Chuck's Q Blog

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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 Dispatch.com 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 Dispatch.com 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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