After 13 years in the industry, the newspaper business and I have bid farewell to one another. In a full-time capacity, at least. I’ll continue to write for newspapers because, well, I enjoy it and I’m good at it. To start, look for upcoming pieces in The Philadelphia Weekly and The Riverside Signal.
But as for my working life being devoted to newspapers, that is no more. If you who know me from my position as editor for a family of weekly papers in New Jersey, time to know me for something else.
This is not a bad thing. In fact, it has been a long time coming. The newspaper industry has been dying a slow death for some years now, helped along by executives who have been either unable or unwilling to see change coming, and who have proven themselves incapable of adapting to a dramatically shifting media landscape and the changing needs of its potential readership.
And make no mistake, this is not limited to small publishers. In fact, it is the larger publishers who have most clumsily dropped the ball. They have the resources to build the infrastructure newspapers need to survive in the coming years, but lack the vision and ability to adapt quickly to changes in the market. Smaller publishers, at least, have the ability to be agile and flexible — assuming there is a willingness to do so (and often there is not). The smart ones are at this very moment reinventing themselves as media outlets that are ready to meet the changing wants and needs of their readership.
Many are destined to fail.
The few who have vision enough, however, will come out the other side of this tidal shift stronger than ever.
I sincerely hope they do. Despite the cynicism of many, I believe in the news business. The world needs good journalists, good reporting, and good media outlets. ESPECIALLY on the local level, where strong community reporting (and ensuring it reaches its audience by any means necessary) is too often secondary to other priorities that ought not be priorities at all. Too many media outlets forget why they exist in the first place. As an editor friend recently told me, you can’t cost cut your way to financial success.
See, because it’s like this: create a strong product and understand how you must deliver it in the modern world — publishers can no longer operate like it’s 1987, something that was true five years ago and is even truer now — and the revenue will follow.
As for me, it’s the start of a new era; a period of my life when creating strong content on a freelance basis and providing consulting to papers that actually want to move into the future will be my only tie to the business. Newspapers and I had a great run, but unless an opportunity I can’t refuse comes along, I’ll be seeking my fortunes elsewhere. The fact that there is no future in newspapers as they have always been done has been underlined for me in bold type.
In the meantime, you’ll find me working with Red Orchid Media (find us on Facebook) helping businesses and organizations of all types reach their target audience. I’ll soon be assisting authors, aspiring writers, and those who hope to self-publish with independent editorial services (you can see a sneak preview of the website I’m building for it here). And naturally, I’ll be doing loads and loads of writing. In addition to the newspaper pieces mentioned above, starting next week you can go see Little Footsteps at Bramson Manor, a murder mystery I wrote which is being presented by The Studio Stage in Whiting, NJ, and I’ll soon make some of my fiction available for the first time.
Oh, and one of my coauthors on Geek Wisdom and I are in the early stages of a collaborative book project I’ve very excited about. More details when I can confidently announce them.
Goodbye, newspaper industry. I still love you in theory, but in practice you sure are a broken mess.