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I Have Mixed Emotions About "Danville Weekly" Going Online Only

Original post made by Mark Curtis, Danville, on Sep 21, 2009

(Danville, California)

Call me old-fashioned, but at age 50 I still love the feel and texture of a newspaper. As I wrote in my book, "Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey...," I got hooked on the news business when I was just 5 during the 1964 presidential election. I've been hooked since.

When I was 12, I got a paper route delivery the "Milwaukee Sentinel" six mornings each week. It was an experience I will never forget (especially during snowstorms or thunderstorms).

So I am news junkie and a newspaper guy. I especially like weekly or monthly community newspapers because you can get news there you just can't get anywhere else. When I was a kid, that meant the "Elm Leaves" in Wisconsin and when I was older it was "The Islander" on Pensacola Beach in Florida. Today my favorite is the "Danville Weekly." I consider the publisher, editor and staff members to be friends and I occasionally contribute an item or article, as I did for the Presidential Inauguration this year.

It was with mixed feelings that I learned the paper would soon go to an online edition only. Currently the physical newspaper comes out on Friday, with the online version updated daily or as events warrant.

There are many reasons this is happening, not the least of which is economic. Newsprint is very expensive and has been for years. The same economies of scale that are threatening to put the "San Francisco Chronicle" out of business, are having an impact on local weeklies as well. The same impact that "Craiglist" is having on classified ads, is affecting advertising revenue at newspapers, big and small alike.

The third reason is what's known as "news on demand." That's the phenomenon where the audience wants to control the consumption of news on its own schedule. Back in the 1960s we had one chance to watch Walter Cronkite at 5:30 p.m. If we missed it, we were out of luck. Today you can go on almost any network or local TV website and watch the news, when you want to, at your convenience.

"Danville Weekly" publisher Gina Channell-Allen issued the following statement: "With the cost and environmental impact of printing and mailing a newspaper continuing to rise, we have been planning for the day when we felt an online alternative could more efficiently fill the same needs in the community as a newspaper. Unfortunately, the dismal economy has accelerated these plans.

"While we realize this will be an adjustment for many, it puts us at the forefront of the way people will get their news and information in the future, and it will ultimately allow us to do much more than what is possible in a printed newspaper," Channell-Allen continued.

To its credit, the "Danville Weekly" launched a vibrant online presence as did it's sister paper, the "Pleasanton Weekly." But when the company decided San Ramon needed a paper, too, it was launched as online only. I had a feeling the trend would spread north! The online version is so much more timely and the news does not have to wait until Friday. Last week, for example, the "Danville Weekly" had breaking news bulletins about a huge power outage downtown and the sad death of Town Councilman Mike Shimansky on Tuesday.

Times change and we must change with them. In the last two years I have learned to blog, Twitter, Facebook, upload, desktop video edit, and a whole host of "new media" techniques. It helped me publish and promote my first book and quite honestly saved my career. Technology has created a "survival of the fittest" in the world of journalism and elsewhere, so it's "adapt or die."

As much as I want to hold on to nostalgia (and my newspaper), sometimes we have to let go. The internet was not the first revolutionary technological shift and won't be the last. Moses delivered news headlines (aka "The Ten Commandments") on stone tablets. Years later much of news (and other information) was written on birch bark. Then Gutenberg invented the printing press.

Instead of getting sentimental about technology, let's focus on the quality of our news. There is a lot of good information online, but then there is a lot of garbage, bias, and downright falsehood. I have guest lectured at a few universities in the past year, and this is what I tell the students:

Good journalism should be about the basics: who, what, where, when, why, how, balance, fairness, objectivity, impact and accuracy. That was true when the news came chiseled in stone, when it was printed on paper, when it was beamed back from the Moon via satellite, and now, when it is delivered online.

I will be sad when the "Danville Weekly" prints its last paper edition on Friday October 2, but I will check in every few hours-- as I already do now-- to get the latest local news from May the online paper thrive!

As always, let me know your thoughts by clicking on the "comment" button below!

(This article was reprinted courtesy of (c) 2009.)

Comments (1)

Like this comment
Posted by Hal Bailey
a resident of Alamo
on Sep 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your well-considered words and purpose. We all know that a printed newspaper is the most portable device for information on this planet with no batteries, no interface, little technology, and exceptional volumes of thought.

I took a copy of The Danville Weekly to Paris in 2007 so I could take a picture of us with the paper for Dolores. This wonderfully portable device was read cover to cover on the trip to Paris. Then by our host at our Paris hotel. And again by fellow passengers on the train to Versailles.

I have asked for a DRAFT print option on the TDW website so the articles can be quickly printed for full portability and convenient reading without laptop, notebook, netbook or handheld involved.

Mark, I feel quite guilty that I started in technology development in 1963 and supported much of the emergence of portable devices for access to information. I never realized I would somehow create generations that do not see the extreme portability of the printed word.

Thank you,


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