Newspapers. What happened?
As a child, I threw a paper route in Ft. Worth. Every afternoon, I would heft a sooty canvas bag filled with the Ft.Worth Press, hop on my bicycle and hope I managed to hit the front porch. Although the Press was the second newspaper in the city, nearly everybody in the neighborhood subscribed. Life was good.
Flash forward to the present. My kids grew up in a newspaper household. They became orphans the day we bought the Westlake Picayune because their parents were working 14 hour days. Or more.
Today, not a single one of my four grown children (great oxymoron) subscribes to a newspaper. Not a one. Yet they are well informed about the nation and the world.
Like so many others, my kids prefer to get their news in a variety of ways. Internet news and cable TV primarily. Like I said, they are generally well informed about the big stuff. But they lose a lot of the little stuff, the local news that helps describe the fabric of their community. For example, they didn't know our favorite hamburger joint had been sold. And if you are serious about your burgers, that's news.
But even before the Internet, there was a seething resentment of the local newspaper. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that I really dislike the local daily editor because he is a bully and a name-dropper. But that's another story. I'll try to keep my thoughts pure as I ramble on.
Why the wide-spread discontent? Well, for years newspapers were the most powerful game in town. And in some towns, that power bred arrogance in the news room that spilled over into the newspages. Mainstream media was not always burdened with the bad connotation that MSM lugs around today.
I was proud to be a reporter. But would I tell my mother today? Public opinion polls rank reporters below trial lawyers, if you can imagine.
Will newspapers exist in the future? I certainly hope so.
Currently, newspapers are floundering in misguided attempts to corral the new media. Hobbled by old think, they are haviing difficulty with new think.
Here's a radical idea: Why not get back to basics? It's easy to identify the biggest block of current newspaper readers. It's the geezers! Yet precious few newspapers in this country have a beat reporter covering this extraordinary event called aging. The passing of the Baby Boomers is shaking up everything but newspapers barely wink at the need for coverage.
Back to basics! Start writing about the older people, sprinkle abundant photos and stories of the grandchildren and the subscribers will return. With advertising not far behind. And do it on the Net.
I have other thoughts on this subject and you'll hear more from me later, when I am ready.