The next generation of newspaper publishers will meet during GAC

Sep 15, 2011

By Ossie Bladine

It’s tough seeking a career that is evermore deemed part of a dying industry. The cultural relativity—and the word itself—of newspapers is almost an anomaly these days. How often do we in the newspaper business get asked the question from peers, readers or bystanders, “So, do newspapers have a future?” I get it a lot. Especially because I’m a young person in the industry. I tend to begin my answer with a short, exhalation of breath.

Being in the grey area of maybe becoming a next generation newspaper journalist, editor, publisher, owner, or combination of the above is exciting. It is also frustrating, confusing and at times gut wrenching. This summer, I’m hoping to meet some other young people who are interested in continuing the rich tradition of American newspapers.

I can only speak truly on the subject from my personal experience. I was born into a newspaper family. My first job was as a paperboy. Through childhood I was often asked, “So, are you going to continue on the tradition,” by friends of my grandparents. (Like I even knew what to say as a 10 year old—I have a slightly better answer now that I’m 25, but not too much.) As it’s said, I have ink in my blood. I still have many, many questions to be answered about the whole shebang. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of taking on such a unique challenge. And if it comes to it, going down with the ship in a glorious bliss sounds pretty romantic. But, things aren’t that dire, no matter how many people question me about my use of newspaper time.

As part of this year’s National Newspaper Association Government Affairs Conference, the NNA Board has had the foresight to schedule for a group of next generation journalists and publishers to meet in our nation’s capital and discuss, well, whatever we want. This inaugural meeting, I believe, will be more about the gathering. Young people interested in any aspect of the future of newspapers are welcome. But as chair of the committee, I hope to meet a few like-minded young individuals struggling with the questions I have.

Any progressive dialog, finding sense of identity or worthwhile networking between young newspaper minds will be a bonus. But of course, I expect that bonus to be realized.

But back to the question at hand: Can newspapers survive in an Internet-driven world? I give two answers. First: It’s been done before (radio, TV, blah blah…). Second: It’s all about product and competition. The Internet cannot produce a newspaper—perhaps something like it, but not it. And while the Internet has spent all its time figuring out what its own identity, usefulness and worthiness is, newspapers have spent an equal amount of time learning to compete with it, adapt to it, and still maintain its own identity. Slowly but surely, people realize that newspapers have more to offer to Internet business than first believed. Let’s come together and plan the future.

Or, if all else fails, let’s get to know each other before the Titanic sinks. It’ll make for great festivities.

Ossie Bladine is a fourth generation member of Oregon’s Bladine publishing family, owners of the McMinnville News-Register and other media businesses. He is chairing the Next Gen program at NNA’s Government Affairs Conference July 20-22 in Washington. For more information on the conference go to GAC.