“EXTRA – EXTRA – READ ALL ABOUT IT”

I make no apologies when I say that I have had a long time love affair with newspapers.

It’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  When we moved back to the states after my Dad’s first tour in Europe, I secured my first job throwing a morning paper route in 1972 at Ft. Sheridan- an Army base about an hour north of Chicago. I was 12 years old and I delivered both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times seven days a week in all types of weather.  (think Chicago…Lake Michigan..winter time)  In fact that first year on the job, I won a contest selling subscriptions and won an all expense paid trip to DC to watch Nixon’s second inauguration.

There was something fascinating to me back in that day, waking  up so early and being the first one to see the headlines of the morning papers before anyone else was up to read their copies.  I followed the wind down of the Viet Nam war…the daily revelations of Watergate and the eventual resignation of Nixon.  I would always scan the breaking stories before bagging or banding them up for delivery on my trusty Schwinn spider bike, decked out with carrier baskets on both sides of my rear wheel.

I had that route for about three years making a whopping $35.00 a month that I was proud to earn.   I spent another year or two working at the Highland Park News Agency on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings bagging up hundreds of papers for the motor route drivers and eventually helping deliver store copies of the Sunday edition of the Chicago papers to the local convenience stores.

It was also during those years in Illinois that I learned the basics of B&W photography and developed a passion for taking and developing my own pictures.  That led to some early publications of my photographs in the local paper there on base.

In 1976, we were back overseas in Germany and wouldn’t you know it…I found myself on the editorial staff of our school paper for my last two years of high school.  I even wrote a column that was pretty much silly nonsense stuff called Tony’s Tempo. (yeah…I know…hard to believe)  I also continued my passion with photography and was thrilled when the Stars & Stripes, the military’s daily newspaper in Europe ran a photo I took of an elderly woman in a local market in Nuremberg .

After graduating, I made my way to Arizona State University in Tempe and got hired on my freshman year as a staff photographer for the State Press, the school’s daily publication.   I also remember vividly that one morning when my good friend and roommate, Mike Fioritto and I  were drinking coffee while listening to our police scanner about some hostage situation in a nearby neighborhood. We loaded up on our motorcycles, camera gear strapped securely on and somehow found ourselves being ushered in with other media by police officers to document the event.  We were the only still photographers there and ended up seeing one of my shots published in the Arizona Republic the next day.  Exciting stuff.

Fast forward a couple of years and the next thing you know, I’m married…in Texas, a father already, and spent the next 8 years working as an independent distributor for The San Antonio Light, a Randolph Hearst publication.  I oversaw about two dozen carriers who delivered the daily afternoon paper there in NE San Antonio and have countless good memories of those days…too many to even begin mentioning here.  But you can see why in many ways, newspapers have been in ‘my blood’ for a long time.  Whether the distribution of it, taking pictures for it, writing occasional articles or editorials…it’s just always been a part of my life.  The smell of the news ink triggers so many flashbacks for me.  I love working the crossword puzzle in a folded up copy with pen or pencil in hand.  And I still marvel to see something I wrote or photographed published with that byline and my name next to it.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the newspaper industry is undergoing drastic changes with the advent and ever increasing popularity of the internet.  The handwriting has been on the wall for years now.  I read a recent article I saw posted online that only reaffirmed what I’ve known for some time – that beloved print edition of the local daily paper has seen its better days.  While I understand the reasons for it, it still saddens me for multiple reasons. Times are changing and as I often remind myself: nothing ever stays the same.

As I grow older, I join the swelling ranks of fellow citizens who see the  world as they knew it, continuously change and be  transformed, leaving many of the intricate components of a previous day in an ash heap overshadowed by that ever present entity we call…technological advancement.  Strangely enough, I still remember a teacher I had in the 12th grade, Bill Metzger, who said in a class one day that we would probably see in our life time the day when we got our daily news from computers. He sure called that one right.

I know lots of people who are still closely connected to the industry.  Who knows what the future holds for them.  But if the predictions of the past come to be, I will mourn the passing with them of a profession I grew to love at a young age. It’s not that the profession itself, that of producing, writing, photographing and the delivery of that news will become obsolete…but the means it which it is transmitted will continue it’s drastic transformation.

 

For some reason, I am unable to make the entire article I read that prompted this blog entry available. But here is  an excerpt:

The headlines about the US newspaper industry have never been so bleak.

In recent weeks, LinkedIn, the networking website, and the Council of Economic Advisers have reported that the press is “America’s fastest-shrinking industry”, measured by jobs lost; the Newspaper Association of America has shown that advertising sales have halved since 2005 and are now at 1984’s level; and the Pew Research Center has found that for every digital ad dollar they earned, they lost $7 in print ads.

. . . .

Zenith Optimedia this week predicted that internet advertising would pass newspaper advertising next year around the world – but in the US, where internet penetration is high and newspaper audiences are shrinking, digital will overtake newspapers’ and magazines’ combined ad sales this year, eMarketer estimates.

“There’s no doubt we’re going out of business now,” one unnamed executive told Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.