Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

May 23, 2014

Still kicking

Despite changes in format, journalism has a future

Corsicana — For whatever reason, local treasure Babbette Samuels has always asked me about my children. From the time she first saw them in a shopping cart somewhere, to Tuesday night, she’s always been very thoughtful.

She’s just that type of person. If that doesn’t make her unique today, I can think of one thing that does: Babbette’s perhaps the exception to the rule when it comes to our readers.

I’ll pass on guessing her age, but let’s just say Babbette has seen many Memorial Day weekends come and go. She can remember when the Corsicana Daily Sun took two long arms to unfurl.

Yet she’s quite the Internet connoisseur.

Tuesday night, as I sat in a small auditorium on the University of Texas in Austin campus listening to UIL academic journalism winners being announced, an email came in at 8:06 p.m., from Babbette Samuels. Subject line, “wow.”

“Am so proud of Collin going to UIL in Austin!!! Just a chip off the old block, headline writing!!!,” she wrote. She even had a cool “Wow!” clip art attached. She’s quite savvy with a computer.

Collin, my youngest son and a senior at Mildred, was one of 12 students to make it to Austin in Class 2A to compete in Headline Writing. He has two older brothers, one of whom advanced as far as regionals in a couple of other journalism categories.

In her opening ceremony remarks, Journalism Director Jeanne Acton-Shanks hit me square between the eyes. Not literally, of course, but with something she said in a room full of students, teachers, advisors and a smattering of parents, like me.

“Journalism is not dead,” she said, “we just deliver it in different ways today.”

I may have been the only one in the room who had chills when she uttered those words. It’s one thing to hear it in a room full of peers, out working the community journalism field on a daily basis. But on a pleasant Tuesday night a few feet away from our state’s capitol, I believe I could have counted my colleagues on one hand in that room.

Journalism, indeed, remains alive. The world needs storytellers, as Acton-Hanks said, and our small communities desire them, too. I hope I never have to live in a world where the Sun does not exist, and I don’t anticipate I will.

If you have made it this far, we’re up to 400 words and no mention of the word “newspaper.” Simply put, we are so much more today. I remember before Collin was born, I would await the thump at the door of my apartment complex. To hear it meant my Corsicana Daily Sun had arrived. I had always been an avid and loyal reader.

Today, that thump has been replaced by a phone beep. Or a vibration. Or a computer notification. In 2014, we’re being read by more people than ever before.

In April, more than 86,000 users perused corsicanadailysun.com. We were just shy of 600,000 page views. Readers are getting to us from Facebook and Twitter. We have more than 15,000 “likes” on Facebook, so when we post breaking news, that’s a lot of folks being notified. Quickly.

It’s the wave of the future, and little will slow it down. I do expect hometown newspapers in small communities like ours to far outlast metropolitan papers. But the pace can be mind-numbing to ponder. Those three kids of mine Babbette frequently asks about will likely never pick up a newspaper again to read it. Their kids may think of newspapers in the same vein as cassette tapes, film cameras and personal paper checks.

If it’s not on a phone or a mobile device, future generations probably will not read it. It, being a newspaper, a book, a job application, a ... you get the picture. In April, more than 50 percent of our online readership occurred on mobile devices. Almost 60 percent of those were on an iPhone or an iPad.

Desktops, like newspapers, probably have a life expectancy few saw coming 10 years ago.

I bet Babbette has read the Daily Sun online. She has a Facebook page, for crying out loud. No one would argue she is unique. In more ways than one.

Do not confuse the way your stories are delivered with the viability and need for your local newspaper.

Journalism, dear reader, is not dead.

                      ——————

Raymond Linex II is publisher of the Corsicana Daily Sun. He may be reached by email at rlinex@corsicanadailysun.com

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