Saturday, June 20, 2009

Farewell to our daily newspaper - The Phoenix

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

-- Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Friday June 19, 2009 marks the demise of our daily newspaper in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Beyond the need to decide if another newspaper will fill the void as we have our morning coffee, is the harsh realization that we no longer have a daily venue for the local news.

Lately, the Phoenix, as well as many other newspapers world-wide, suffered readership ills due to the instantaneous availablity of news from many sources via the internet, 24 hour per day cable television news, and yes, blogs.

Also factoring into the closing of many newspapers is the chaotic economic downturn which translated into less available monies to maintain standards once prized in an industry completely defined by the journalism profession.

Several years ago, the editors of the Phoenix invited fellow bloggers, Ken Buckwalter and Jeff Senley, and me to their conference room for a round table discussion on the future of blogging and newspapers.

When I received the telephone call from the editor, no bells or sirens clanged an alarm of impending doom for the Phoenix, I just had a small sense of surprise. After all, we are a small community, and these are just small local blogs. My colleagues in this cyber world endeavor had no desire or thought of competing with a newspaper for readership. Rather we were conduits for items we individually were either concerned with or decided were worthy of attention, but our activity caught the attention of the Phoenix.

Little did we know during our discussion that our blogs would outlive the once mighty and influential daily Phoenix newspaper.

Having years ago worked at the Phoenix, which was then the Daily Republican, I first became intrigued with the collection and assignment of news articles. Which were deemed headline news stories, which were relegated to "below the fold", and the all-consuming politics inherent in every decision. I respected those reporters and editors who sought out the stories, wrote them, and demanded excellence from correct spelling and sentence construction to the ebb and flow in an article.

I've wondered recently how they would view the turn of events.

I suspect many, if not all, would be angry and mortified over the loss, and sad, too.

The end of an era.

Phoenixville may be a very small borough, only 3.5 or 3.8 miles in circumference, but we have many little fifedoms within our borders, all requiring constant public scrutiny. I can almost hear ghostly voices from the past declaring, from our borough council and school board, to the CDC, revitalization and blue ferris wheels, the tax paying public deserves to know the happenings in the Phoenixville area.

Tomorrow brings us the first weekly Phoenix.

I spoke briefly to the new editor this evening and I detected already, a sense of pride in her voice. A sense of accomplishment on this new beginning.

Make it so.

Make it so good, Editor Leann Pettit, that the local decision makers not only welcome your attention but also quake in their boots when they hear the questions of your reporters.

Make it so worthy, Ms, Pettit, that the readers deluge you with prideful complements.

And, please, in all that you do, make your focus on OUR paper, The Phoenix, so perhaps one day it will rise again.