There isn’t much news anymore that stops me dead in my tracks.
It’s that way, I’m sure, with a lot of us as we get older and have seen a lot.
But when I became apprised of the impending closing of the Youngstown Vindicator, I was floored, speechless, numb. The daily newspaper, as announced last weekend, will cease publication in less than two months, at the end of August.
The irony of it all is that the news came almost simultaneously with the paper’s celebration of its 150th anniversary. So it was a birth and a death all in one.
For those of us in the newspaper business, it is a sickening feeling. The industry has changed drastically since we all got into it years ago, and it has been hard for these papers, which did things one way – with much success – for years, to suddenly have to remake themselves just to try to keep up. Change is hard. That’s why we all do it begrudgingly personally and professionally.
Sometimes, as in the case with the Vindicator, and in an increasingly – and alarmingly – number of other cases, the change has been too little, too late to stop the bleeding.
I am a dinosaur in that I still buy daily newspapers. I like the feel of a newspaper in my hand. I am a book guy, too, instead of picking up a tablet or kindle.
The other people I see buying newspapers are all older and gray-haired like me. I joke with them in line as we wait to make out purchases and say we could start an AARP convention.
Indeed, young people are getting their news in a different way, if they’re getting it at all. I sometimes worry that what happens of noteworthy value in the world – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally – goes unnoticed by that part of the population. It doesn’t make them bad people, it’s just a shift in habits.
Because of that, almost everyone I know in the business has a constant nagging fear that if it can happen at one paper, then it can happen elsewhere, and someday sooner rather than later, their job – or the entire paper – will be lost, fading into history. That’s no way to work but it’s the reality of the world in which the newspaper industry is now operating, and will be for the foreseeable future, if not for good.
The loss of any media entity, especially a longstanding one, is the absence of a friendly, trusted and knowledgeable voice, a conduit in the community that informs residents of everything that’s going on around the corner and down the street, including births and deaths, crimes and good needs, the winners and losers in athletic competition and the thoughts and opinions of those perceived to be in leadership positions, and deep thinkers.
Who will tell those stories in the Youngstown area once September rolls around and the Vindicator is no more?
That’s a good question, with no good answers. Will somebody step up and fill the Vindy void? Will there be a new media source? That remains to be seen. These are, in essence, uncharted waters, since the Vindicator has been in existence since a few scant years after the end of the Civil War.
Then there’s the overall business impact that will be felt – the loss of a company and the jobs that go with it – in a Mahoning Valley region that has already witnessed enough setbacks like that, the most recent before the Vindy’s demise being the shuttering of the huge GM plant in Lordstown in March.
You don’t have to be an auto worker or a newspaper person to be affected by that in the interconnected business/economic grid of that area.
It’s a sad time – a troubling time, a scary time, a dangerous time, an important time.