Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Maybe it’s too early to mourn the death of print journalism

DebraDeAngeloW

By
From page A8 | March 10, 2013 | Leave Comment

When I got an email from Joe Wirt, director of affiliate relations for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, saying he wanted to visit the Express office, I was a bit surprised. Flattered, even. Wow, they know we exist!

I was expecting a stuffy, executive type, but last Wednesday, a very pleasant guy in a plaid shirt and jeans walked into the office and I assumed it was someone wanting to place a classified ad but no — it was CNPA Joe! I immediately felt more relaxed until Joe told me it was his first visit to the Express office, and asked for a tour.

Yoikes. It’s his first time here. Double yoikes.

The anxiety and shame started gurgling.

If you’ve ever been to the Express office, you know why. Tidier surroundings have been featured on “Hoarders.” When you look at the squalor every day, your brain tunes it out like background noise. But when you’re showing it to someone for the first time, it’s suddenly hideously embarrassing.

Tour. OK. Well. Here’s Charley’s pile of junk … and my pile of junk … and over here is Newt’s private office, but that isn’t junk, it only looks like it, and then of course, there’s the actual room full of junk, complete with grime-coated Heidelberg presses from the Mesozoic Era of journalism.

The main office is adorned with pieces of papers taped askew everywhere, telephone wires threaded along the walls like stripped-bare Christmas lights, and piles of dusty newspapers stuffed onto on every shelf and horizontal surface. And yet, in the midst of this muck and mire, we manage to put out a pretty great little newspaper, if I do say so myself.

Thankfully, the deluxe tour only takes about 90 seconds, keeping my humiliation to a minimum. I directed Joe to a chair so we could chat — no, not that one, it’s broken … no not that one, it’s filthy — and asked him what inspired him to come visit our humble hovel.

He explained that he’s visiting small northern California newspapers to see what it’s really like in our world rather than assuming that we’re all in a rush to ditch print publication for online formats and iPhone apps. Apparently, the good folks at CNPA noticed that, wait a minute — not every small newspaper is dying a slow, choking death. Many are surviving, just as they are, despite years of economic stagnation and the explosion of online technology. But how? We should be dead. Why aren’t we?

This stopped me in my mental tracks for a moment. Joe’s right! The Express isn’t lucrative, but it’s still treading water despite all odds. We’ve had to be creative and cut all sorts of corners, but we’re holding our own. Moreover, people still want their newspapers and call us if the paper’s late on Wednesdays. The Express still matters to them.

We started teasing out the threads of why that’s still so. It all comes down to personal, local focus. People still want to see their “Future Subscribers” on the front page, and their deceased loved ones on A-2 … the smiling faces of the Little League champs, holding their “We’re Number One” fingers up, and fraying old wedding photos in 50th anniversary stories. They still lovingly cut these out and save them until they’re crinkled and yellow, because printing out a story from online just doesn’t feel the same. It just doesn’t. It has no soul.

People still want to read the city council stories on paper rather than watch them on cable, likely because waiting a week for the story is less painful than sitting through a meeting. And they love guessing who the mystery “Who is this?” person is each week and looking for their friends and neighbors in the weekly police report.

The Express is a collective letter from home that binds the entire community together. We’re all reading the same thing at the same time. Until. There’s the key word. Until the newspaper-reading generation passes away.

Today’s teenagers don’t read newspapers like we did. They aren’t interested in anything that can’t be accessed from staring into an iPhone, typing frantically with their thumbs. It’s so very sad — all that life time spent staring into a cell phone. But clearly, the next generation finds nothing wrong with it, and when they come of age, print journalism will sunset.

I’ve been predicting that I’ll see newspapers disappear within my lifetime, along with typewriters and cassette tapes. What will it be like when that last newspaper rolls off that last press? Will the guy typing up a city council story in India (don’t laugh, it’s already happening) know about the layers of local history and nuance in a story?

Will the intern doing Winters Yahoo! news take your call a day after deadline and squeeze in your heartfelt letter to the editor anyway? Will the gal slapping out the digital community news from three counties away drop what she’s doing and go look up the date of the soccer team’s carwash fundraiser for you?

No. No, he won’t. She won’t either.

Yes, I’ve been feeling just this pessimistic about our industry’s future, or lack thereof. But Joe’s interest and enthusiasm made me wonder if I’ve been mourning the death of print journalism too soon. It’s true — small community newspapers really aren’t dead yet. I asked Joe what he thought of a workshop for editors and reporters from small newspapers, where we could share our best ideas and successes, build each other up and do some brainstorming. Joe liked the idea, and said he could make that happen.

Suddenly, I’m feeling encouraged. Together, we little guys might find ways to strengthen our readership and rejuvenate our enthusiasm … maybe even get off life support and actually thrive. I hope so. And so should you. Because trust me, you’ll miss us when we’re gone.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com

Debra DeAngelo

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

 
Benefit set to help local bike legend

By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
California residents divided on drought solution

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Downtown post office set to reopen

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

 
Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Get in the picture with school board candidate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Food Co-op board plans open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

Learn more about Google Glass at talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Sign of things to come

By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

 
Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

.

Forum

Fancy meeting you here …

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Expert: Free parking is a myth

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Have they really learned?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
A great community effort

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

Public Health Heroes honored

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Giants edge Dodgers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Kings drop season finale to Suns

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Angels get past A’s in extras

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

 
Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Tapan Munroe

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6