Friday, July 23, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Blog this: print is here to stay

Without much fanfare, online retail giant Amazon announced Monday that it had sold more E-books than hardcover editions in June.

It was a first for Amazon, an industry leader in the sale of E-books for use on a growing number of digital reading platforms and devices. The news was also a first in the long history of publishing – an ink-splattered and pulp-eating tradition stretching back to Guttenberg and his printing press.

Since my earliest days as a reporter, fears of the growth of online readership at the expense of print newspaper circulation have dominated discussion on the future of the industry. Playing on those concerns, academics and media observers decried the “death” of American journalism, with the objective standards of iconic newsmen like Edward R. Murrow sacrificed on the altar of some godless blogging Babylon.

This was back in 2006.

Four years and a Great Recession later, we print journalists are still here, covering our beats under a standard that has changed little since the so-called “Golden Age” of journalism. And while uncertainty lingers, I believe newspapers will be here in five years, 15 years, 20 years… or as long as there are people still interested in happenings from Wall to Main streets.

While you ponder the irony of my defense of print journalism in an online column, here’s why I think newspapers are here to stay:

Newsprint is final. When you read a newspaper article, you are consuming a quality product reported, edited and proofread for final publication. In print journalism, unlike other online news forums, there are no take-backs, so we work hard to get it right the first time.

Old vs. new. Many newsrooms – even small ones like ours – often mix new blood (this editor) with the old (an experienced, though still youthful, VBJ publisher John McDonagh) in a practice that often results in new perspectives and ideas regarding the issues of the day. By contrast, blogging is mostly a one-man show.

Community. A pervasive cloud of anonymity still accompanies many online news sources. However, newspapers remain an integral part of the neighborhoods, towns and cities they cover.

As we continue down a path towards more and more digital publishing options, newspapers will have to continue to adapt to the changing habits of our readers. That much is clear for the present.

But here’s my promise for the future: since you have not given up on us, we will not give up on you.