Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Historically, newspapers have gone through a lot of changes.
In the mid-19th century to early 20th century newspapers tended to have an agenda of their own. For instance, many papers were published primarily to advocate a specific policy or political approach to matters.
Dailies such as The Oregonian and the Oregon Statesman were regarded as "Republican" newspapers. We see vestiges of that political background in names such as the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Today we'd like to think that newspapers, while trying to reflect the lives of people and their activities in the community, are being published with a steadfast effort to be accurate and honest as well as readable.
The Itemizer-Observer operates without an agenda aside from seeking to further embellish the communities it serves. As a newspaper it is a participant in all manner of community activity as well as an observer and reporter of that activity.
One thing the I-O seeks to do is to tell stories about a wide range of activities and people in each issue. In doing that a lot of subjective decisions are made with which others may disagree.
In fact, everyone who buys a paper "owns" the I-O. With that purchase they have earned the right to comment. We hear the good and the not-so-good regularly. All the comments have an effect.
Since everything the paper publishes is in the public domain, it's a lot like cafeteria food or the weather -- it's a common element in a lot of people's lives and makes for good conversation. We welcome that.
The I-O is a public institution in many senses. However it isn't a tax-supported institution -- instead it's a tax-paying institution that needs revenue to continue doing its job.
We find it fascinating to hear that the nation's largest newspaper corporation, Gannett, is planning to start a new paper -- we hesitate to say "newspaper" -- in the area where the I-O is invited into thousands of homes (hundreds more this year alone).
The I-O is owned by the Denny Smith family of Salem. It is entering its third generation of publishing newspapers in smaller communities. Eagle Newspapers Inc. traces its name back to when former Governor Elmo Smith was in the weekly newspaper business publishing the Blue Mountain Eagle in John Day.
His son, Denny, graduated from Grant County High in John Day and among other things served five terms in the U.S. House. However, Denny also is a former publisher of the I-O.
We find it interesting that the big Alexandria, Virginia-based corporation finds it worthwhile to embark on a publishing venture in a community the size of ours.
While daily newspapers have been losing readers and advertisers at a heightened rate, good weekly newspapers have seen growth in readership and revenues. But even with that growth the annual revenue generated by the I-O would hardly change a thing at the Statesman-Journal.
All we can say is "Welcome to the neighborhood , Gannett. Try to be a positive force for the community while you're here."