Despite all the talk that newspapers are dying and that today’s young people aren’t interested in the world around them, I want to reassure you that the future of journalism is in great hands.
This week we had a visit from 16 fourth graders from Margaret Beeks Elementary School in Montgomery County. They came with their teacher, Clare Law, to tour the printing plant of the Salem Times-Register and its sister newspapers because they started their own newspaper. That’s right – a real weekly newspaper for their school. Their current issue is four pages, the editor said.
Those children asked such intelligent, informed questions about how we run our newspapers that I was assured the future of newspapers is in wonderful hands.
The young editor set up Google Drive folders for each of his reporters, so they can file their news articles from home. He and his editorial helpers read them.
Here’s a sample of what the young journalists wanted to know:
• How do you get your news?
• Do you ever use information from television or other newspapers?
• Do people ever get upset with you if you write something about them they don’t like?
• How many people does it take to put out your newspaper?
• How long does it take you to write an article?
• Do you ever run out of things to print?
My answers were:
• We get press releases, usually by email, and we count on people in the community to let us know about news important to them, such as engagements, weddings, births, graduations from college, and events. Of course, we have our own list of regular news events we cover, such as Salem City Council meetings, Planning Commission hearings, School Board meetings.
• If we do look at information from another media source, we verify the facts with police or other authorities, and we always write the article in our own words.
• Although we concentrate on good news, people do sometimes get upset if the news story involves crime or a court case. We strive to be as objective as possible, though. Court proceedings are public record, and when they involve taxpayer-paid people, such as court personnel and police, they are news.
• Four-plus. We have one editor, one sports editor, Frances Stebbins who writes church news and college interns. Then we have a supporting cast of 11 other people who greet customers, take ads, design the newspapers, do the billing, print the papers, label them and get them to the post office and stores.
• Most articles take me anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours, depending on how long it takes to do interviews or do the research.
• Never. There’s always something good happening in Salem and with Salem people.
So rest assured. There are young enquiring minds out there, and the future of journalism looks good, not matter how that news will get to you in the future.