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Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley

Newspapers – my industry in a nutshell

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Read an interesting article called “Last Call – the end of the printed newspaper“. This was a well written and researched piece. I hate to agree with it because it probably means my job is going away also and being I’m one of the fossils at my organization it will most likely be sooner than later. I’ve always tried to be versatile and offer my employer many skills and adapt to the new technology or actually facilitate it coming in over my career. I think that is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to last as long as I have. And that is no small period of time. Not counting the few years in my youth (10-12 years old) that I delivered newspapers, I’m about to reach my 4th decade in the business.

Then I read an article that says the industry is alive and well. Of course this was published by the Newspaper Association of America and was called “Newspapers are still here and making money“. That may be true but it doesn’t look at the carnage that has already taken place and most likely will continue as newspapers form into new business models. And while I have the upmost respect for this organization, I find it like the industry overall. It has been slow to react.

Having been around this business for so long, I’ve seen many ups and downs. I’ve seen many people come and go. When I entered this industry it reminded me of the steel industry. People and families worked for the organizations for decades and it spanned generations. Newspaper people were loyal and it was as much as a family type atmosphere as I think existed in most industries. And those family ties went right up to the top owners and publishers in allot of cases. But just like baseball players learned, it’s a business, not a sport. And now this business that has been so slow to change that it allowed all kinds of competition to develop and thrive to the point were Newspapers are looking up to them for online business, it is in a mass contraction and reinvention process.

I have nothing but praise for this type of work. And when I say work I mean every job that is involved in producing a daily or weekly paper or magazine. I’ve enjoyed the many different roles I’ve had over my career. And I look forward to my future because of those experiences and the opportunities I hope it provides in the future. I’ve worked for small, medium and large publishers. And yes as they scale up the line the family effect gets somewhat diminished. And yes with the large company there is politics and all the other crap that goes along with a large institution.

But I wouldn’t change a thing as I reflect back on it. I’ve loved many parts of every organization I’ve worked for. And its the people I love. The experiences we shared, the wars we fought. The technology we revolutionized. The lives that are touched by our collective efforts. The enlightening of the general population and the debate that each article would FUEL. And I do mean FUEL. When I was a co-publisher of our local paper I never knew the depths people would go to express their opinions.

I remember the days I started in this business. I knew it was something that was exciting right off the bat. It happened every day, rain, shine, snow, heat. It takes allot of things to publish without FAIL. Courage, commitment, planning, knowledge, dedication, strength, adaptation.

From sweating in a press-room or engraving darkroom or making plates or running network cable or installing computers to being a lead system admin with access on hundreds of UNIX servers. I’ve sold ads, taken classified ad calls, done marketing and promotions, worked in the papers county fair booth which was very cool because we got to play MC because it was the information stand also and we had the PA system. I’ve unloaded paper trucks, I’ve worked an inserter machine and hand inserted millions of papers. About the only job I haven’t done is proofreading because I’d be a total failure at it as this blog will eventually prove.

As they say, variety is the spice of life. Having that many opportunities is easy for the small and medium size companies because they survive on many people wearing many different hats. But I’ve got to admit, I’ve been afforded a great number of opportunities at the largest firm also, but no where near the diversity of the smaller ones. . I hope to make it to the standard retirement age of 65 which means I’ve got another 7+ years. I think I can do it if I continue to learn, adapt, bend and give it my best. Hell, its gotten me this far so why stop now.

I pray this industry survives because of one major point. People need RELIABLE information and newspapers for the most part (yes with sometimes slanted agenda) have provided our democracy this information. For every slanted product there used to be one that you could read contrary opinions. The best have both in the same products. But anyway with this contraction this has become a danger to our society. I’m amazed at what people will believe now and how quickly their opinions are formed and become inflexible. They are headline junkies. They need more depth. And reading gives one depth. Its not a video clip that tries to explain and issue in 30 seconds. Let alone look at alternative points and discuss the pro’s and con’s of each.

I read allot online because the computer is my tool now but I still enjoy the tactical feel of a newspaper in my hands. But I’m old school and I know that. I know that its already changed and will continue to where I only have a tablet one day. If you haven’t noticed, people below a certain age only know of a newspaper if they are living with a much older adult.

You know what is sad though. The time where the hard copy clipping of your child in little league from the local paper is gone. Yeah you might have your own pictures.Yeah you might have shared it on Facebook with friends and family. But where does that electronic image go? Its gone. And everyone in the community hasn’t seen it. Or nor do they have clippings of events from their own family. And these things won’t be passed down from generation to generation as they had been. The can’t go down the street to their local paper and have a metal plate made that many framed of the news or event or picture appeared in the local publication. Yeah maybe I’m living in the past but I used to see the joy and smiles on peoples faces when they could HOLD it and show it to others and know that it was a widely published piece. It was their 15 minutes of fame now PRESERVED for a lifetime to be passed along to the next generation. Where is that Facebook post going to be?

This is why I still make hard copy prints of all my photographs. And when I give photos (hard copies) to friends, family I see them light up still and enjoy holding something or sharing it with another friend. Its not the same as holding at tablet, because when you flip to the next image a person can’t still be admiring the first one and sharing that with the person standing next to them.

Yes I know change is a constant. But as we progress from technology to technology we should recognize if were losing something important along the way.

I wish all involved with the publishing industry much luck, good health and continued employment. I wish those affected by reductions, layoffs, buyouts (if you lucky) the skill and knowledge to take what you have learned from this industry and apply yourself in the new world with the same attitude you gave that served this industry well for many decades.

Author: Mike Hartley

With a lifetime and a half in the Newspaper industry I'm preparing for my retirement career as an Artist, Writer, Photographer and Video content provider. I'm a proud father of two wonderful children and I'm still married to the first girl I fell in love with and probably only one that would have me.

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