A few days before writing this column, I had a pleasant email exchange with David Sullivan. Sullivan, a copy-editor at a large metro newspaper back East, has been writing his intelligent and insightful blog about the newspaper industry, That's the Press, Baby, for more than three years.
I cite Sullivan not only because I enjoy him, but also for a selfish reason: he enjoys reading News & Tech.
As he wrote in a Sept. 9 post detailing the most recent round of layoffs and the continued drumbeat of depressing economic news affecting newspapers, "At times like this I have to turn to my favorite upbeat source of news about traditional newspaper operations, News & Tech." After linking to the column I wrote in our Graph Expo Special Edition extolling the importance of print, Sullivan analyzed the issues - now as familiar to our readers as the aroma of a fresh-cut lawn - facing newspapers and then summed it up this way: "Well, it makes you wonder if Moozakis is, probably like me, just a person who still loves printed newspapers even as the country says, go fish."
After reading his post, I contacted Sullivan and told him that I appreciated his reference and his description. But then I wondered: What should News & Tech's role be in covering this industry? Are we flailing at windmills, overlooking the real problems this industry faces?
More fundamentally, by hewing to a philosophy that the printed newspaper and this industry overall are too important to fail, are we in danger of losing our credibility even as we ignore the obvious?
The facts are these: The newspaper industry continues to be a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. It continues to employ tens of thousands of people, from reporters and press operators to production executives and security guards. Thousands more are employed by the hundreds of companies that provide newspapers with the resources - ink to bandwidth - required to make it run.
That's the tangible.
Here's the intangible: This nation desperately needs the printed-newspaper industry to survive. There is no other medium with the resources to generate the kind of news, information and in-depth analysis that a newspaper creates, every day, 365 days a year.
Yes, there's the echo chamber that is talk radio. And television. Just read today, in fact, that Ted Haggard is supposed to swap wives with Gary Busey on "Celebrity Wife Swap" this season. Kudos to ABC.
You may not agree with your paper's editorial page. You may not agree with your paper's sports columnist. But there can't be a time when the printed newspaper isn't part of the debate, when it isn't part of the national, or more important, local conversation.
Just last month, RIT honored seven Pulitzer Prize-winning alumni with the school's Isaiah Thomas Award, recognizing their accomplishments at news organizations that include The AP, The Denver Post, Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe.
The pictures these alumni took illustrated the horrors of war, the joys of competition, the once-in-a-lifetime and the everyday.
Important stuff. Stuff that the foundation of the printed page allowed readers to peruse and to appreciate.
If the printed newspaper does ultimately go away, its disappearance will mean more than the plop no longer heard each morning on consumers' driveways and front porches nationwide.
It will mean that this country deserves what it gets.