Monday, January 18, 2010

Prying the print byline from the hands of an old newspaper reporter

Last week began the trial of Scott Roeder, the accused killer of a Wichita abortion doctor.  It’s the latest story I’ve covered through my courts beat that has gained national attention (strange how many national crime stories have come out of Wichita). The trial is still in jury selection so the true onslaught of national media has not yet arrived, but we’ve already been making plans on how we’ll cover the story.

But one suggestion kind of shook me.  My editors pulled me into the office and told me they wanted me to concentrate on producing for online: doing live updates on Twitter, as I had been doing for the past two years, filing behind-the-scenes notes on my blog and updating the main story each day that would go on our web site.

True, this was kind of my dream when I first started throwing myself into online years ago.  This is the future of news.  It’s where the audience is growing. I would be the lead reporter on our web site with a story on the national stage.

But I hesitated.  The old newspaper reporter of 33 years still takes pride in that print byline on the front page, above the fold.  After all, that’s when I can take the day’s 140-character dispatches from Twitter, the brief blog posts, the scratched from banging out the latest online update, and turn them into a well-written story at the end of the day.  Someone else would be doing that now with “my story.”

I was the only one who felt this way.

“Do you like working all day and all night?” my wife asked. “If they offer you help, take it.”

“Who still reads print anyway?” said my friend Emanuella Grinberg of “Your biggest audience is online, anyway.”  She should know. She's a full-time online reporter.

Of course, this is what I had been preaching on this blog, and to my colleagues for years.  I know online will eventually replace print.  But it also showed me that like others in this business. I was a little more hesitant to give up the print cycle than I would like to have admitted.

And for just a moment, I felt my age.

“Sure, no problem,” I told my editors. “I’ll do online only.”

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