Chuck's Q Blog


Just another ICM blog

Q as in Quinnipiac (or maybe Quixote)

My relationship with newspapers began at an early age. As a class exercise in elementary school in Berea, Ohio, where I grew up, we were assigned to write a letter to the editor. When my rebuttal to an opinion by an adult calling for toy guns to be outlawed was published, my parents received several letters suggesting that they were doing a terrible job of raising me. I still have them somewhere.

A few years later, I was old enough to begin delivering the local weekly newspaper. I later began delivering the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which paid much better. But my father eventually urged me to quit. In those days, they dropped the newspapers at the end of the driveway at about 4 a.m. and it frequently woke him up. I argued that it was the only job I could get since I didn’t have a car. It didn’t take long before I got a well-used AMC Hornet (with a flat tire and water in the trunk).

I studied journalism at Ohio State, but left before graduation to work on a weekly newspaper in a small town outside Columbus. After about a year, I got a job on a little daily paper, where I worked as a reporter, sports editor, Sunday editor and city editor over the course of about eight years. Along the way, I eventually finished college with a degree in political science from Capital University, a small liberal arts college in Columbus. Another long stint as a reporter and editor at a small business and legal publication in Columbus followed and then eight years as a copy editor on the business desk at the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s Greatest Home Daily Newspaper (it says so on our sign).

Two years ago, I became a member of the growing Web team at the paper, which had been my goal for a while. As a web producer, I work on and various niche Web sites. In addition to posting breaking news, photos and videos on the site, I’m the primary audio guy and produce several podcasts, including one I co-host on video games.

You’ve probably heard that newspapers across the country are in trouble. In most cases, circulation has been declining for some time and advertising dollars are increasingly being spent online. When the economy dipped over the last year, it accelerated that decline at many papers, forcing some to close or adopt online-only models. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the last two years, including 25 percent of the editorial staff of my paper this spring.

One of my motivations for returning to school is to improve my skills and make myself more marketable should the Dispatch be forced to make deeper cuts or worse. But I also am approaching this program not only with an eye toward improving but with the idea of helping advance the cause of journalism in the digital age.

While my editors will tell you that it’s important for newspapers to endure, I think the delivery platform is less important than the process. Most papers are exploring options for charging online customers, but I tend to think there will come a day when newspapers will just be too expensive to print and Kindle-like readers will be the main platform for delivering news. (I’m anxious to see if Apple really releases the rumored tablet device along the lines of a giant iPod touch.) Whether it’s in printed or pixel form, good journalism needs to survive.

I could go on and on (just ask my wife), but there will be plenty of time for that. For now, I’m happy to be part of this program and I’m anxious to get rolling.

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5 Responses

  1. Patricia Daddona says:

    Chris Anderson was just interviewed on C-Span about Free. (Ah yes, competing media, but the medium isn’t always the message!)

    As a news colleague (see my blog NewsLive which has no posts as yet) I can so relate to your journey. Will we get paid, my friend, for the work we produce and if so how and on what platforms? Keep the fires burning! More later.

  2. oldtvnewsguy says:

    We have traveled similar paths, although I have spent my career in broadcast. It’s a scary world out there now for journalists. So many of my friends and colleagues have lost jobs because of the loss of advertising dollars in traditional media, etc. But as we started to discuss during the orientation, it’s not only sad for us in the business, it is sad — and dare I say, dangerous — for the democracy. There is a difference between trained journalists and the blogosphere. Blogs are great. there are certainly several examples of good journalism being done only online. But so far, at least, the loss of real journalism far outpaces the benefit we as a society have gotten from the democratization of journalism that the Internet allows. That’s just how I see it. I hope that changes.

  3. e-mickann says:

    Chuck what a life you have led so far. Your journey has been clear from the beginning and it seems as if you were destined to be part of the news paper business one way or another. A note on your writing, I really like that it was a story. Often when people write about themselves dare I say it gets boring to read about. You were informative, I hope at the end of the semester to see more about the ways you will improve on Dispatch. My ultimate goal is to run my own website. It will be very helpful to see what works for you so that I can learn to apply the same success to my site.

  4. admin says:

    e: Thanks. I left out the part where I studied landscape architecture for a year before switching to journalism. Made a better story that way. :-)

  5. admin says:

    Pat: I’m just about through Anderson’s book and it’s been enlightening. Free is a proven path to profits. The trick is really figuring out the right hook. If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. I downloaded it from iTunes — for free, of course — and have been listening on my commute to work. The case studies are really interesting; I keep trying to figure out how to make them relate to our situation. I guess if it were easy, everyone would have done it by now.