By Lloyd Gray
I often get asked these days about the health of the newspaper industry. My response is that newspapers are in a period of unprecedented change, upheaval and stress, but then what industry isn’t?
Last weekend, newspaper people from five Southeastern states, including Mississippi, gathered for a rare combined convention of our press associations in Sandestin, Fla. As with our usual one-state Mississippi Press Association meeting each year, this one offered an opportunity to compare notes, swap stories and draw inspiration from colleagues across a wide spectrum of the industry.
High-profile news in two of the states, Alabama and Louisiana, about several newspapers owned by the same company cutting back publication days and focusing on digital growth have been interpreted by some as a precursor of things to come industry wide. Don’t bank on it.
The Daily Journal not only will continue to publish seven days a week, we’re investing a lot of money in new printing equipment that will greatly enhance the quality of the product you now hold in your hands – unless, of course, you’re reading this on a computer or mobile device.
If that’s what you’re doing, you’re part of a rapidly growing digital readership that has greatly expanded this newspaper’s audience from the print-only days. We had more than a million visits on our website in May, an all-time high.
Yet our print readership has remained strong, changing only minimally over the last 10 years of dramatic technological change and actually increasing in a majority of those years.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the reason we’re here: to help build our community and region by giving it a sense of its shared identity, notable achievements and common challenges. We do that best by providing the local news and information our readers need to be active and engaged citizens.
We won some awards this year, and we’re proud of that, and we were also pleased to be recognized as the best overall of the state’s larger daily newspapers. But that’s not why we’re here, nor is it what motivates other newspaper people I know.
They are in this business because they see it as important and rewarding work, and the best of them start every day with the interests of their readers and communities foremost on their minds.
In an age of fragmentation and isolation, newspapers are still the glue that can help bind a community together. That’s high-minded stuff, and admittedly not all we do is about that, but it is the essence of our mission.
We’ve taken hits from a down economy like everybody else, and we’ve had to adjust to an ever-evolving and intensely competitive media landscape. But rest assured that retreat is the last thing on our minds here at the locally owned Journal nor at most other newspapers not controlled by distant ownership or megachains interested only in squeezing the last dollar out of them.
So how’s our health? There’s a simple answer to that: We’re here to stay.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.