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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Newspapers are here to stay...

Posted 7/12/16 (Tue)

We often hear from critics these days that newspapers are dying out because of the Internet and social media.

They can’t survive, they can’t keep up, a newspaper isn’t instant and it’s becoming too costly to produce a newspaper.

True, we’ve seen some mergers of competing newspapers, most notably the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. We’ve seen one major newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, cease operations, but here in North Dakota we have 10 dailies and 80 weeklies, which have all been around a long time.

The Berthold Tribune was the last North Dakota newspaper to cease operations and that was in 1985, six years before Al Gore invented the Internet. Since that time we’ve gained one in the Metigoshe Mirror.

Several weeks ago I received a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald in the mail from my Australian friend Judy. There was a note in the envelope saying I might enjoy this edition of the Herald.

It was the 185th anniversary edition of the newspaper that has been publishing in Australia’s largest city continually since 1831.

It doesn’t look like the Internet has affected that newspaper. It’s circulation is more than 200,000 and it has survived two major competitor newspapers and three television networks based in Sydney.

The Sydney Morning Herald is a testament to the physical newspaper, with complete articles, photographs, ads and yes, the smell of ink.

At 185, the Herald thrives alongside the Internet and it just shows how a quality product can persevere for nearly 200 years.

There are plenty of examples of healthy newspapers here in the United States and one doesn’t need to look farther than the Twin Cities to notice it.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press are both doing very well, have steady circulations and are both very popular in the metro area.

Here in North Dakota, newspapers are flourishing despite Internet and social media. The Kenmare News may not be instantaneous, but it is doing well and the Internet is kind of like a mosquito bite, it’s there, it’s annoying at times and then it leaves you alone.

For some reason, these critics are pushing some kind of agenda or something. Maybe they should take a closer look at history to see that newspapers have gone through this “phase” before.

If you are into history, you will know that when radio became commercially available in 1920, it would be the end of newspapers. They wouldn’t be able to compete against this new invention that sends live signals over the air.

Problem was, most people couldn’t afford radios at the time, then came the Great Depression, so for 14 years, even though radio existed, it didn’t cut into newspapers because a paper was 5 cents and a radio was $100.

During World War II, television became “the medium of choice” in the United States, but it wasn’t until after the war that large numbers of people began getting TVs in their living rooms.

It was said to kill newspapers and radio because now, you have a visual to go with the sound.

Truth is, it didn’t change a thing and the presses kept rolling.

One has to remember that TV and radio are heard or seen and then they’re gone. The news is cut to 30 second spots and ads are so plentiful, they become annoying and we tune them out.

Ads in a newspaper are designed to be creative for two reasons. No. 1, they have appeal to catch the readers eye and No. 2, the advertiser is paying money to have that information published.

The newspaper isn’t just an airwave “bleep.” It has full, in-depth articles about everything from cattle drives to quilting bees. Photographs are a complement to the full length article.

Newspapers have shelf life as well. If someone tells you they saw an ad for a 1928 Model A and you missed it, you can always go back and see it. You can’t tune your radio back to last hour’s commercial about free oil filters at the auto parts store. If you missed it, it’s gone.

The Internet has its advantages, but is really a lot like radio. Messages are brief, but unlike radio, it isn’t regulated so we don’t know who to trust and who not to trust on our computers.

Newspapers aren’t going anywhere as in the recent celebration of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Three times in the 20th century newspapers have been challenged and came through with flying colors. Newspapers are here to stay.