Newspapers evolving, not dying

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My husband learned to read, his mother always told me, by reading The Birmingham News sports pages at the age of 3.

The age might have been lovingly exaggerated a bit, but newspapers are still a part of his daily routine — and likely would be even if he didn’t work for one.

My father’s morning isn’t complete without the Memphis Commercial Appeal; he’s been known to call the editor’s office if his is not delivered on time.

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But last week’s announcement that the three biggest newspapers in the state would reduce their print schedule from seven days to just three days a week might make you think our printed product is going the way of the dinosaur.

I disagree. Our industry is changing, no doubt. And while our newspaper’s digital presence continues to evolve as well, our commitment to our printed product is strong. We simply have greater power to disseminate information about our community and about our advertisers.
We live in a county that supports four newspapers. Surely that says something about the strength of this industry and the platforms with which we choose to share information and advertising.

What we do matters. Perhaps smaller newspapers have a more intimate connection with readers. Our obituaries are pressed into Bibles; our wedding announcements tacked into scrapbooks; our honor rolls taped to refrigerators.

Newspapers chronicle a community; they are immediate — even moreso with the web — and permanent. And in a small community, ours is a shared experience, a shared history.

Over the years we have shared stories of triumph and tragedy; we have investigated issues and people; we have advocated for area needs. We have asked questions and found answers. Just in the last few months, we have looked at how the county’s desire to seek taxes from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians could affect residents, the tribe and workers; we have begun following our Little League teams on their road to the All-Stars; we have told you about Dr. John Yoder’s fascinating mission trip.

For our readers, we are a necessary — and, we hope, often inspiring and entertaining — source of information. For our advertisers, we are a needed platform for marketing. Newspapers truly are the only opt-in device for delivering information.

If someday we deliver that information — both news and advertising — exclusively online, so be it. But for now we are as dedicated to our print product as we are to the web. What matters most is that we tell the stories of this community — your stories.

Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Atmore Advance. She can be reached at 368-2123 or by e-mail at