the Miami Herald told the students in the audience “do something else if you want to be successful.” My quiet response? “Fuck you, don’t tell me what to do. I’ll do just fine.”

But to do “just fine,” I’d had to deliver whatever the Register editors wanted. That included more high school sporting events than I’d care to remember. It also meant going to work the night I graduated college. All hands were on deck that month, as both the Rangers and Knicks were making championship runs. The Rangers would later deliver for their faithful.

The Register is still there, though, like most newspapers, the staff isn’t what it used to be. The good news? If two copy editors have time to kill, hey, there’s plenty of unused space to share a quiet cup of coffee.

 

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chalkboard-and-newspaperI’m a few hours away from climbing on a Southwest flight to Arizona, where editors and publishers will meet to discuss the future of the newspaper industry. It’s a sobering thought, really, because each day a newspaper somewhere lets go of writers or, in the case of a few daily papers, shuts down entirely.

The Boston Globe fired about 60 editorial employees earlier this week. We all know about the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News. Plenty of journalists are scared to death that the business they know and love is going to fade away, and I’ve talked to quite a few reporters and editors who argue local media is dying because Americans are  completely at ease getting their news from the likes of Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann.

But I don’t see any of it.

Negativity and sarcasm runs deeply through a journalist’s veins. Even in my personal life I keep a few close friends nearby and everyone else is kept at a distance. But when it comes to the newspapers, I chuckle, because the financial collapse of the industry has little to do with people being less interested in news. In fact, it’s the opposite. The failure of papers also has nothing to do with the right-wing argument that most publications have a liberal bias and that’s why they’re failing. How stupid and self serving of anyone to make that case.

Here’s what really happened: The newspaper industry was caught off guard. Too many papers, for too long, treated the Web like a secondary part of the business model and now that readers have skewed heavily online, we’re all desperately trying to play catch up. Most journalists get it, they’ve seen this coming, as have other newspaper employees. But advertisers –  many are graybeards –  have yet to catch on.

Most papers also decided to give their content away for free. Was that a mistake? Well, it’s arguable, but current ad revenue is not supporting the open-access model. It’s also created an atmosphere where most readers demand their news for free. So if we’re going to charge, there better be “must-have information” behind that curtain.

In time, newspapers, as in old-time print editions may also vanish. I’m betting on that.

But companies that figure out a way to monetize the Web will succeed, even without a print edition. I don’t have all the answers, though I have plenty of ideas because I can’t afford not to. The newspaper industry I joined in 1993 at the Connecticut Post is dead and gone. It will never return. But the media industry is going nowhere. This week in Arizona there will be a whole lot of smart people in one hotel. Seems like a pretty good time to crack the code.

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