20 years of publishing: The past, the present, the future
Question: Can you name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment?
* * *
The mangled mass of metal from the World Trade Center was a poignant reminder of the violence that occurred in New York City on a sunny Tuesday 13 years previously. But it was the floor-to-ceiling newspaper front pages from around the U.S. and the world that caught my attention — condensing this horrific event into a headline, in as little as a word. This exhibit answered a question I have been wondering for several years: Are newspapers still relevant?
Last October, John and I visited the 9/11 display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. What was meant to be a morning of exploring a few exhibits became a two-day odyssey. I couldn’t make myself leave until I had toured the 15 theaters and 15 galleries on six levels along Pennsylvania Avenue, “America’s Main Street,” in order to absorb about five centuries of news and newsmaking.
My conclusion after seeing the millennia of news stories and news conveyance is if there is no news, there is no history. If there is no history, there is no us. Every one of our lives is in those exhibits. Gathering news is about telling the story of us, our life and times.
One foot out the door
I believe I put it in writing somewhere around our 15th anniversary that I didn’t want to still be doing this when 20 years rolled around. Well, watch what you put in writing. A quarter century is now looming.
I have started a book about this newspaper experience. And I really don’t need another major project. Demand for my time is exceeding my capacity. And this sucks the creativity right out of me. The book opens with the first threat I received as owner of this newspaper.
I used to think The Kaweah Commonwealth’s main competition might be from another newspaper putting out its shingle in this one-newspaper town. But from left field came the Internet with Craigslist and its free classified ads and Facebook, which offers a lawless, ethics-free, no-cost land of venting and selling and announcing. Even the most ardent supporters of “shopping local” have failed to notice the effects of these online postings on the community newspaper.
The rise of digital technology has exposed me to an unprecedented flood of information and requests that, if I don’t create boundaries for myself, I would feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours of the day and night.
Technology: Love it, hate it
Deep into this digital age, I am watching the obliteration of cultures. While there is much good about this period in time, it is not necessarily a good thing that is happening. Struggling to survive are books and bookstores; handwriting and handwritten letters. And newspapers.
Most reading this column would not complain that there is a lack of news because anyone with access to the Internet has thousands of free news sources available with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. What I would counter with is how the readership has changed. The attention span has shortened, and the focus is on entertainment rather than substance. Those in search of news may also be limiting themselves by only consuming information from sources that they fundamentally agree with.
Democracy under siege
Too many Americans are not speaking to each other about the issues of the day and are not even open to debate. This is bad for democracy because thoughts and ideas are being censored.
A forum for all
During the last two decades of hands-on, small-town publishing, I have learned enough to earn a college degree, maybe more than one. I revel in publishing the opinions of others who don’t think like me. And I will even devote ink to causes I don’t agree with and people who I don’t like very much. It’s actually not as painful as one would think. And this, to me, is the essence of journalism. To do it right requires an open mind.
Errors, omissions, blunders
I’m not saying we always did it right. We have a boatload of mistakes, all permanently etched onto paper for posterity, oh joy. But mistakes, if handled properly, translate to growth, and it’s all part of the journey, whether in life or career.
Let it be said, in 2015, I believe there is an enduring value in a community newspaper. Adaptation and strategic changes are necessary and ongoing, but the content remains relevant. These challenges translate to unique opportunities in both the print and digital worlds.
However you want your community newspaper is how we’ll serve it up to you. Like the feel of newsprint? Read the print edition. Want this tactile version conveniently in your mailbox like clockwork? Subscribe.
Want it online, anytime and everywhere? Subscribe to the electronic version. The e-Edition is affordable, convenient, and it’s exactly the same newspaper, but it’s “news” without “paper.” Please check it out.
By the way, we are extremely proud of our new website — it’s actually Three Rivers’s website — and the accompanying e-Edition. If you haven’t visited yet, please do.
Answer: Speech, Press, Religion, Petition, Assembly.