Most all our neighbors in the senior community where we live have a newspaper delivered daily to their driveway. Mindful of the decline in recycling options, we get ours online.
That seems to be a trend, as editor Greg Moore reported last month, noting that the number of Gazette-Mail digital subscriptions more than doubled in nine months.
Not surprisingly, many seniors as our neighbors prefer reading the paper version. I understand. I also tend to prefer it. And I do appreciate the resident here who shares his daily Wall Street Journal with all of us by leaving his print version copy in the reception area of the community’s main building.
Certainly we older folk also tend to resist change. Moore mentioned complaints about the change in the Gazette-Mail obituary page. That hasn’t been to my liking either in the Gazette-Mail or in the weekly Central Oregon paper in the town where we once lived and worked. Gradually I’ve learned to navigate it.
And I’m grateful that, like the Gazette-Mail, the western newspapers that once brought us news are still publishing, as are papers in our hometowns in Michigan and Massachusetts. For us, the online editions are a boon, even with the change in obituaries that all have adopted.
But aside from adjusting to reading the papers online, we haven’t embraced many of the extra features, the blogs, podcasts and the like. Like many older folk, as a general rule, we tend to resist change.
We are a bit taken aback by the Mansfield, Ohio, newsroom that transforms into a monthly venue for local bands and offers food and even free beer. It is hosted as an unconventional means to forge success by the Richland Source, a 6-year-old online news organization that has five reporters covering the town of 47,000 and surrounding communities, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
And it is that local coverage of school, city, town and county government that has been hit hardest by the decline in local newspapers. A 2018 research by the University of North Carolina reported that 1,800 local newspapers had folded in 2004. It also discussed the decline of reporting on “routine government meetings,” leaving residents with little information on budgets and tax hikes or policy issues.
The latter require staff to spend hours in sometimes dull, other times contentious meetings before separating the important from the mundane.
Yet in Tyrone, Pennsylvania — a town of 5,700 about 200 miles west of Philadelphia — their newspaper, The Daily Herald, sends a reporter or two to every council and school board meeting in the communities it covers, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in late August.
Local resident Hal Isenberg praised the paper for its “unbiased” reporting and the sports coverage, the Inquirer article stated.
How appropriate, I thought, the kind of comments one might expect from a senior. Isenberg is 68.
But we also cheer the youth in the business.
In late September a neighbor here, knowing my history with the Charleston newspaper, asked if I had read the report of the scoop by the Arizona State University paper. The student publication was the first in the nation to report the resignation of Kurt Volker as the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine. The student journalist thought to inquire, as Volker is the executive director of a think tank run by the university.
It was a special story, but most encouraging in my mind was the thoroughness reported by journalism student Andrew Howard, 20, the managing editor of the paper, The State Press.
“We did hard work,” Howard told The Associated Press. “We wanted to make sure our facts are right.”
Along with our concerns over the demise of many newspapers, we seniors fear that too often accuracy is sacrificed to be the first with a news story.
That resident who shares the Wall Street Journal, now somewhere in his 90s, particularly dislikes the frequent use of the “narrative” lead for straight news stories.
What happened to the five Ws: the who, why, what, when and where? he asks.
Journalism was his major in college and he expected to work for a newspaper, he said, but he instead made a career in industrial public relations/advertising.
If what follows is an accurate story that draws readers, I’ve no complaint if the first paragraph is a standard lead or more of a narrative or human interest type.
But I’ll keep that to myself. I’m simply grateful to the reporters and newspapers that persist against the odds.