Where have all the writers gone?

It seems my Facebook feed has been inundated this week with slash-and-burn cuts at a variety of newspapers. And the La Crosse Tribune announced new deadlines as the printing of the paper moves out of town.

It’s dismaying and disappointing, but not at all surprising.

If ever an industry did not see the writing on the wall, it is the newspaper industry. For an industry of communication, we did a poor job of communicating the importance of what was happening to news as Facebook and other online platforms came roaring into the news mix. (See how I used those new-fangled technology terms there?)

Management ignored the obvious for many years and then started cutting all their best people in an attempt to save money. That gutted operations and left newspapers with little content to attract the people who were already reading the paper, and certainly not luring in new readers.

Though I have been “retired” for six years now (forced out with no notice on a sunny Tuesday in June), I still feel like a newspaper reporter. So all of this is extremely painful to witness.

And beyond the ink that runs in my veins (my dad was a hot-metal printer so this is my personal history), I just love to hold a newspaper in my hands and peruse the news.

I don’t do that much anymore and it makes me sad.

The more practical of my acquaintances have told me to get over it and just enjoy reading online.

I’ve got news for you guys — ain’t gonna’ happen.

Nobody gets to tell me how I absorb the news. You can make it more difficult for me, but you can’t make me like it.

I was the dinosaur that was dragged kicking and screaming from my Remington toward computers and technology. I was convinced onto Facebook before my ouster from the Tribune but never did jump on to Twitter. In evaluation after evaluation where I was criticized for my lack of technological expertise, I told my bosses they needed at least one reporter who still wrote honest-to-goodness stories, not two-line tweets. They finally gave in and just let me write.

I know a few other old dinosaurs who missed the vigorous pounding on a manual typewriter keyboard. It made deadline seem more urgent. The keyboard clacking mixed with shouts across the newsroom and the ringing of telephones as City Editor Larry Olson would yell, “Give birth, give birth, we have a paper to get out!”

Call me crazy, but I loved that.

 

One of my arts sources was standing by desk one day at deadline and I must have yelled, which rattled him. Yelling happened a lot in the newsroom so I didn’t even notice when it was coming from me. But he called me later that day and told me he found it very upsetting.

“But wasn’t it exciting to be in the newsroom at deadline?” I asked him, after apologizing.

“No,” he said. “You scared me.”

I don’t get to scare anybody much these days. No deadlines loom, the telephone rarely rings, and there’s no clacking sound as I pound on my computer keyboard in the quiet of my home office.

I feel like we should be having a funeral for all the daily newspapers that are dying off. I’ve written the eulogy; now, it’s time for a drink.

 

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