By JOHN KANELIS / email@example.com
As I communicate occasionally with former colleagues of mine around the country I am left with a stunning realization.
It is that the communities where I worked for 37 years in daily journalism are not alone as the newspapers that once served them with pride — and occasionally with tenacity — are dying before the communities’ eyes.
There was a time when I was feeling a bit of a complex about the communities where I worked. I started my career in Oregon City, Ore.; the newspaper that served that town is now gone, closed up, the building wiped off the slab on which it sat. I gravitated to Beaumont, Texas, where I worked for nearly 11 years; the company that owns that paper is now trying to sell the building and the news staff has been reduced to virtually zero. Then I moved to Amarillo and worked there for nearly 18 years; same song, different verse than what is playing out in Beaumont, except that Amarillo’s newspaper staff has vacated the building and is now housed in a downtown bank tower suite of offices.
Did I contribute to their death or terminal illness?
Then comes the other question: How will our descendants remember us?
I have a granddaughter who’s almost 8 years old. I actually wonder what she will say if someone were to ask her, “What did your grandpa do for a living?” Could she answer the question in a way that makes sense to her and to the person who asks it? I hope her mommy and daddy will help explain it to her. I will do my best to put it in perspective when the moment presents itself.
I am proud of the career I pursued. I did enjoy some modest success over the decades. My peers honored my work on occasion with awards. It’s not about that, of course. We did our jobs with a commitment to tell the truth and, in my case as an opinion writer and editor, to offer our perspectives fairly and honestly.
This transition is playing out everywhere in the land.
I spoke this week with a friend in Roanoke, Va., a fellow opinion journalist, who told me that paper also has suffered grievously in this new age of social media, live-streaming and cable TV news/commentary. I hear the same from others in the upper Midwest. I see circulation figures from major newspapers and cringe at the calamitous decline in paid readership.
For example, my hometown newspaper, the (Portland) Oregonian, once circulated more than 400,000 copies daily; the World Almanac and Book of Facts says the paper now sells 143,000 newspapers each day.
I feel like a dinosaur … and I take small comfort in knowing that there are many of us out there who lament the pending demise of a proud craft. I hope for all it’s worth that whatever emerges to take our place will continue to tell the truth and do so with fairness.