Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 14, 2012

Online or print: Newspaper evolves with technology, but core values remain

By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Sometimes I just have to stop and marvel at how the newspaper business has evolved over the past 20 years or so.

In many ways, the print journalists of today are bridging the gap between the journalists of yesterday and those of tomorrow. We are trailblazers of sorts when it comes to our new digital content, but also staunch and loyal defenders of our traditional print product. While we are continually evolving, we are still steadfast advocates of accuracy, facts, attribution and fairness — the foundation of traditional journalism.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t evolving with the times as well. An average morning for me in the newsroom is quite different today from what it was say 10 years ago. Today, we man an around the clock virtual newsroom cycle in addition to our traditional print product. If news is breaking, it is among my many responsibilities each morning to update, email blast and tweet the breaking news. It is also shared with our thousands of Facebook followers. Through such online interactions, our readers can also become a part of the story, commenting about or sharing their opinions on the developing news of the day.

In some instances, the story ideas are coming from our online readers who post news tips or information on breaking news in their individual communities. Ten years ago, I never would have dreamed I would be blasting, tweeting, updating, uploading photos and slideshows, linking to videos and posting the all-important “breaking news” banner to our online product. It really is a bold new age in the still somewhat old-fashioned newsroom.

Change is never easy. We can choose to fight it, or we can choose to embrace it. I have chosen to embrace the change, and the experience has been rewarding. It’s all a part of the evolving day in the traditional newsroom. We are developing two products each day. The traditional print product that has endured since 1896, and the quickly evolving online products.

So while we have changed, we have also remained the same. When you stop to think about the history of this newspaper, it is truly an amazing — and timeworn — story. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph — the region’s most trusted name in news — has been around since Jan. 18, 1896. When that first daily issue was published, the paper had a staff that consisted of a mere eight employees. The press was manually operated. There were no computers. There was no Internet. The world was a much, much different place in 1896. And the thought of a tweet or blast at the time would have been a foreign concept.

But there has been one constant throughout the years, and throughout the centuries. And that constant has been the steadfast dedication and responsibility of a team of loyal journalists committed to bringing local news to their community. Today, we are still delivering a newspaper right to your door every single morning 365 days a year — holidays included. But we are also exploring new online horizons. It’s all a part of the ever-changing day in the newsroom.

But there are some things that haven’t changed over the years, and never will change. As I’m sure was the case in 1896, accuracy in reporting is still an absolute must in 2012. We still demand official sources. We still don’t report rumors or unsubstantiated facts. We require attribution before a story is printed or posted online. A story without any form of attribution will not appear in our newspaper, or online. We still strive to tell both sides of a story.

So while a lot has changed over the years, much has also remained the same. And that’s a good thing. But change is still a necessary component of life. It’s an ever changing world after all, and we must be willing to change with it. Technology that we think we have mastered today could very well become obsolete six months from now. Such is the world we live in today.

Love it or hate it, change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same in this world. Except, of course, your morning newspaper. It’s good to know that you can still get up each morning, walk down the driveway, and expect to see the morning newspaper in the newspaper box — rain, snow or shine. That’s a timeworn tradition that continues on.

Unless, of course, you subscribe to our e-edition.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s city editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com.