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home : columns : dave fjeld
November 20, 2019


10/9/2019 2:42:00 PM
The state of the newspaper
When someone mentioned National Newspaper Week was coming up (it's now this week), I pondered the current state of the newspaper industry.
I'm still more than a handful of years away from retiring and I can write with confidence that the local newspaper is going to be around well after I retire.
However, not all small town newspapers are in the same boat. Some are struggling to stay afloat. Some have called it quits altogether.
Fortunately, they are in the minority.
I truly believe newspapers will be around for a long time - and I'm not saying that just because it's the profession in which I work. I believe people like to have that hard copy in their hands to read each week. They like to turn the page to see what comes next. They like that story in one defined space. I also think they like to go to the mailbox to find their newspaper, or pick it up at their local convenience store, or stop at the newspaper office to pick up the latest edition - "hot off the press."
There's something traditional about that.
I'll be the first to admit that I wondered about the future of the printed page once the internet became a way of life. I wasn't concerned about my job as a writer, so much. Whether news is in print or transmitted electronically, someone still has to tell the story. That job is never going away.
The internet became a more serious threat to the printed page than any medium before it, including radio and television. But like radio and TV, the newspaper is continuing to stand the test of the digital age. People still like their newspaper.
I've said this before. When I received a tablet for Christmas one year, I was convinced that my days of purchasing hard-copy books were numbered. But after purchasing one or two e-books, I simply realized that wasn't going to be the case.
I like a book in my hand. I like to see how much of the book I've read and how much I've still got to go. I like to turn the page. I simply like the feel of a book.
I think newspaper readers are the same way.
But what about the younger generation that is doing almost all of their learning on tablets. Won't they want a digital newspaper, since that's largely the only reading material they work with these days?
My hunch is, "No."
From generation to generation, the local newspaper - and in some households, the daily newspaper - can be found somewhere in the house. When the paper comes, even kids still like to see their picture or name in the newspaper.
Last week, I stepped into Rachel Axford's fourth-grade music class, with less than five minutes remaining in class, to speak with her once the class was finished. As soon as a I stepped in, a couple of the kids piped up and said, "Hey, it's the newspaper guy."
I shudder the day that a reporter walks into an elementary classroom and the students say, "Hey, it's the internet guy."
Fortunately, today's youth still recognize the newspaper. They're growing up with it. It's in their homes, schools and libraries. And like their parents before them, when they grow to adulthood and have their own families, they will have the newspaper in their homes - and their children will see their parents reading the printed word and, of course, follow in their footsteps.
If I have a concern, when it comes to the newspaper industry, it's whether there are still news-hungry journalists out there. Oh, I know there are those who are eager to work in the metro dailies, or the suburban weeklies. But are there young journalists coming out of school today, eager to bring the news of small communities to the folks of those communities?
We all know the price of a college education these days. Does the intrigue of writing and telling other peoples' stories, or uncovering the next big scoop, outweigh the years of debt a journalist fresh out of college will have to endure to pay off loans?
It's no small secret that newspaper writers do the job because they love it and not for the pay.
I hope there are still those out there eager to pound the pavement for a story or photo, but I certainly understand if they pursue more lucrative opportunities.
My hope is that schools such as Minnesota West, Northwest Iowa Community College, or any one of a number of junior colleges develop an academic program that focuses on journalism. It would give budding journalists an opportunity to focus class time strictly on learning the newspaper profession, while perhaps working at a local community newspaper.
It would provide an education at a fraction of the cost of a four-year school, while offering more personalized hands-on training.
The state of the newspaper industry is good!







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