By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
It is one of Will Rogers’ most memorable quotes:
“All I know is what I read in the papers.”
Sadly, for many people that’s no longer the case.
The newspaper, once the prime source of news for most people, has been supplanted by television, radio and the Internet.
Newspapers are struggling, and some say the death knell of the printed newspaper has already begun to sound.
In the past six years, several major newspapers have died, including the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Tucson Citizen, the Cincinnati Post and the Albuquerque Tribune.
Others, such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Portland Oregonian and the Detroit News, no longer publish their print product daily.
Many young people don’t read newspapers today. Instead, they get their news with the tap of a finger on the screen of their smartphones.
When the Internet came along, newspaper executives didn’t quite know how to react. Some tried to ignore it, others jumped into it with both feet.
But the biggest mistake newspapers made in regards to the Internet was putting their products online for free. It didn’t take computer-savvy readers long to figure out they didn’t need to subscribe to the print product if they could get all their news for free on the Internet.
Slowly, newspapers began to adapt to the new media landscape, but by that time the genie was out of the bottle.
Now many newspapers charge for Internet access to their product, something the News & Eagle has recently begun, or are posting only limited content on the Web.
Meanwhile, despite everything, the print product survives, an ink-stained link to the long, storied history of the newspaper business.
This newspaper’s history began 120 years ago Saturday. The Enid Eagle began life Sept. 22, 1893, as a weekly newspaper, born just days after the great cavalry charge that settled the Cherokee Strip.
There has been a newspaper published in Enid ever since. Enid’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Wave, was first published Dec. 11, 1893.
At one time there were as many as 28 newspapers in Enid. By 1923, there were just two — the Enid Morning News and Enid Daily Eagle. Both survived until 1989, when the two papers were combined into the News & Eagle.
Since 1893, this newspaper has chronicled the history of Enid and northwest Oklahoma, one edition at a time.
This newspaper has reported on the ravages of the Great Depression, two world wars, the painful saga of the Vietnam conflict, the deaths of presidents and the abdication of kings.
It has carried news of scandal, of murders and kidnappings, of new businesses opening and going under, of elections, of bumper crops and lean years, of disasters natural and man-made.
But even more than news on a national or global scale, this newspaper has published the small, intimate stories that are important to the people of this area — the weddings, engagements, salad suppers, dances, graduations and honors. And we have carried the final tribute to tens of thousands of area residents on our obituary pages.
Our sports pages have recorded thousands of runs, baskets, touchdowns, pins, punts and pull hooks.
The newspaper’s photographers have captured moments in time, slices of life ranging from the tragic to the triumphant. There’s no telling how many area residents have gotten a little thrill out of hearing the phrase, “I saw your picture in the paper.”
Over the decades, thousands of people have been employed by this newspaper. Those of us who hold positions at this publication today are standing on their shoulders, are continuing their legacy.
For the past 37 years, I have been privileged to play at least a small part in this newspaper’s long history.
The report of the demise of newspapers may have been somewhat premature. Warren Buffett, one of the most astute financial minds in the nation, has been on a newspaper buying binge of late. The Oracle of Omaha now owns 28 newspapers at the cost of $344 million. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently paid $250 million for the Washington Post, while hedge fund investor and Boston Red Sox part owner John Henry paid $70 million for the Boston Globe.
Printed newspapers may someday go the way of the Model T, but the drive to report the news — first and factual — will continue, no matter the future medium of choice. And I would wager smaller newspapers, like ours, will continue landing in readers’ driveways for some time to come.
Here’s to this august publication’s next 120 years.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.