Tag Archives: print media

Happy Trails, Part 172: The road takes another surprise turn

The reporter’s notebook you see here is meant to illustrate the surprise turn my retirement journey has taken.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time this week. I now shall explain.

We took out a subscription this past week to the Princeton Herald, a weekly newspaper that covers the community where my wife, myself and Toby the Puppy live. I asked the circulation clerk for the editor’s name. She gave it to me and transferred me to her desk; the voice mail machine picked up the call and I left a message.

I inquired as to whether the newspaper needed any freelance help from a retired journalist who has moved into this community, and made a few contacts here and there.

It turns out the Princeton Herald has such a need.

So, I am now working very part time for a newspaper … again! The editor, who runs the Herald and several other publications in this part of the Metroplex with her husband, is giving me considerable latitude. I will be able to sniff out my own stories whenever I feel like it. I might get be handed an assignment to cover a city council or another governmental entity. No sweat, right?

Of course, all of this hinges on availability, given that as retired folks, my wife and I might be unavailable, as we would be on the road to hither and yon pulling our RV across the continent.

But … that’s OK with my new boss.

Meanwhile, this retirement journey goes on. Life is so very good.

Customer service must be Priority No. 1

It’s no secret that American newspapers are in trouble. They are struggling to remain competitive in the ever-changing mass media market.

They need advertisers to spend money to keep the newspapers afloat. Ad representatives work hard — or at least they should be doing so — to keep their clients happy.

Newspapers also need subscribers to buy their publications. How do they gain subscribers to read their content and then keep them well into the future? Customer service, man. They need to put customer service at the very top of their standard operating procedure.

The Internet is inflicting serious damage on newspapers. Cable TV is now full of commentators, pundits, news anchors, “contributors” and experts on every field imaginable telling viewers about the news as well as what all those individuals believe about the news that is occurring.

Newspaper circulation is dropping. So is advertising revenue.

Thus, newspapers are in trouble.

OK, now that I’ve laid all that out, I want to share how one major American newspaper is squandering its standing in one American household . . . mine!

My wife and I recently moved from one Dallas suburb to another one — from Fairview to Princeton.

Before we made the move, we took out a subscription to the Dallas Morning News; our subscription was for the Wednesday and Sunday editions only. It arrived at our Fairview residence just fine.

Then we moved. I called the Morning News circulation line and provided a change of address. The DMN delivers to Princeton, so we didn’t figure that would be a problem.

Wrong! I guess it is a problem. We have lived in our new home for two weeks and we haven’t seen a newspaper yet. It’s not in our front porch, or on the front lawn, or the driveway or even in the street next to the curb. Nothing!

We have called every day since we missed our first DMN. Nothing has happened. I get excuses about the paper’s inability to hire competent delivery personnel as well as promises that it would come in the next day . . . or two. Again, nothing.

I offer this as an example of how one major publication is pis**** away a chance to lure and keep a subscriber. That would be me.

Hey, I am a newspaper reader of long standing. If only the newspaper I want to read could make good on its pledge to deliver it to my home.

There’s a lesson here. Newspapers are floundering. Many of them are failing. I want the Dallas Morning News to heed the warning sirens that are blaring all across the nation.

Time of My Life, Part 7: Chasing the cops

When you’re a young reporter, you occasionally find yourself responding in ways to certain circumstances that surprise you as you grow older.

One day after work in 1978, my wife and I were driving home to southeast Portland from Oregon City, Ore., where I worked as a reporter for the long-departed Enterprise-Courier. We were riding in a borrowed car, a big Ford Galaxy sedan my editor loaned to me while my car was being repaired.

We were heading north on Interstate 205 when suddenly a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department cruiser sped by with lights flashing and a siren blaring; then a second one zoomed past us; then, believe it, a third cruiser roared by with lights and siren going.

I thought, “Holy crap! Something is going on!” I floored my editor’s Galaxy. The front end of the big ol’ beast rose up and we quickly got up to a speed of about, oh, 85 mph.

My wife plunged into the back seat and began pulling out my camera, notebook and pen.

We got right behind the third sheriff’s cruiser in the line of cars responding to something; we had no clue where we were going or what we would see. As the cars roared through traffic, with us right behind them, we were able to keep pace with the officers as they raced to whatever it was to which they were responding.

We exited the freeway at Damascus, and headed down the highway eastward. Then we got to our destination.

We saw a car overturned on the highway, wheels up. Paramedics were tending to a young man who was lying on the shoulder of the road. I managed to snap several pictures of the scene, took some notes from the police, fire and medical personnel on the scene, then got the details the next morning from the sheriff’s office. The young man recovered from his injury.

I want to share this story here to remind you that young reporters occasionally do things that might appear foolish — such as chasing police cars at high speeds through traffic!

When they do, they often produce stories worth chronicling to the communities they serve.

I have to say that the chase gave my wife and me a serious rush.

A landmark about to vanish in the old hometown

This news hits me like a haymaker to the chops.

The Oregonian newspaper — once the hands-down media leader in Oregon — is shutting down its press operation.

The operation at 1320 S.W. Broadway Ave. in downtown Portland is emptying out. The paper is going to farm out its printing to another vendor. The Oregonian needs to save money, I guess to stay viable. They’ll lay off 100, maybe 200, pressroom and production employees.

Man, oh man. This news hits me hard. It ought to hit every person who grew up reading The Oregonian, wanting to be like the reporters who wrote for the paper. It ought to sicken them.

http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-33412-permalink.html

I am sick tonight. I used to work part-time in The Oregonian’s mail room, back in the early 1970s. I was newly married and attending college. I got my start there, understanding a little bit about the miracle that occurs every night when the paper goes to press, gets bundled up, put on trucks and then delivered to hundreds of thousands of homes every morning.

The Oregonian has undergone massive change already. Its circulation has plummeted. It stopped delivering the paper daily to homes throughout the metro area. It went to a tabloid format.

It’s not the same. Then again, no print medium is the same these days.

***

It’s fair to ask, then: What does the future hold for the craft that attracted so many of us back in the day? It’s cloudy, uncertain, perhaps even murky.

Look across the country and you see change is afoot everywhere.

Here in Amarillo, the Globe-News soon — I reckon — will be printed in Lubbock, 120 miles south on Interstate 27. They presses in Amarillo will be shut down, taken apart and sold. Maybe even scrapped. What happens, then, to the office buildings that occupy a city block?

What does it mean for the news being reported by the paper? Well, despite what the newspaper publisher, Lester Simpson, said in announcing the pending shutdown of the Amarillo presses, it’s going to diminish the paper’s relevance as it regards late-breaking local news.

Simpson said the company remains committed to the printed newspaper. But when you’re having to push deadlines back two hours to accommodate the travel time it takes to get the papers loaded onto trucks and brought back to Amarillo for distribution, there won’t be late-breaking local news.

But the Globe-News execs promise to deliver the paper every morning by 6.

Suppose a fire breaks out in a major structure at, say, 11 p.m. Will it be in the paper? Nope. The newsroom staff — or what’s left of it — will put it online and tell readers of the paper to get the news at the paper’s website.

There’s your commitment to the printed newspaper.

It’s happening all across the country. The media landscape is rumbling under our feet.

The Internet has changed everything.

For the better? Well, that story has yet to be played out.