Step back with me to 1958.
The school-year routine was the same on Wednesday afternoons.
The 3 o’clock bell would ring at Orange Street Elementary School.
As fast as I could pedal my red Schwinn, I’d race seven blocks to the back door of The Jesup Sentinel. For a nickel each, Brian Kirby would sell me copies of the weekly newspaper. Then, pedaling as fast as I could, I’d park my bike at the exit of the Sea Island Shirt Factory on Cherry Street.
As the ladies left work, I’d turn my nickels into dimes before the ink dried on the latest edition of the local news. I’d double my money in a few minutes and take my time to half-pedal and half-glide on my way home.
Life was never so simple or “business” as profitable.
Why do I share that story?
Because 64 years ago, I had no idea that—after college—I’d spend more than a half-century selling newspapers of my own. And I don’t ever plan to stop completely. As they say, “The ink is in my blood.”
This is National Newspaper Week.
If you are reading this, I thank you.
Forty years ago, I sat in an audience at the University of Georgia, and Ted Turner said, “In 10 years newspapers will be dead.” He predicted cable news would be the assassin of newspapers. I don’t think that, even as a visionary, CNN’s creator foresaw the birth of the internet.
Nonetheless, Ted was right. The newspapers that aren’t reinventing themselves in this surging digital revolution are having to unplug their presses. The newspaper that you are reading at this moment is determined to be a survivor.
Because I believe the community newspaper has a crucial role to play in our democracy. And a healthy democracy deserves to have a voice and an advocate in rural America where you and I live. I have said it before, and I say it again: “I never want to live in a place where there is no newspaper.”
The newspaper should be the community’s soul and conscience, as well as the mirror that reflects what’s going on. Most times it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. And on occasion it’s ugly, very ugly. Regardless, people have a right to know. I believe a key mission of a newspaper is to shine light into dark corners. The Washington Post trumpets, “Democracy dies in darkness.” I say, “Amen.”
Furthermore, the newspaper is the thread and the initiative to stitch together stories that form the community’s unique “quilt.” That “quilt” wraps around us to give a sense of place, a smorgasbord of information, an update on the local marketplace, a forum to share ideas and opinions, and a spark to make the community want to do better.
Now step into the present.
There is no denying that the internet and social media have been disrupters of newspapers and a host of other businesses, too. Consider what Amazon and e-commerce have done to small-town business districts. Newspapers are not alone. You must continue to reinvent your business model, or Ted’s right—you die.
So, hold on. Don’t write this newspaper’s obituary. There’s only one newspaper in the world that is 100 percent devoted to this community, and you are reading it. Our passion and commitment are to be relevant, compelling, credible and the most complete package of local news and information available.
It’s National Newspaper Week. We thank you—our readers and advertisers—for being our partners.
Together, let’s step into the future.