The very last issue of the Weekender will hit our mailboxes tomorrow, and the Nelson Daily News is already closed for good.
It has been suggested that, as the owner of an on-line media outlet, I should be delighted at the newspapers' demise.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
For starters, I wrote for the Weekender, right up until the bitter end, filing my final coverage just yesterday (and what other publication, I ask you, would give me the shining moniker “Castlegar bureau chief” for the two or three stories I penned each week?). I'll miss editor Darren Davidson, with his irrepressible wit and genuine love for the region, quite terribly.
I worked with and for many of the people in that office – I liked most of them and respected all of them – and I know all too well the pain of having that rug pulled out from under you after years of hard work and commitment. The loss of the Castlegar Current still stings, a year-and-a-half later– and I was at its helm for only two years – hardly the 15 years Bob Hall served as managing editor at the NDN. In a very real way, those people (my friends and colleagues) are mourning the death of a loved one.
And make no mistake – like us or hate us, for most of us journalism is absolutely a labour of love. God knows, most of us will never get rich doing it ... entry-level rookies could probably make more money offering people fries with their order than they would at the average community newspaper.
To top it all off, I'm a trained, experienced print journalist – regardless of recent career shifts, I can hardly enjoy being told I'm now obsolete.
Which brings me to my point – print journalism is not dead, regardless how many of its vehicles die an ignominious death in the weeks and months and years to come.
The 'print is dead' paradigm reminds me forcibly of the introduction of Automated Banking Machines (or ATMs). I remember the hue and cry over those – people screaming that thousands of teller jobs would be lost, that people would no longer be able to bank with human beings, that computers were making, not just bank employees, but humanity in general, obsolete.
What absolutist nonsense.
Did bank employees have to retrain in new technologies? Probably. Was it inconvenient? I can't imagine how it could be otherwise. Did we ever actually see even a glimpse of the doomsday scenario for the banking world that so many alarmists predicted?
Of course not.
And so it is with print journalism.
Yes, many technophobic print writers like myself will surely have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the New Millennium and thus some proficiency with new media like the 'Net, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Yes, paradigms will shift and we'll have to adapt with them – just like every generation before us since the Industrial Revolution.
Perhaps people will now gravitate more to on-line news sources for real-time coverage of breaking news, while others may forgo the print format altogether and web-sling their way through current events.
But many others, myself included, will still enjoy the heft of hard-copy in one hand and a coffee in the other, with a Sunday morning stretching before me and hours to peruse the in-depth features, op-eds, crosswords and other joyous luxuries to be found in the pages of print.
Will there be hard times ahead, at least for some in the print world? Surely so, as newspapers seek solutions to daunting problems like environmental footprints and the exhorbitant overhead involved in paper, ink, pressing, distribution ... but what business hasn't had to adapt and evolve apace with the world around them? It's the natural order of things, in commerce as in life.
One of the challenges corporate media will face in the years to come, I think, is its ponderous size. While newspaper chains boast some serious momentum in capturing market share, they often seem to struggle in adapting quickly to changing circumstance, simply by virtue of their size.
I think we'll see a lot more independent media outlets setting up shop – not just online, but with print versions, too – offering a more personal, sustainable news delivery.
Are these outlets going to fell the Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times, or even the Castlegar News? Hardly – nor should they.
We're all important elements in the rich and vibrant media mix that every democratic community should boast. Radio, television, on-line and – yes – print all have different things to offer different people at different times, and they all play a critical role in informing a self-governing population that relies on strong media to make good decisions.
As long as there are people out there who care about the world around them – close to home and in the larger planet – there will be a place for journalists of every ilk.
Don't put on your best funeral suit just yet – print is far from dead. It's changing, that's all. Just like everything else.
Ed. Note: For the staff at the Weekender and the NDN – it takes great courage and integrity to pen thousands of words, put your full name at the top, and send it out into the broader community. Your mistakes are there in black-and-white for all the world to see; and your triumphs are often buried in back pages or unnoticed by those who don't understand what you do... or how, or why.
There are those, yes, who will rejoice at the end of these publications ... but many. many more who will not.
Your efforts were valued, and you will be missed.