But I have a lament. I love what I do. Though leaving a job I still love is not the cause of my lament.
I ain’t done yet.
I have lots of projects to keep me busy, so that’s not the issue. I simply have a need to get out there – back in the news biz – while I’m healthy, hearty and filled with energy, and before I sign off for good.
It’s for one simple reason: I think that I can do some “good,” that I can make a difference in these difficult times that someone who’s “in” can’t do as well.
I want to be back “in” because I care, and because I’ve been on the outside looking in for the past 16 years, and I’ve learned a lot from that perspective.
Newspapers have been downright stupid in their approaches to the changing environment – in news and in business – because of the challenges of “digital.”
Newspapers should have been the ones that developed Yahoo. And Google. And Linkedin. And, yep!, Facebook. And (especially) Yelp! and other sites like it and those mentioned.
As an aside: A.O. Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times (who gave Joyce and me a personal tour of his then new-HQ in New York City a few years back) once visited my class and offered an analogy (and lesson), often punctuating his point with the “f” word to show his concern. I paraphrase:
The problem with the railroads, when airlines were about to emerge, he said, was thinking they were in the railroad business and not the transportation business. Same with newspapers. They aren’t in the newsprint business, but the information business. That’s why Yahoo, Google, et al., should have sprung from the well of newspapers.
He was saying that the airlines that emerged shouldn’t have been TWA or Pan Am; they should have been the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Airline or the Norfolk & Western Airline, as clunky as that may sound, because they were in the business of moving people and goods. By rail, by air, by whatever. They just didn’t realize or embrace it.
Arthur Jr. was correct. And my dear old New York Times, unfortunately, didn’t follow that advice either, until too late. (And I’m hoping for great success for the Times in this new age for two reasons: it still practices the best, and badly needed, journalism in the world and, as important, much of my retirement income is coming from its retirement fund.)
But back to me and newspapers.
The problem with newspapers is they are afraid, to use a cliché, to reinvent the wheel.
Instead of working with what they have and trying to move forward, they need to approach it working from a clean slate. The “what they have” is holding ‘em back.
You need wipe the slate clean and ask one question: If we were to create a media model that served the community – “our” community, any community – and it was a model that was able to sustain itself and, even, make an acceptable profit, what would that model be?
Not what we’re doing now.
For me, it would start with making the “media entity” what newspapers used to be or should be: the center of “community.” A place that ebbed and flowed with information to and from the audience, all of the audience. It would be the community center in the true meaning of those words.
Everyone in the community – every organization, public and private, and every individual – would be as much a part of it as the editor and the publisher or the reporter on the street.
Everything “community” would flow through that hub.
That’s the starting point. Where it would finish would depend on the individual media entity because, ultimately, each community is unique to every other.
Then, perhaps, we wouldn’t be caught up with words like “demise” and “outdated” when talking about a local newspaper operation. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’d replace those words with “vital,” "relevant" and “irreplaceable.”
That’s what I want to do before I really retire. I want to make it happen.