The roar of the press!
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 by Ron Cruger
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        The roar of the giant Goss newspaper press was an offense to the ear. Pressmen were supplied with ear plugs to ease the insult of the noise, but a few refused to wear them, choosing instead to be able to hear the idiosyncrasies of the giant press – the gears meshing, the rollers laying on the ink. Later in life these ear plug dissenters would pay the price for their choices but today they wanted to feel the vibrations of the press. These journeymen could feel in their bones if the press was running right or if something was wrong.
        I was nineteen years old and going to college. I needed a job to get me through the next few years. My high school friend got me an interview at the local daily newspaper and just like that I was hired to work as an apprentice in the composing room, where all the pages of the newspaper were assembled. I had never taken journalism in high school. Never had set foot in a building that housed a newspaper. Never had seen a newspaper press.
        I wasn’t born with newspaper ink in my blood, but before long I was hooked on newspapers – still am. From that first day or work in the composing room at the local daily newspaper the charm and the action of newspapers did, indeed, get in my blood. So, much so, that the rest of my working life centered on newspapers and magazines. I quickly became fascinated with the art of the printed word, the pictures, the last minute rush to deadlines, the breaking stories, the separating of fact from fiction, the daily intensity and focus.
        Editorial, photography, art, production, pressroom, advertising sales, circulation – I studied them all with an acute fascination. I became enchanted with the whole process of building a newspaper. Soon, my intimacy with newspapers was established. A lifetime of newspapering followed.
        Now, nearly a decade removed from active participation in the process of producing publications I find that there is a prediction that in the space of one or two more decades newspapers will cease to exist.
        The internet and its blogging and the twenty four hour news networks are hastily overcoming the need for newspapers.
         The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising. Nineteen percent of Americans age 18-34 claim not to even look at a daily newspaper. To further emphasize the state of newspaper affairs today, the Wall Street Journal in 2007 lopped three inches off the width of their newspaper in order to save a few million dollars a year that they were losing due to decreased advertising revenue.
        A quality newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, admits to losing thirty six percent of their total revenue since the year 2000.
        Times are changing in other media too. Television, radio and magazines are joining newspapers in cutting staff and expenses to heal the wounds of the advertising dollar flight to the internet.
        It’s difficult to conceive of America without newspapers, and somehow I doubt if one day we will hear CNN announce that very death. But, in order to avoid that announcement newspapers will have to alter their thinking. Monumental changes will have to be instituted if newspapers are to survive the next decade or two.
        Perhaps it is time for the publishers and owners of newspapers to forget the attitude, “Our product isn’t selling as it used to, so let’s cut a number of our reporters and cut space devoted to news – maybe this will solve our problem.”
        Do newspaper publishers think that people will actually want to buy more newspapers if they have less news in them? With this kind of attitude they could run F.E.M.A.!
        Cutting costs does increase profits – it makes Wall Street happy, but it also kills newspapers.
        The state of American journalism is in flux. The depth of objective reporting is sliding backwards. The objectivity is being replace by bloggers (this column could be considered blogging because it appears on the internet). Bloggers are not news gatherers they are “opinion spreaders.” A true news reporter is able and qualified to cover a five car pile-up on the freeway. These are different qualifications than that required to cover a presidential election campaign.
        The newspaper of tomorrow must have a usefulness to the reader. It must offer the professionalism and integrity that people recognize. It must contain the news and comment that can only be found in the printed word, insightfully written and edited.
        Personally, I would find it difficult to begin the day without my daily newspaper spread on the kitchen table during those hours right after sunrise. I can rise from the chair to pour the coffee and return to the table and the news and opinion of the day will remain for me to read. It won’t disappear as if given by a talking head on television. Once, in the past year, my daily newspaper was not lying in the driveway before the sun rose. I felt that the day could not begin properly without me shuffling to the driveway and retrieving the newspaper. The few seconds I spend each morning at daybreak fetching the newspaper are well worth the rewards I receive. I have made that time important to my day.
        Newspapers contributed importantly to the founding of this country and I am hopeful that they will continue their donations to our freedom.
        I would be disappointed if I were to never again find my newspaper lying in my driveway as the sun rose.
        Thomas Jefferson, in 1787, said it much more eloquently than I…

“The basis of our government being the opinion of our people, the very first object should be to keep that right: and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or a newspaper without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later.”