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How to get the younger generation interested in newspapers



How do we get the younger generation interested in newspapers? One way is to encourage them to write for their hometown newspaper.

I know this because that’s how I got into the profession. I was hired as a sports stringer by my hometown newspaper because they liked the work I was doing on the high school paper. So I got into the business, which I learned the hard way, starting as a lowly press attendant, and pretty much staying lowly my entire time there. Some people say I’m still lowly. I will admit that I’m short.

I encourage young readers to submit pieces to this newspaper, just as I have done in previous newspapers that I have edited. Some sports reporters I have worked with and mentored have gone on to bigger and better things at ESPN and Fox News. So I take the care and feeding of new generations of writers seriously.

Persons in the news business, especially the daily papers, wring their hands about the fact that young people do not read newspapers, at least of the paper pulp variety that you hold in your hands.

Obviously young people are reading something, but it’s usually something they access from their hand-held devices.

The problem, of course, is that young people don’t read newspapers because newspapers frequently don’t carry anything that interests them. Encouraging children to become columnists for their hometown newspaper also does the rest of us some potential good by producing more literate citizens. Moreover, we gain valuable insights into the point-of-view of young people. Those of you who are parents probably have quite enough of that point-of-view—thank you very much!— but the rest of us can profit by it.

That’s why I welcome Molly Davis as a columnist to the Times Advocate. She is a student at Valley Center Middle School. She has written a column continuously since she was in the first grade, if I’m not mistaken. She wrote that first column for me. Writers that young and dedicated to putting the printed word on the page are to be nurtured. This is how we will turn out a new generation of writers. If Molly sticks at it, I fully expect to see her name on the title page of a book someday.

Don’t Let Your Babies . . .

While I encourage young people to write for their local hometown newspaper— at least the ones who value the input of young people, I don’t encourage young people to get into the newspaper business the way that I did, without some sort of degree.

To paraphrase Waylon Jennings, “Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be reporters.” Get a degree first, and then decide to get into writing.

As I said, I started at the ground level and worked my way up. I skipped the college part—not by choice at first. However, the longer I was without a degree the easier it was to persuade myself that I didn’t need one.

I’m sorry I did it without a degree because it greatly complicated my life. However I am convinced that Edmund Burke was correct when he said, “example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” Am I implying that the degree would have helped me be a better reporter, writer and editor? Probably not. But it would have earned me a little respect.

In the old days the great majority of newspaper reporters didn’t have degrees. I remember what former Valley Center resident and distinguished former reporter John Kern—who interviewed Ronald Reagan for the Los Angeles Times when Reagan was leaving the governor’s office—told me. When he was in the trade most reporters in the newsroom regarded with suspicion the occasional “college boy,” who would show up to wave his degree at the old hands.

That certainly changed over the years. Especially the composition of newsrooms. They are no longer smoke-filled, dominated by profane, disheveled and disrespectful men who wouldn’t know a well-fitting suit if it bit them but who knew how to hammer out a lede on deadline and fight like fury to get the story.

Today’s newsrooms are dominated by women, although male reporters mostly still look like they run their clothes through a wood chipper first thing in the morning. And everybody has degrees.

Has this improved the quality of journalism? I’ll let others make that judgment since I’m not a denizen of a big city newsroom, but the suspender-snap- ping (when I wear them ink-stained wretch of a small town community paper office. Which is probably where I’ll be when you check up on me ten or twenty years from now.

Praise for Rorie Johnston

I was gratified to see Rorie Johnston, executive director of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, honored by Mayor Sam Abed with his Mayor’s Leadership Award. The mayor gave her the award during the February 25 State of the City celebration.

Johnston has had this job for about two years and in that time she has done a tremendous job of making the Chamber an indispensable part of the business life of the city.

I’m especially grateful for how much support and good advice she has given this newspaper as we have moved into Escondido with the goal of providing it with the hometown newspaper experience it has been lacking since the demise of the North County Times. Thank you, Rorie, for your support.



*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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