Recently the Journal-World had a nightmarish occurrence when an entire section of the newspaper was inadvertently left out of the day’s paper. Our readers’ reaction may be instructive.
Although it’s National Newspaper Week, it doesn’t feel like a time for celebrating. Around the country, it’s hardly a secret, newspapers are struggling. Like the Journal-World, they are outsourcing, cutting, taking numerous steps to balance revenues and expenses, and studying murky crystal balls to analyze the future. Many have eliminated days of the week when they’re published. All are grappling to determine the best course for the future as technological changes blow across the landscape.
Good numbers of news consumers are moving to digital. Does that mean a paywall is the answer? Will print eventually be free and digital paid? Or should subscription prices for print be increased, as some “experts” suggest? Are transactional revenues — you buy something and the news organization’s website gets a share — part of the solution to stabilize the expensive “business” of keeping the public informed?
Back to that missing section! Part of what it contained, leading to a blizzard of phone calls, was the daily puzzles. Of course, if the main section had been omitted, a larger surge of calls might have resulted, but subscribers definitely were looking for their puzzles on that occasion.
The point may be that it’s the little things that folks may miss in an immediate episode, and that’s too bad. As community information providers go through a painful transition, as they are now, ultimately what might be lost — and missed with more serious consequences than omitted puzzles — will be the stories that shine light on otherwise mundane actions, that point out questionable expenditures or practices, that explain why a street is deteriorating, that alert citizens to what’s taking place at the next school board meeting, along with the columns and editorials that question decisions, suggest possibilities or cry for action to benefit us all.
They say you don’t miss the water until the well goes dry. It’s National Newspaper Week.