Thirty years ago this week, a man less than half my age wandered into the Messenger newsroom, an office that housed three to four people for years but now serves as the solitary confines for one manager.
Though he had never been a sports editor, he had landed a job as one, and it being the opening of football season, was thrown right into the weekly newspaper mix.
Thus began a journey that continues today, with that grandfatherly-aged man now sitting in the publisher’s chair, tasked with keeping one of the best small-town papers in the country on course and in the black.
But my how things have changed. Color photos are taken for granted, we shoot video of some events, cover news “live” and try to meet the expectation of instant, 24-hour news coverage that was first promoted by cable TV stations in the ’80s.
Indeed some newspapers already broadcast events live, such as sports, and that day is coming soon for us as well.
Other than pen and pad, we use none of the equipment with which we produced the newspaper in 1981. Gone are waxers and phototypesetters. The Update has long since stopped being produced on a typewriter and is available electronically worldwide almost instantaneously.
And of course we publish twice a week.
Those of us who never saw a computer until we were out of college now carry tiny machines in our pockets that are far more powerful than those first rudimentary Macs that allowed us to see what we produced on screen.
A reporter can send back live reports, photos and video from the scene in real time, on a device that’s called a phone but is so much more. It’s been one of a long list of game-changers, led by the Internet, which allows all information and feedback to appear practically in real time.
We have been challenged to perfect a model that, until recent years, did not exist at all. And we are faced with doing it on the fly. We are gaining ground but still are a long way from a satisfactory solution.
Predictions of our quick demise were greatly over-exaggerated. That which did not kill us has made us stronger, as well as more nimble, and has given us a much broader perspective than the simple confines of Wise County, Texas.
Events halfway around the world can impact us with light speed.
It’s been a heck of a ride, and I wouldn’t do one thing any differently.
Equipment has changed, our challenges have changed and people’s expectations have certainly changed. But what hasn’t is our desire and our pledge to bring Wise County the best news coverage and advertising possible with the resources available. We think we’ve done a pretty fair job thus far, but we have no intention of resting on that.
We will constantly strive to find new and better ways of doing things.
I’ll plan to check back in another 10 years, just to see. Perhaps by then, your personalized newspaper will be delivered via an interactive, holographic image projected from your VerySmartPhone.