Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watching the slow death of an old friend

At one point or another, we've all been there. If we haven't yet, we will be someday. It's inevitable.

One day, we will have to sit idly by and watch the slow demise of an old friend.

It's never fun and it's very heart wrenching. You want to help, but there's nothing you can really do.

Now, fortunately, the friend I'm speaking of is not a person but rather an industry. Yet, this industry is a long-time friend, and it's slow progression into the nether world affects and has affected a lot of people including several good friends and acquaintances of mine.

The industry I am speaking of is the newspaper.

The newspaper holds a very near and dear place in my heart. It's where I cut my teeth in the business. I was fortunate enough work as a freelance sports reporter for a newspaper in east Tennessee during college and landed my first "real" job as a sports writer at the local daily paper near where I grew up.

I spent five years in the newspaper business before making the jump into the sports information world. By and large, there are a lot of things I don't miss about working at a newspaper, but I would not trade my time there for anything. I learned a lot during my time in the newspaper business, and much of it has helped me during my time as a sports information director. (The contacts I had collected during my time as a sports reporter/editor proved invaluable when I became a SID.)

Yet, over the past decade or so, the newspaper industry has been slowly dying. And it's no surprise what the biggest culprit is: the Internet.

I am a big fan of reading an actual newspaper. I really enjoy sipping a cup of coffee (well, I'll drink coffee anywhere, anytime) and read a newspaper. But let's face it, we live in a breaking news kind of world now. By the time you get the newspaper, everything in it is old and dated. Who cares it's only been a couple hours, lots has happened since then.

Most people now get their news from either television or the Internet. Myself, I get the bulk of my news from Twitter. I get updated headlines all the time there, and if there's something that intrigues, I click the link.

Consequently, newspapers are dying. Large market newspapers are making cuts and laying off employees left and right. Here in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader has made numerous cuts and layoffs. The Herald-Leader has laid off over 100 people in the last year or so with 12 layoffs just made last week.

Recently, it has been mentioned that U.S. Government might step in and "bail out" the newspaper industry. And as much as the business holds a special place in my heart, I echo the sentiments of Daniel Lyons at Newsweek and ask, "WHY?!?!?!" (Read Lyons' piece here.)

Other than the fact that people are losing jobs, I see no reason as to why to save the newspaper industry. It will be throwing money into the wind. It's a money pit.

I can understand the government bailouts of the banks and the auto industries. We need our financial institutions to be stable, and we need cars.

But do we really need newspapers?

I know that sounds harsh - and this is coming from a person who came from newspapers and relies on them to an extent for his current job, but with the Internet, newspapers are beginning to go the way of the dinosaur. (For what it's worth, I do not foresee the small-town newspapers dying out. I see them always being around. However, it is the large market daily newspapers that I see phasing out and experience major downsizing and restructuring.)

In order to survive, one must learn how to adapt and move on. Newspapers - and other news organizations for that matter, have yet to figure out how to make money by delivering news via the Internet.

Like I said, I love the newspaper. I cherish the written word. But I believe it's about time to let our old friend the newspaper to die. In the past three years, I have allowed subscriptions to three magazines to end. There are two reasons why I did this - 1. I never had the time to sit down and read them, and 2. the majority of what was in the magazines I had already read about on the Internet.

And the death of the newspaper does not mean the death of the press, the Fourth Estate. The media always be alive and kicking, but news will be delivered faster via television or the Internet.

So here's to you, my old friend the newspaper. I hate to see you go, but technology has passed you by.

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