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Ode to a newspaperman, by Steven A. Smith

August 1st, 2008Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

Steve Smith, editor of The Spokesman-Review, has posted a eulogy for the newspaperman – “the bison of the information age. The wooly mammoth and, bless us, the dodo.”

“The old newspapermen have died or are dying. One of my great mentors, Dan Wyant, passed away just a week or two ago. The younger, my generation, are fading, too, facing a future in which journalists serve products and platforms not communities and their newspapers. The young turks have become the old farts. We pray at the old altars. We worship the old gods. The new media moguls have their shiny new religion. And our passing is seen by them as both timely and just,” writes Smith.

“But there is more to be lost than warm, rosy recollections. It’s not all about nostalgia.

“No instrument will ever serve the public interest so relentlessly as the daily newspaper. New media will successfully distribute data and information. “Communities of interest” will develop around niche products. And while print newspapers will survive to serve a small, elite audience, they never again will serve the larger geographic communities that gave them life and purpose. Democracy will have to find a new public square.”

He admits to indulging in nostalgia, but what makes this post so interesting is that Smith shows he’s not stuck in that past. He knows the industry is changing (for better and for worse) and manages to capture that shift on a personal level and one that will strike a chord with many contemporaries. Most refreshingly it’s not preaching to the next generation of journalists nor is it dismissing the printed past.

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