Next month will mark my 25th anniversary working in the newspaper business. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I took a deep breath and walked through the back door of The Wake Weekly as that paper’s newest reporter.
A lot has changed in a quarter century. I suspect that’s probably true in a lot of businesses. In those early days, we put out one paper a week. We wrote stories on DOS-based computers with black screens and green letter and we designed pages by cutting the text out, applying a layer of melted wax on the back and literally sticking it on the page. Color photographs weren’t an option, but darkrooms for developing our film were a requirement for any newspaper.
I used to joke with my family that I had gone to college so I could get a job cutting out shapes from construction paper and putting them together like a puzzle.
There was no commercial Internet. There certainly was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. That newspaper was the primary source of news for the people who lived in our coverage area.
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When I came the News & Observer to work for its community newspaper in eastern Wake County, we published one edition a week and we had a website that hadn’t been updated in a couple weeks. The changes since them have been remarkable.
The print edition that came out on Wednesday marked the beginning of a new wave of changes we are making not only to our print product, but to our electronic efforts as well.
Why all the changes, you ask?
Simply put, people don’t consume news and information today the way they did 25 years ago.
People aren’t generally willing to wait a week to find out if the guy in that car crash they drove past lived or died. They don’t want to wait five days to find out if Knightdale High School won the football game Friday night. And people don’t necessarily want to get all their news and information from words written on a page. They want to see what the news is. That means strengthening our photo report and providing you with more videos that help tell a story.
I’ll be honest. It’s a lot of work. It’s challenging. But it’s also fun and it’s the right move for us to make to serve you better. We have gotten a lot out of our engagement with readers through our website and through social media. You give us a better idea of what kinds of stories interest you and which ones really don’t.
We have also found that you like communicating with us through social media. Whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter, you can share your news and information with us in a way that you’re already using. And when something is easier, we are all more likely to do it. And those social media tools allow us to get news to you more quickly and we are giving you the news through the same medium you’re already on.
The changes we’ve made also improve the appearance and readability of our news and information on tablets and phones. Those changes may seem subtle and, almost inside-baseball, but they are important because a lot of people like to get their news and information in shorter bites on their electronic devices when they have a minute or two between tasks. And if that’s the way more of our readers want to get their news, it makes sense for us to make that experience as simple as possible.
What I hope for from these changes we’ve made is that you will find the Eastern Wake News a more vital part of your day whether you read us in print, on your telephone, on your laptop; whether you learn about news from the print newspaper, the website or Twitter and Facebook. And I hope we will hear from you about what you think. Do you like the changes? Is there something you don’t like? Let me know.