Times in Trail

Times in Trail: Newspapers still have a role to play

"Since we flipped the calendar on 2016 there has been no shortage of examples of people seeing a need for a community newspaper."

The reality of the viability of the newspaper industry is something that can’t be ignored, especially within the four walls of the Trail Times.

We’re not exempt to understanding the concept of a business where the bottom line is as crucial as any byline.

And the fact that decisions must be made in the name of finances is a reality that isn’t reserved for newspapers but for any business model in today’s technology-driven era.

I get that today’s population has many avenues for information. From TV to online to publications to coffee shops, people will get their news one way or another.

It’s enough to make you wonder if the newspaper is headed for a fiscal cliff like many experts warn.

But with all that foreboding doom and despair, there always seems to be a desire that a newspaper survive, especially in smaller communities.

Since we flipped the calendar on 2016 there has been no shortage of examples of people seeing a need for a community newspaper.

Whether the topic has been sloughing roads, crumbling infrastructure, illegal dumping, traffic jams, closed recreation areas or taxation, people are still contacting the newspaper to have their story heard.

I’m forever appreciative of that fact.

There are still people who see the newspaper as a voice for the community. A place that can, hopefully, affect change, rattle some cages, highlight an injustice or drum up support for a cause.

There is a sense of ownership of the newspaper in the community. It’s more than a business in many people’s eyes, including ours.

People will call and say, “You have a duty to write about this.”

Or “it’s your job to check this out.”

Or “if it’s in the newspaper then more people will know.”

When you get calls like those, it reminds you that not everyone sees an end to newspapers.

Of course it also reminds you that there is an infinite number of sources out there where people get their news.

We also get the calls that say “I read on Facebook that … why aren’t you doing something about this issue?”

There are others who think our resources are endless and if the CBC can expose the inner workings of a topic then certainly we can also do that.

The oxymoron of all this is that some of those same people admit they don’t read the paper or subscribe. But that doesn’t stop them from calling on the newspaper’s eyes, ears and voice to help their plight.

Which brings us back to the business end of the topic and the limitations that being a business sometimes brings, especially in light of today’s financial picture.

There was a time when newspapers didn’t worry too much about fiscal matters.

Getting stories that mattered to the readers, providing a window on the world and offering unbiased reports were the most important things at the end of the day.

The newspaper industry has taken a beating, there’s no denying that. But I’m not ready to wave the white flag yet.

When I get a call from someone who is frustrated and wants to vent, perhaps even open our eyes to something going on in the community, it reminds me of our role and it’s not just a job, it’s a responsibility.

Admittedly, the financial realities of the industry have impacted every department at every newspaper to the point the doomsayers are sharpening their pencils to write our obituary again.

Yet most people can still say “I read in the newspaper …,” with somewhat more confidence than “I read online …”

And as long as I see a victorious football or basketball team holding up a celebratory newspaper front page declaring them “Champions” I know newspapers still resonate at some level in our society.

Perhaps when they hold up an iPad in their post-game victory celebration, with a link to the online story, then I’ll really worry.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.

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