As kids in the 1970s, we always knew where the entire family would be on Saturday nights. With Dad in his chair and my mother stretched out on the sofa, we'd gather on the floor in front of the TV, tuned in to CBS.
"From Television City in Hollywood," an off-camera announcer would intone. Then, Archie Bunker would begin crooning, "Boy the way Glenn Miller played ..."
The song's references were lost on us but hit their intended target: my parents. But for the life of them, they for years struggled to catch the next-to-last line of that song: "Didn't need no welfare state/Everybody pulled their weight/dah dah dah dah dah dah dah/Those were the days!"
These days, of course, there'd be no problem finding that lyric. You can't even finish typing in the name of the show before predictive searches fill your screen.
Technology takes the uncertainty out of so much now. Everything is right at your fingertips.
No one knows that better than those of us in the newspaper business. In fact, that news hit closer to home than ever with two developments last week.
The first was a letter that investor supreme Warren Buffett wrote to the editors and staff of the 63 newspapers he is buying from Media General, several of which are here in North Carolina.
In that letter, Buffett wrote several things that we at The Pilot believe at our very core and have practiced a long time:
- "I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future."
- "A newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well ... No one has ever stopped reading halfway through a story that was about them or their neighbors."
- "Technological change has caused us to lose primacy in various key areas, including national news, national sports, stock quotations and employment opportunities. So be it. Our job is to reign supreme in matters of local importance."
Indeed, many daily "local" papers have stuffed themselves with commoditized news from everywhere but their own communities at the same time that they cut resources to deliver that local news. Content failure is a problem for those papers, but it's not the only problem.
The real trouble eating away at newspapers is the loss of revenue. Papers have now spent six years in a recession that has left the industry, collectively, at its lowest revenue point since 1984.
Virtually nothing has worked to stem this loss, so the second piece of news last week came as little surprise. The company that owns The New Orleans Times-Picayune and three Alabama daily newspapers announced that it will, this fall, publish those daily papers just three days a week: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The papers will continue to publish news the other days, but only on their respective websites.
Sound familiar? The rest of the industry is moving toward a place where The Pilot exists quite nicely.
I love daily newspapers but am no sentimentalist when it comes to them. What we do for our respective communities is too important to argue about the form in which it should occur. If a local paper can be truly local and great three days a week - like what we do here - then so be it.
Frankly, there's great logic in this new direction. As a share of revenue for daily papers, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday provide the bulk.
We are in a new age - the age of immediacy. We seek information, and we want it now rather than waiting for the next morning. That's why digital news consumption is rising so dramatically, especially as smartphone and tablet computer growth soars.
What's important is that we deliver content that's valuable to consumers, both readers and advertisers. If the most sustainable way to do that is digitally for some of it, then so be it.
The purists will argue tradition, the role of a paper in our everyday lives.
They're all arguments reminiscent of what's been said about television and the dissolution of "prime time viewing." Today, virtually any show is available to you at any time online. And there are some pretty good shows out there, none of which appear between 8 and 11 p.m. on a major network.
You can even look up the shows' theme songs, just like the one that once kicked off the granddad of prime-time evenings: Saturday evening on CBS.
Somewhere a few seasons into "All In the Family," my parents finally listened close enough to hear Archie and Edith Bunker croon out that penultimate line: "Gee, our old LaSalle ran great!"
They don't make the LaSalle anymore, but most of our cars still run great.
John Nagy is editor of The Pilot. Contact John at (910) 693-2507 or email@example.com.
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