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The Paper Chase

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Magazines and newspapers serve very different purposes, even if they sometimes serve similar audiences. We at DT, some of us former newspaper editors and reporters, have a respect and special fondness for the paper. When we hear of layoffs at the largest one in the state, we wonder and, to a degree, we worry. Will the news suffer?

That’s the question contributor Bob Yearick attempts to answer in this month’s examination of The News Journal (“Front Page Blues,” page 56). Some at the paper worried that we’d planned a hatchet job. Clearly, readers have opinions about its quality, and publishers everywhere are sensitive to the public’s perceptions.

Regardless, The News Journal is the state’s largest paper—arguably the state’s largest source of news, period—so if it’s cutting costs in part by cutting reporters, it’s natural for consumers to assume coverage will be affected.

And it will.

It’s the nature of media, and it’s certainly not a first at the Journal. From its days as a property of the DuPont Company and later sale to Gannett in 1977, to the USA Today-ification of Gannett papers in the 1980s, a shift toward public journalism in the 1990s and the launch of delawareonline.com, the Journal has changed because media philosophies, technologies and consumer habits have evolved. In this day and age, change sometimes happens more quickly than we’re able to process.

Nonetheless, the Journal has a tradition of producing good reports and its share of locally legendary reporters. There seems to be little reason to suspect that will end, even if it takes some time for the paper to find new footing.

Which begs a question. Regardless of increasing overhead and declining ad revenues, we readers aren’t buying papers like we used to. What does that say about us? Are we too busy to read? Are we too busy to care about current affairs? Are there simply too few of us old-timers who prefer a paper to a quick broadcast or a website? Have we let bloggers, with their clear opinions and heavy attitudes, diminish our opinion of what is useful or credible reporting? (No offense intended to the few good bloggers out there.) Only we know the answers.

If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. The same goes for the papers. If they die, we are partially to blame. It certainly can’t hurt to renew your subscription—or to urge the kids to read.
 

Mark’s Day Book
  • Having watched him on CNN, hearing of his other work through friends, and interviewing him by phone for a recent story, it was a pleasure to meet professor Ralph Begleiter at a recent journalism program career day at UD. You’ll read some of Ralph’s insights about the media in this month’s story about The News Journal.
     
  • I wish I got to see more of professor Bill Fleischman, so I especially enjoy the occasions when we catch up. He and his peers at UD have been a great support to many of the journalism program alumni over the years. Bill, the next lunch at Blue Parrot is my treat.
     
  • It’s always a pleasure to bump into Connor Bifferato during my daily stop at the Brew Ha Ha! in Trolley Square. These chance meetings never fail to make me a few minutes late for work, but the coffee chat is always time well spent. We’re overdue, buddy. Same goes for photographer Bill Deering, who always makes me laugh.
     
  • I can see Wilmington’s First Night fireworks from my deck, so I was disappointed that they ended so quickly (I think we all understand the dangers of explosives and high winds), which left me to fall asleep on the couch well before the new year arrived. Kudos to the city, nonetheless, for giving everyone such a great celebration. There’s always next year for us all.
     
  • A big thank you to Susan Ledyard of Cass and Co. for giving the keynote at DT’s Women in Business Luncheon at the Chase Center, another big thank you to Carroll Ivy Laurence for facilitating, and one more for WJBR’s Jill Quale for being our emcee.
     
  • This is what makes Delaware so fun: stopping into Café Palermo for dinner only to find  most of the Carper family doing the same. Here’s a plug for the zuppa di pesce.

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