Key anniversaries align with National Newspaper Week
I’ve been writing for newspapers, if you include student publications, since I was a junior in high school. I can’t count how many stories I’ve written about people, places, and events through those years.
As it happens, newspapers have their own stories to tell, but newspapers have never been very good about blowing their own horns. National Newspaper Week is designed to provide newspapers an opportunity to do a little of that.
Perhaps you’ve heard. This week, October 4-10, is National Newspaper Week. Or perhaps you haven’t heard. As I said, newspapers aren’t very good at blowing their own horns.
The theme of this year’s observance is “America Needs Journalists.” That slogan has been true since the nation was founded, and it’s no less accurate today. Some journalists have become celebrities in recent years, thanks to the popularity of television newscasts. Their names are as well-known as movie stars and pop musicians, but their work is much more important.
No less important are the journalists who work in less visible positions. They aren’t covering the White House, the state legislatures, or international events, but their work is just as vital to democracy. They represent the general public at meetings of local government while the rest of us are working or busy with our own personal activities. They are documenting what is happening in our communities — our schools, our law enforcement agencies, and our local governing bodies. They are writing about people in our area whenever they are recognized for achievements, succeed in education or business, and contribute to a better way of life in our hometowns.
While editor of the Brownwood Bulletin, I would periodically speak to groups about the history of journalism in the United States in general, and Central Texas in particular. I would observe that during a career that spanned from about 1970 to about 2010, I witnessed more changes in the ways journalists do their jobs than the industry had seen during the two centuries before I came along. The rate of change has only accelerated in the past 10 years.
While the tools available to journalists — and especially to newspapers — have blossomed, and as habits of readers have continually evolved, the importance of having journalists in the field gathering stories has never changed.
Accordingly, I reflect on an anniversary that those of us who have worked at the Bulletin through the years have always marked on our calendars — October 15. That was the day in 1900 that the Brownwood Bulletin went from a weekly product to a daily publication. In recent years, it started being published three times each week, an acknowledgement of the changing times and ways readers can find their news. That’s coded language for electronic media.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches are discovering similar new ways to minister to even greater numbers of people. In the business world, newspapers have been exploring online opportunities for two decades now. News of the death of newspapers is premature. Fewer readers may be relying on a printed product, but readership has grown thanks to websites and social media platforms.
Finally, there’s a second anniversary I should mention. While I started working part-time at the Bulletin in the fall of 1969, it was actually a college internship. It wasn’t until January 1970 — 50 years ago this year — that I was hired as an actual staff member.
I chose to attend Howard Payne largely on the possibility of such a “real-world” situation. Other universities also had campus newspapers, but my mentors in the industry told me to get a bachelor’s degree if I felt I must, but I would never learn the business without getting a job. I envisioned my career would take me to larger cities, but I can’t complain with how it worked out.
With Howard Payne observing its Family Reunion this weekend, in lieu of the 2020 homecoming, I must express my thanks to the university for bringing me to Brownwood and to this newspaper for the opportunities offered.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “tgif” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.