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An evening conversation: the case for print

By Stephen Cameron

There are plenty of people making the case that newspapers are dying.

And in truth, it wouldn’t take you long to find a tale of some famous old big-city newspaper that just slashed its staff by a hundred.

The world belongs to the internet, you hear — over and over. It’s just so easy to check some site on your phone or computer.

Pundits are lining up to claim that the future surely will see newspapers — like rotary phones and typewriters —  consigned to the dustbin of history.

Some of us, though, beg to differ.

I’m here to shout, as far as these words can carry, that newspapers are not only in business for the present, but they’ll outlive your grandchildren.

Yes, in print form.

This issue came up last Friday, when I was a guest speaker at a Rotary Club meeting. Someone asked about the future of newspapers in general, and I was on the spot.

Large metro papers have the toughest adjustment, I conceded, and some may have to re-invent themselves to survive.

But smaller and mid-size papers will endure longer than any of us.

Cities like Manhattan have readers who need local news, and the internet is simply too big for the task.

You’re right to suggest we have to adjust to the market, to the reality of the internet, and that means making our print product more interesting, more compelling, even more attractive.

Make no mistake, though: We aren’t going away.

(There’s a reason that Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett is buying up every mid-size newspaper he can find. The numbers work, because there will always be an audience.)

A lady in the Rotary crowd, though, stood up and asked, “Why?”

Hmmm…

What follows may not be in any economics book, but it’s my honest opinion.

I believe that something in print has more authority than an image you see on a screen — which then will disappear at the click of a mouse.

Our editorial product (and our ads) can be believed.

Think about it.

Joe Blow might open a start-up Web site in his mother’s basement, and once he posts his first thought, he becomes an equal of the Wall Street Journal, CNN or anyone else you can find on the internet.

Does Joe actually know anything worth your time?

Look, ANYONE can post words online — via Twitter, a Facebook page, on web site that claims to be “informed news.”

My next conclusion sounds simplistic, but I think it’s true: Print products take a lot of work and money, and those striving to publish real news must have reporters and editors.

Then we need a small army to turn those words and photos into an actual newspaper.

Take a tour of The Mercury, and see how many people with unique skills are required to get that paper off the press and to your door.

Hint: It’s a lot.

So my answer to that lady about why I have utter faith in the future of print newspapers came down to this:

I think people know we’re not faking it.

But they’ll never, ever be sure about Joe Blow’s blog.









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