Times-News, Burlington, N.C., Brent Lancaster column
Jul 06, 2012 (Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Summer makes me think of sunburns, crispy grass in your front yard and swim trunks full of sand. It makes me think of how badly you can be scorched by a seatbelt buckle in a hot car if you aren't careful.
It also makes me think of newspapers. I'm sure it's no surprise that a guy who grew up reading newspapers and works at a newspaper thinks about newspapers a lot, especially now that mine is starting a new life under the ownership of Halifax Media Group.
Elon University students who do summer internships in our newsroom are told to ask questions of their internship supervisor. When they ask about how to keep up with goings-on in the journalism profession, I tell them how great it is to be able to see what other papers are doing with the click of a mouse. There was a time, I tell them, when anyone from the newsroom who went on vacation would bring back copies of every paper in the towns they drove through so we could see them.
Each year, I go on a weeklong trip somewhere with my wife's family. This year to the mountains, but usually to the beach.
My father-in-law always gets up early. He makes the coffee and then heads out to buy newspapers. He'll get a copy of USA Today and whatever local papers are available. Sometimes he has to drive several miles to get them.
He does this despite the fact that everyone in the family has brought their laptop and the place we're staying almost invariably has wireless Internet access. He does it despite the fact that we all have smart phones with us.
Part of the fun of vacation is having the time, once the children have been fed, spackled with sunscreen and put into bathing suits, to sit down and read those papers.
For many years, the family has been congregating for a week near Gulf Shores, Alabama. The local paper we read while we're down there is the Press-Register of Mobile.
The Press-Register is a great paper. Over the last few years, as lots of papers have cut back on what they put in print, I've been amazed at how the Press-Register was delivering a beefy print product every day of the week.
Tons of local news from the courthouse and city hall. Business coverage. Stories about beach issues. Lots of coverage of the state house. At least a couple of stories a day about Southeastern Conference football, even in June. Sound Off, a charming newspaper staple that gives a number you can call and leave voicemail messages about whatever you want to talk about. The newspaper will transcribe the best messages and print them every day.
National headlines were made a few weeks ago when the Times-Picayune of New Orleans announced a reduction in the number of days it would print a paper. Lost in the headlines was the fact that the Press-Register, owned by the same company as the Times-Picayune, would also cut its printed edition to three days a week in favor of more online coverage.
When I give tours to elementary-school students here at the Times-News I talk to them about how they will receive information when they are my age. Probably exclusively through their phone or a device that's even smaller and more interconnected with their very being.
Printing news on dead trees and driving it to someone's house is an incredibly inefficient way to spread information in today's world, I tell them. Though I am nostalgic about print newspapers, it won't be a huge loss on balance when they aren't made any more.
What would be a loss is if newspaper companies, with resources, experience and the personnel to do a good job reporting news, go with them.
City editor Brent Lancaster can be reached at email@example.com or 336-506-3040. Follow him at twitter.com/tnbrentl.
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