The Ottumwa Courier

January 9, 2013

The news is still fit to print

Et Cetera

JUDY KRIEGER
former Courier editor

OTTUMWA — People will rue the day when daily newspapers cease to exist.

My daughter called Sunday night to make sure I was watching “60 Minutes” on television (get the irony?). There was a segment about the cutting back of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, La., from a seven-day publication to printing three days a week.

There were the usual interviews — from a longtime reporter to the city’s mayor to the current editor (the guy in charge of the decision didn’t want to appear on camera).

The reporter, of course, spoke about the loss to the readers, the ones who want to read the newspaper with their morning coffee and, in New Orleans, a beignet.

The editor spoke along company lines. Enough said.

The mayor agreed, yes, it was not good for the city — a city that has endured despite a devastating hurricane, which The Times-Picayune wrote about and won a Pulitzer Prize.

Metro cities need their daily newspapers, he said.

Of course, they do.

So do small towns like Ottumwa. Thankfully, Ottumwans and southeast Iowa readers can still receive the Courier six days a week.

Two years out of the business, I know the struggles newspapers face. I am glad I am not there fighting the fight with downsizing and fewer resources.

I applaud the efforts of staff members who still produce a great product. It is great, dear readers, because those producing it are doing so under conditions that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Today, fewer staff members do the same work — what do you think that means?

You can see it on page 1 — stories by two reporters, many days. There are not four reporters as when I left. And add the fact that those reporters have to do double duty when one is sick or on vacation or on one of the required unpaid leave days. It’s the same throughout the facility and at newspapers throughout the country.

We are fighting an uphill battle, one filled with laptop computers, iPads, smartphones and whatever the latest tech gadget is. I’ve been with friends wondering the answer to some question, and one gets on his smartphone to find the answer PDQ on the Internet.

What I know most, and best, is that a free government demands a free press which works, first and foremost, to assure credibility of those we elect. It’s a tough job, a demanding job and, an oh, so rewarding job.

I was almost amused — except that I abhorred it — reading Sunday’s Register column by the editor apologizing for Donald Kaul’s recent column on the “Fiscal Cliff” and his suggestions.

I began taking the Sunday paper because of Donald Kaul.

Give me a break. Can’t the state’s largest newspaper stand the wrath of people upset that Kaul brazenly said what many of us have been thinking? I thought that paper understood that. It has always promoted that it was a newspaper with a variety of opinions.

Hogwash.

So, that’s what you can lose, dear readers: A newspaper that stands firm against all sorts of things. We old journalism school graduates were taught that we were the watchdogs of government. We were trained to find the truth and to print it. Please, let us not lose that.

There is room for both print and online editions. There has to be. Many of us still want to hold a newspaper in our hand, along with a bound book. In the Courier’s case, the publisher has shifted the focus of the news to local, and I think that is the right move. Only Courier reporters can write about local news. We do it best and always have.

I don’t know what will happen in the future to the daily newspaper as we know it. Will my new grandchild grow up without a daily newspaper? Well, not in this grandma’s house.

Judy Krieger is a retired Courier editor.