I am a dinosaur. I believe in what we know to be “traditional journalism.”
It includes newspapers — although not exclusively, to be sure — with pages that contain straight news; some pages contain entertainment; they all have advertising, which businesses purchase and which gives newspapers their profitability.
They also include pages of opinion. They are editorial pages and related pages with other commentary submitted by, oh, syndicated columnists and local contributors; these pages also include letters from readers who want to express themselves on the issues of the day.
Well, it now appears that traditional newspapers are receding into our memory.
The Poynter Institute is telling us that newspapers — a little at a time — are ceasing to publish daily opinion pages. They are reverting to a “digital first” model. They need to save money, given that advertisers aren’t spending as much money on print publications these days. Newspapers need to keep pace with the change in the industry, so they’re going to this digital model.
It saddens this dinosaur.
I became a reporter in the mid-1970s aiming to chronicle events in my community and report them to people who had an interest in being informed.
My career gravitated over time to the opinion pages.
I would assume the role of editor of a small suburban daily in Oregon City, Ore. Then I would move to Beaumont, Texas, to write editorials for a larger newspaper; I eventually became editor of that page. After a period of time, I would move to Amarillo to become editor of two papers’ editorial pages.
I saw my role in opinion journalism as a complement to what those publications did on their news pages. It was to provide perspective, context and, yes, opinion about the issues on which the papers were reporting.
It was a valuable task. I was proud of my craft.
So, it saddens me terribly to read about newspapers forgoing daily print opinion pages in favor of this digital “product.”
The Poynter article discusses big changes underway at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which has scrapped a daily print opinion page in favor of a digital presentation, “We have decided that our highest engagement comes from enterprising, in-depth, explanatory reporting,” editor George Stanley said in a phone interview. “So we are keeping that intact.”
The editor of the paper makes no apologies for it. Nor should he, I guess, given that he still works for an employer who made this decision.
I came of age in journalism during its heyday. A couple of young reporters for the Washington Post were digging for information about what a president of the United States was doing to subvert — allegedly — the U.S. Constitution. I wanted to take part in that craft, even if I couldn’t do it at Ground Zero of what was an exciting time to practice it.
I have never lost my love of that work and what it represents. However, I sure understand that it is a new day in journalism, the craft I practiced for nearly 37 years.
Perhaps it’s time to admit that I am glad to be gone from it and that it’s a better fit for youngsters.