Why we do what we do…

Sunday marked the end National Newspaper Week and for those of us in the field of print journalism I hope it was spent considering from where we have come and to where we are going.

To the casual observer it seems that newspapers are on the way out, quick to be replaced by personal handheld and Internet technologies that can update users on news worldwide in real-time. Papers in large markets report a downturn in advertising revenues and many mid-sized and small town newspapers are either going to a purely Internet-based format or shutting their doors forever.

Well, it might just be the bluster of a newspaperman unwilling to give up his livelihood, but I think any reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I can’t speak for any other outlet, but I can say that the Henderson Daily News has already given a warm welcome to our new Internet overlords. Subscriptions for our e-edition continue to increase and our web traffic has never been higher. We maintain both a Facebook and Twitter presence, and have plenty of other things coming down the road to provide our readers with award-winning news coverage.

At the same time, I’m not a doe-eyed idealist. These are hard times right now, and they stand to get harder. As much as we’ve seemed to ride out the storm so far, many of our colleagues are still being tossed asunder.

Nationwide many newspapers are experiencing declining readerships, revenues, and staffing cutbacks. In just the last five years 14 metropolitan papers have closed. The ones that survive often subsist only by cutting costs to the bone, a casual glance around the offices of the HDN illustrates this reality all too well.

Irrespective of how the economics of this industry ebb and flow, I think there is one saving grace that will keep us in business for many years to come: people will always want to know what’s happening in their community.

Facebook is great for breaking a story and you can even sometimes find something vaguely resembling the truth on a local message board. But real journalism doesn’t come from someone in their pajamas with an Internet connection and an axe to grind, it comes from professional journalists who are committed to reporting the facts of a matter and are trained in the conventions of our field.

Not only that but a sincere affection for our customers, who are also our neighbors.

Hey, I can give credit where credit is due. The Tyler and Longview papers have a far deeper bench of talent than we do, and the Dallas and Houston papers even more so. But none of them are as committed to the people of Henderson and the greater Rusk County area as the Henderson Daily News.

According to a new study released by the Pew Research Center, local newspapers are still the most utilized sources of information for community matters. Although TV news is often cited as the most popular source for local information in general, Pew finds people are mostly watching for immediate concerns such as weather, breaking news, and traffic.

Even when TV newscasts do deign to cover our local civic occurrences or scandalous crimes, the medium doesn’t allow for the same depth of reporting. The bigger outlets might have a “cup of coffee” in Rusk County when the opportunity or mood strikes them but we live and breathe here.

If there’s a murder somewhere out in the county or a 10-car pileup near the traffic star, you might see one of the big boys pay us a visit. But for the news and events that happen here on a day-to-day basis, we want you to read about it in the Henderson Daily News.

So now, in the midst of this “National Newspaper Week” let me echo the sentiment that we are, and hope to remain, your No. 1 source for local news.

That is why we do what we do.

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