“Why do you still print newspapers?”
I’ve been asked that at more than one career fair from kids who probably don’t realize they’re asking a question I’ve struggled with myself a few times. The Internet and recession have teamed up to kill newspapers, and print journalism is on its last legs, or so I’m told.
But that’s not what I see happening in our communities.
As I prepare to step away from the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group next week, I can’t help but reflect on the past few years, the changes we’ve made in our papers and the impact I’ve seen them have in the community. I often wonder exactly what role our four publications should play in the Charlotte region; if we’re putting the spotlight on the people and issues that deserve it and advocating for what’s best for our communities.
As journalists we aren’t supposed to become involved in our stories, but that shouldn’t stop us from wanting what’s best for our towns. The relationship between our pages and our neighborhoods should be one of support, and I hope that’s what we’ve provided in the last few years. That doesn’t mean every piece should be fluff, and I feel we have done a good job of balancing our news with community features. A few people just read that last sentence and smirked, but I’m OK with that. I wasn’t when I took over these papers, but I am now.
I often tell our new hires that people probably won’t remember who broke what story five years, or even five minutes, from now. But they will remember you for that story you wrote about their church, or the award their student won or that time their photo was in the paper. Maybe they even ripped out the story and stuck it to the fridge, and sent a copy to grandma.
That’s been my focus here for more than four years, and a focus I’m sure will continue with our publications once I’m gone. And that’s what I believe makes us a key contributor in our communities, regardless of what the Internet and recession have to say.
I was contemplating all this the other day, standing in our newsroom and wondering if it was indeed time to move on. Through the door came the leader of a local advocacy group that works to help people in need across the city, and she had brought a handful of T-shirts to thank us for a story we were writing about her organization’s latest project. Community involvement skyrocketed at her events whenever we wrote a story about her efforts, she said.
That was important for me to hear just then. And if you believe in signs, well, even better.
As soon as our South Charlotte Weekly goes to the printer next Thursday night, my beagle, my belongings and I will hit the highway toward my next adventure. In my bags will be one of those T-shirts, along with cards students at those career fairs drew for me, a few of my more favorite front pages and as many notebooks and pens as I can steal from the office in my last few days. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given with the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group, and the people who have worked with me to make the papers the best they can be – both in the newsroom and in our communities.
I’ve never felt more strongly about the importance of our papers for our towns, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here. Thank you all for your contributions, and I hope you’ll continue to be involved in our stories.