I had an editor that worked for me who was as “old school” as they came. He believed in such things as the “inverted pyramid,” concise leads, and newspapers are to be printed on paper, not posted online.
At the time — the mid 1990’s — he had a lot of company in his assessments, especially when it came to the online newspaper.
We went round and round about it. However, he agreed to post the day’s stories on the newspaper’s website — after 3 p.m. Being the boss does have its advantages.
I put a visitor counter on the page to see how many people would even care about the stories online.
Then, a funny thing happened. My editor started watching the counter each day.
He would run the numbers and see how many people viewed the website overnight. “150 last night,” he would say.
The numbers began to climb. “200 last night.”
Our site got picked up by a couple of search engines and that increased traffic. “500 last night.”
The anti-online guy started asking if we could put some breaking news items (i.e. traffic accident photos, weather alerts, etc.) online when they happened.
Of course I was all for that. It was a little more difficult to pull off in those days, as we still had to develop film and scan photographs to put them online.
As things warranted, my editor put them online — and watched the web traffic increase.
Fast forward 10 years…
I was on vacation with my family in the mountains of North Carolina. We were visiting my in-laws at a RV park near Asheville.
I woke up early one morning and ventured outside with my cup of coffee just in time to see the Citizen-Times carrier making his rounds. He must have thrown 90 percent of the RVs in that park.
As he passed, doors opened, followed by housecoats and slippers emerging from each RV. These people were anxiously awaiting their morning newspaper.
I was reminded of that “old school” editor who was so enamoured by the website traffic. His excitement turned a lot of his focus away from his “first love,” the printed newspaper.
What I witnessed that morning showed me that in our effort to stay relevant and embrace new technology opportunities, we should not forget who “brought us to the dance.”
The newspaper industry has to be all things to all people. To the baby-boomer and post-baby boomer, we need to be that consistent presence in print.
We live in a time of constant change and changing opportunities. The leader who can properly balance the old and the new will thrive throughout all these changes.
Whatever happened to the “old school” editor?
After he left our newspaper, he edited his hometown newspaper for many years. He left that job and now publishes an online only news site in that same town.
Funny how things (and people) can change.
What are some ways your industry has changed? How did you adapt?