The more I lament the changes occurring in the world of media and in the delivery of news and commentary, the more I realize that I likely am seeking to do the impossible.
That would be to stop the inexorable, inevitable change that is occurring right in front of us in real time.
Now that I have recognized the obvious, I ought to declare my belief that there always will be a need for people who do what I did with great joy — and modest success — for nearly 37 years.
There just will be fewer of them and they will deliver the information — and, yes, the commentary — in different forms.
I have lamented the shocking (in my view) decline in newspapers’ standing in people’s lives and in the communities where they live. Two Texas newspapers where I worked — the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise — both have gone through grievous slashings of staff and resources in this changing media climate. The absence of reporters blanketing the communities served by these newspapers has taken some adjustment for many of us.
Then I have to remind myself that someone, somewhere, in some capacity is writing text that tells communities about what is happening there. They’re delivering that news via those “digital platforms,” which newspapers still are struggling to understand sufficiently to make enough money to keep going.
That brings me to one more point: There was a time as recently as the early 1990s when newspapers were highly profitable for their owners while at the same carrying huge payroll expenses. I heard of mid-sized daily newspapers operating at a 40% profit margin. I can tell you that there are more than a few Fortune 500 company executives who would kill for that kind of bottom line. It well might be that newspapers got lazy and didn’t think enough “outside the proverbial box” to prepare for the change that arrived suddenly in the early 2000s.
As sad as I get at times at the demise of the industry where I worked for so long and which gave me so much joy, my sadness is offset by the realization that I no longer must live in the middle of that turmoil every working day of my life.
I’ll leave that to the up-and-comers who are joining the fight.