By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Newspaper views areas of change

Change is in the air — in here, out there, everywhere.

We know the famous line, “The only constant in life is change.”

That idea traces back to Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher born in Turkey almost 2,500 years ago. Little, since then, has changed as to the consistency of change.

This confounding COVID-19 pandemic is going to change. Hopefully, from the lessons of 2020 and 2021, Americans will find better ways to protect themselves — and each other — from the personal, psychological, social, cultural and economic ravages of this generational challenge.

There will be changes in political leadership at national, state and local levels — embraced by some, reviled by others, accepted by people who believe in the ebbs and flow of democracy.

Climate change, perhaps, finally will generate a change in global response sufficient to slow, if not stop, that pendulum of potential doom.

In the world of community journalism, change is more accurately described as a sea change.

Syndicated columnist Margaret Sullivan recently cited statistics showing that 2,100 newspapers closed their doors between 2005 and 2020 — more than 25 percent — and another 80 have gone out of business since then. Between 2008 and 2020, the newspaper industry lost 57 percent of its employees.

In terms of economic destruction of newspapers, the COVID-19 pandemic was much-added fuel to an already raging fire. Here in our small world of community journalism, we managed to survive, but only because we could access national and state programs created to save Americans’ pandemic-stricken business communities.

It’s 2022, those government programs are gone and the new reality for us is change or perish. Here is a brief prelude to three areas of change being contemplated for this community newspaper.

Costs to publish and deliver print newspapers have climbed sharply, far outstripping revenues from slow-rising subscription rates. That overall rate structure will go under review, and the end result may reveal whether people hereabout still want a viable community newspaper.

We were developing new concepts of community engagement before COVID-19 sidetracked those efforts. As part of our needed change, those ideas have to be revisited, revamped and launched.

The most complex areas of change could involve newspaper size, design, content, means of delivery and advertising rate structures — a minimum year-long focus searching for ways to steady the ship. Along the way we’ll think occasionally about a quote attributed to Jimmy Dean:

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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