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Max Jones

October 12, 2012

MAX JONES: Newspapers have story to tell about bright future

TERRE HAUTE — Rarely does a week go by when someone doesn’t call, write or stop me on the street to express how much they value their local newspaper and appreciate what it means to the community. Usually they like to tell me that it’s the print edition they find most satisfying, but many acknowledge they also use the online edition to keep an eye on things as well.

It is also becoming more frequent that I hear readers state they follow the news from the Tribune-Star on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Our sports reporters have large followings on Twitter, and fans of high school and college sports are finding it’s fun to follow their favorite teams, such as the ISU Sycamores, in real time during games. You can’t see video of the contests, but accounts of the action and color commentary by our sports reporters are far superior than anything you’d get on TV or radio, which is often not available at all.

While our print edition remains the heart and soul of the newspaper, the digital product becomes more robust and relevant by the day. That trend will continue. We’re no longer just a newspaper, we’re a news organization.

Technology, of course, changes things. Any business or institution that expects to remain a vital part of its community must change

with it.

For the newspaper industry, it has not always been an easy process. Real change is rarely easy under any circumstances.

Despite constant change in the industry and ways news is delivered to newspapers’ legions of faithful readers, many things remain the same. The past decade has posed challenges, but the future remains bright.

Caroline H. Little, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America in Arlington, Va., summed it up succinctly in a column she wrote in observance of National Newspaper Week, which has been celebrated across America this week.

“It has been painful to bring costs in line with revenue and recast the product to reflect the realities of the new media world,” Little wrote. “But one thing that has not changed is our historic mission of informing and enlightening, agitating and entertaining, protecting and defending the public’s right to know.

There is no question that newspapers have learned how to function quite well in a digital world. Our communities are better for it. There is simply no product of any kind that comes close to doing what the new newspaper does.

You may sometimes still hear “Gloomy Gus” down at the coffee shop or grocery store talking about the demise of the American newspaper. But that notion is beginning to disappear as evidence mounts that newspapers have positioned themselves for a grand resurgence.

As for the Tribune-Star, we are proud to have more than 20,000 paid subscribers who depend on us every day to tell them what they need to know about their communities. Add in the pass-along “eyes” reading print editions, and the hundreds of thousands who view items from our digital editions each month, and you begin to understand the scope of our newspaper’s ability to reach people. We’re not alone. The stats are impressive, as Little is glad to demonstrate.

“Newspapers reach more than 100 million adults — nearly 6 in 10 of the U.S. adult Internet population — during a typical month,” she writes. “Consumers age 25 and above still are the core audience for our print product, but newspapers also reach nearly 60 percent of the critical 18-to-34 demographic in print and online during an average week.”

Occasionally, having heard exaggerated reports of our industry’s challenges, readers tell us how fearful they are that someday their newspaper may no longer exist. We do our best to calm those fears and make our case as a strong, vibrant and expanding segment of the news media. We haven’t always told our story as well as we should. National Newspaper Week is a good time to begin to correct that.

Max Jones can be reached at 812-231-4336, or by e-mail at max.jones@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter, @TribStarMax.

 

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