As an old newspaperman—old enough that i prefer that term to journalist—I've been lamenting of late the decline of great American daily newspapers. The ascendance of the Internet, the decline of display and classified advertising, and a population that increasingly looks elsewhere for news have all conspired to do enormous damage to that unique business. And it is unique—mainly because of its dual reason for being. A great newspaper is a private profit-seeking enterprise that also plays a crucial public service role as the intermediary between the worlds of government, business, entertainment—you name it—and the public.
I can remember the days in my parents' house scrambling in the morning to be the first of five brothers to grab the sports section—and then pouring the cereal with the section firmly under my arm in defense against lurking siblings. In those days, even as television news was in its ascendancy, you never felt you truly grasped even the biggest story until you read about it in the paper.
It is a bit ironic, I suppose, that I chose the topic for this month's column as the result of an Internet story forwarded by a colleague. For someone who began his career in the business, the story on the newspaper industry's collapse by former Chicago Tribune managing editor James Warren as part of The Atlantic magazine's Think Again project was sad indeed. The decline of newspapers is a loss not only for those who own them and those who worked for them. I truly believe that it is a loss for us all.
Why this commentary in a magazine that focuses on distribution management? Simple. As newspapers continue their slide and devote fewer resources to news, it becomes the responsibility of magazines like this one to inform, illuminate, and explain business and public policy issues that affect our readers. As one example, as debate builds over what the nation ought to do about its highways, ports, intermodal connectors, waterways, and railroads, it is my hope that we can continue to provide news and analysis on that topic. We are fortunate to have a staff with long experience and, I believe, excellent journalistic instincts to help us achieve that.
We certainly have our own challenges. We're working hard to develop our own set of ways to reach readers online. We've begun offering digital delivery of the print magazine. Other products are forthcoming. But our core mission remains to provide readers with well-crafted stories that offer credible and useful information.
I don't expect any reader to keep DC VELOCITY tucked under an arm while getting coffee in the morning. But I do hope you continue to value its arrival on your desk, or your desktop.