Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

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


Newspapers holding their own...

Posted 12/09/14 (Tue)

Technology in the media has sure come a long way in recent years. For those of us who have spent any time in newspaper work, we know this to be true.

Digital photography is perhaps the biggest change. We take our photos, hook a cord up to the computer and literally in seconds we are looking at our “proofs.”

As recent as the late ‘90s, I spent as much time in the darkroom as I did gathering news and writing it. A local car dealership usually ran a half page ad, sometimes a full page on special occasions. When that happened, there could have been up to 100 of those tiny pictures you see in dealership ads. It was time consuming and monotonous.

Couple that with a winning sports team in the playoffs and the darkroom could easily gobble up 40 or more hours a week.

These days, it’s a snap. “Developing” photographs has become a minor detail.

With that said, is it possible to get film any longer? Is it possible to still get photo developing chemicals?

Apparently so. Kodak, Ilford, Fuji and some of the cheap knock offs are still available. In fact, Ilford, a British company that produces black and white film, recently opened a developing center in California to keep up with what Ilford calls rising demand.

So maybe those old 35mm cameras aren’t obsolete after all. It’s hard to believe someone would still go that route, but apparently artists like the reality of film and paper.

Pagination is another wonder of technology. In the 1960s, many newspapers continued using the lin-o-type machines. Then came the compugraphic system, which was long strips of copy that we had to cut into pieces, wax the back and paste it on the newspaper page using a light table.

At the time we didn’t know any better, but thinking back, that was monotonous too.

If you go back in newspapers 100 years, nearly all of the copy was laid on the page in strips. It was just more efficient at the time to write a headline and put the copy directly beneath it.

Now, we have pagination. That is where we put the newspaper pages together on a computer screen. It saves a lot of time and money and allows us to be more creative at the same time.

Newspaper pagination programs are expensive, but it’s a one-time thing. It’s really quite a tool. One can do a lot of manipulation on the page that only 20 years ago was completely impossible.

Recently, Google Earth has come on to the scene. It probably wasn’t designed for newsies, but it can sure be a fantastic reference when you need to look up a place and get some details.

Satellite images have become better since its inception and the photos appear to be taken more often. Is this a good thing or is somebody watching us from space?

There are accounts in history books that describe the panic in the immediate years after radio was invented. When radio became commercially available in the United States in 1920, it was going to wipe out newspapers.

In 1930, the BBC began broadcasting TV signals in England. By the late ‘30s it was available in the U.S. and became a commercial enterprise in the early 1940s. Sales really soared after World War II ended. That was said to be the end of radio.

Finally, after Al Gore invented the Internet, we were once again led to believe that the Internet was going to take over and destroy all the previous media.

It didn’t happen. Newspapers are still around. Some of them have actually grown. Yes, we have heard of numerous newspapers folding like the Rocky Mountain News and the Detroit Evening News, but it’s not the Internet that’s doing it, it’s a fragmented media market.

Around the turn of the last century, a lot of small communities in North Dakota had more than one newspaper. In fact, there was a period of about 20 years in which Kenmare had two newspapers.

In the late 1890s, Langdon was actually supporting three newspapers. How can a town of 1,800 support three newspapers? Today, Langdon supports a newspaper and a radio station as does Lisbon, Oakes, Mayville, Beulah, Bottineau and others.

Nowadays, Internet sites are competing for advertising, which fragments the media even more but tradition is going to keep newspapers and radio vibrant.

We think newspapers will give you the best bang for your buck in advertising. We like to call it “shelf life.” That is where a newspaper page will be seen more often by more people. With TV, radio and Internet, it’s here and it’s gone.