Opinion

Journalism coming with me to the World Wide Web?

OFF THE CUFF

Well that was fast.

Six months ago I arrived at the Central Kitsap Reporter, determined to become the Woodward or Bernstein of the Kitsap Peninsula and now I’m on my way out the door.

To the dismay of some of you, I haven’t been fired. To the disappointment of others, I’m gone, nevertheless.

I’ll be serving as an assistant editor for Sound Publishing’s Dynamic Media division, meaning that while I’ll still be with the CK Reporter’s parent company, I won’t be a CK employee and I’ll be relocating outside of Silverdale.

My superiors asked me to write this column — it’s a tradition at the Reporter for exiting writers to formally say goodbye — but I acknowledge the fact that at this point, I’m old news. That said, I’ll keep this quick and on point to prevent the Oscars’ “wrap it up” music from cuing.

It’d be a little too clichéd for a column titled “Off the Cuff” to end with me thanking a bunch of people that none of you readers really know. So I’d like to leave you all with a few thoughts on where I’m going and what it means, in the larger sense, for you.

It should be no secret by now that the traditional newspaper industry — the printed page — is slowly dying. Newspapers across the country have been slashing jobs or closing up shop altogether for the past several years and the slump isn’t showing any signs of abating.

People are going online for their news and as they do, the days of tangible papers are growing increasingly numbered.

Rather than sit there like deer in headlights, companies like Sound Publishing have decided to roll with the times in efforts to save themselves. We’re incorporating more Internet-based elements into our newsrooms and experimenting with whatever comes along — video, blogs, Twitter, etc.

What does that mean for you?

For starters, it could mean what I said earlier: no more print editions. That may not seem like such a big deal at first glance. But a large contingent of the CK Reporter’s readership — and that of many other community newspapers — consists of older people who sometimes aren’t very familiar with the Web.

Part of my new job will be convincing people who are familiar with the Web that Sound Publishing has a good product to offer and are worth a few clicks each day. If I can’t do that, we could be in trouble.

Why should you care?

That depends — maybe you already don’t.

If local newspapers like those under the Sound Publishing umbrella start to go under, it will mean less specified coverage. If the CK Reporter or Bremerton Patriot ever closed down, the only local alternative for readers would be the Kitsap Sun. With due respect to our competition, I’d argue that both the Reporter and the Patriot shine light on areas usually ignored by the larger daily. It’s nothing personal — the Sun has a whole county to cover; we just have Central Kitsap.

The Sun’s not immune to these problems either, though, and if they fold, the Kitsap Peninsula could be forced to struggle for coverage in the pages (real or Web-based) of the big Seattle dailies.

You can do the rest of the math: As a news source’s coverage area expands, niches are progressively diminished.

Of course, that’s all speculation for the time being. Part of the reason I’m moving on is because I want to see papers like the CK Reporter survive. If that means exploring non-traditional media, fine.

Whatever happens, though, one thing is for sure: we’re not going to amount to much without readers like you. Like how our print edition looks? Hate our Web page? Want to see more coverage of a particular area or issue? Get out your pen, dust off your keyboard and write a letter to the editor.

We want to know what you think — I swear.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I think I hear that music playing....

Paul Balcerak can be reached at paulbalcerak@yahoo.com

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