If you are reading this piece from an honest-to-goodness sheet of newsprint, thereby risking the curse of inky fingers, you are a special person indeed.
Newspapers — actual printed, retrieve it out of your driveway every morning, black and white and read all over newspapers — are rapidly going the way of the horse and buggy.
This past week was National Newspaper Week, a “Recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.”
This was the 81st annual National Newspaper Week. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be one of the last.
According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper circulation declined 6% in 2020. Between 2018 and 2020, 300 newspapers failed, bringing the total to 2,100, or a quarter of the 9,000 newspapers that were being published in 2005.
Enid, of course, is fortunate to still have its own local newspaper. That is certainly not the case in every municipality. The number of cities or towns that had their own newspapers in 2004 and now have no original reporting, either in print or digital form, grew from 1,300 to 1,800 by 2020.
The reasons for the decline in newspapers are many — the internet and social media being chief among them. The internet led to losses in advertising dollars for print newspapers, and when the money dries up, so does the ink.
I spent 41 years working full-time in the newspaper business and have continued writing this column part-time since 2017, so I have a soft spot for newspapers.
Newspapers are staffed by trained journalists, who have been schooled in the techniques of news gathering and dissemination, as well as the ethics involved in reporting. Get it fast, get it first, reporters are told, but above all, get it right. Such is not always the case with the internet and social media.
Newspaper reporters are careful to double-check their facts, to make sure they have more than one source for a story, to triple-check names as well as the core information in every news article — who, what, when, where, why and how.
Not included in that list is what the reporter thinks about a particular topic. It doesn’t matter, unless the piece in question is clearly labeled “opinion,” as is the case with my weekly tome.
Too much of the 24-hour TV news cycle is filled with so-called “reporters” spouting their opinions, whether from the right or the left. That serves no one’s interests, save for the well-paid pundits filling the many hours of the never-ending news cycle.
Mind you, newspapers don’t always get it right. Sometimes we make mistakes in spectacular fashion, whether because of carelessness or simple human error. But when we do screw up, we will normally try to fix the problem.
If this august publication suddenly went away, you wouldn’t be able to read about the latest school board meeting, or the most recent city commission study session. You wouldn’t see your son’s picture when he scored a touchdown in last week’s game. You wouldn’t know where this weekend’s garage sales will be.
All news, it has been said, is local, and nothing is more local than a community newspaper.
Former President Trump likes to talk about “fake news,” and there is certainly a goodly amount of it around these days. But most, if not all, of it is coming from social media, which is kind of the Wild West when it comes to any kind of reporting standards.
But social media is a growing force in the news business. A recent survey found that 71% of adults use Facebook, while 52% of those get all their news from the social media giant.
These days anybody with a cellphone can consider themselves a reporter, and plenty of people have captured some earth-shattering videos on their phones — the death of George Floyd being a prime example.
But professional journalists, at least the ones worth their salt, are held to a higher standard. They hold themselves to that standard, in my experience.
If you are reading this piece in an actual, physical newspaper, thus risking the dreaded inky fingers, I salute you. You are carrying on a tradition dating back to 1690 when America’s first newspaper, called Publick Occurrences, was published in Boston. The first newspaper in the world, the Relation, was printed in Strasbourg, Germany, in 1605.
Thank you for reading your local newspaper. Please continue doing so as long as possible. This industry may be a dinosaur, but it remains one with teeth.