In case you didn’t know it, today, April 4, is National Hug a Newsperson Day.
It’s a day you’re suppose to open your arms wide and show your appreciation to newspeople, including the owner of your local weekly newspaper.
National Hug a Newsperson Day was obviously invented by someone in the news biz. I didn’t know it existed until my two editors sent me separate emails of a press release from an organization called National Today. The first thing I wanted to do was give each of them a hug, they obviously needed one.
In the blah, blah, blah of the release it said, “Let’s face it — it can be hard to keep up with the news all the time. And that’s why newspeople are so important. We love them all, from the writers that make us look forward to reading their articles to the news anchors who are entertaining (or cute) enough to make us want to tune in every week. They all deserve hugs.”
Maybe I’m just too crusty these days, but I’m not feeling the lovin.’ That’s because it’s a tough time being in the news business.
The hours are endless, the weekly cycle of news is constant and there is always another story to be told. We play catch up with technology, teach ourselves how to use Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook — and just when we think we’ve got a grasp on social media something new comes along.
We’ve got computers that crash, reporters who crash (close to deadline) and drivers who crash the company vehicles.
We field complaints of all kinds … about the actions and inactions at city hall … about the lack of transparency with park boards, school boards and city clerks … from parents of players who think their kid’s photo is not in the paper often enough … from the town drunk who doesn’t appreciate his or her name in the police report. (I’m uncertain if towns have just one town drunk anymore.)
There are ambulances to chase, blimps to chase (not in years), even good news sources. Unfortunately it seems no one wants to go on record so we’re spending more time having to verify what’s been said, even rumored. Because one of the first things we were told at journalism school is, “If your mom says she loves you, check it out.”
It doesn’t help to have our president telling the nation that journalists are guilty of fake news. I suppose when you’re called out on some of the hateful comments Donald Trump has said, using the fake news excuse is an easy cover.
The only fake news we print appears in the issue before April Fools Day. Yes, the article about a Wilmington man protesting Illinois’ high taxes by making Hobo Hooch was untrue. Still, we had three people call wanting to participate in the Hobo Hooch tasting. One caller, a lady with a raspy voice, became silent when I told her it was an April Fool’s article.
“Well sonny you got me with that one,” she laughed. “I really wanted to try that hooch.”
It was a call that made my day and renewed my love of my job.
I work with some smart people who know and care about their community. I’m lucky to have them. My fear is that one day in the future I won’t be able to keep them because publishing a newspaper is expensive. It requires subscribers and advertisers. And it seems we have fewer of both.
Some advertisers believe social media will bring them new customers. They’re forgetting about the power of the press, that hyper-local news product that has more longevity than a here-and-gone post on social media. Social media is great for building customer loyalty, not so great for luring new customers.
I pray that newspaper advertising stays that way.
Because our product is so filled with news, people are willing to steal for it. Yep, we have a reader who weekly drops $1 in a newsrack box and takes four or five papers instead. I know it happens, I have them on video.
I won’t be expecting a hug from that person unless they want to pay me back weeks worth of stealing.
Let me finish by telling you that newspeople, at least those who print, don’t want to be hugged. We just want readers, people who appreciate the product and the effort to keep you informed. We love people who subscribe to our product. It’s the way we connect with our community, keep its pulse and believe that people care.
Keep your hug and become a subscriber. Thanks for readying.