Interesting times. Two years after the financial explosion and the fallout it left on the U.S. newspaper industry, it appears as if prospects are brightening.

Newspaper companies are again posting earnings, albeit small, and except for the quagmire Tribune Co. finds itself in, those publishers who sought bankruptcy protection in the dark days of 2009 have emerged with growth as a primary strategy.

Why, just the other day a West Coast blogger projected that the L.A. Times could fetch $1 billion if Tribune elected to sell it. The blogger was a few months later in posting her views than News & Tech columnist Doug Page was in expressing his opinion about who should purchase the paper, but you get the idea.

More important to the vendors that supply the newspaper industry, however, are indications that publishers are once again asking for quotes to upgrade or update their operations.

The level of interest is certainly nowhere near the go-go days of the 1990s or early 2000s, but after considering where the industry has been since late 2008, any activity is worth noting.

As Goss newspaper sales exec Doug Gibson told News & Tech, “I’m hoping the uptick is real. A lot of newspapers were overdue in upgrading in 2009. Now they’re really overdue.”

Smart publishers realize they need to continue to invest in their businesses in order to remain competitive. Even in the throes of the Great Recession, we’ve seen companies upgrade their facilities, transform themselves into regional production centers, and take other steps to ensure their survival.

We’ve also seen a rebirth of newspapers like The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Boston Herald and those owned by Journal Register Co. Executives at those institutions — and many others — understand that they must reinvest and, in JRC’s case, reinvent themselves to survive.

JRC’s metamorphosis is particularly compelling. CEO John Paton has wasted no time in retooling a company into something that many observers believe could serve as a model for other publishers to follow. See our story on page 12 to get a glimpse of what Paton is trying to do.

Let’s hope that 2011 brings with it the confidence publishers need to open up the spending spigot. Vendors, both software and hardware, have dozens of innovative technologies and services they’ve spent millions of dollars fine-tuning. It’s time for the industry to stop gnashing its teeth and begin revitalizing its foundation.

2011 also ushers in News & Tech’s 23rd year as the pre-eminent, and dominant, provider of operations and technology news for newspaper and magazine corporate, administrative and production executives. We’re proud to note that News & Tech’s veteran editorial and sales staff understands the challenges, and opportunities, this industry faces.

We’re also pleased that our partnership with Graphic Arts Show Co. means the newspaper production industry once again has a viable venue at which to demonstrate their services to an interested audience.

Forging the requisite institutional knowledge about this important industry takes time and commitment. It doesn’t come by casting multiple lines in the water in the naïve hope that something tangible will miraculously appear.