The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why am I here?

As some of you may know, The Rapid City Weekly News recently closed its doors. I had been a columnist there since the Rapid City Journal sacked me as soon as Brad Slater was named publisher. Slater had his reasons (he didn't bother to share them with me). Our relationship was strained at times when I was a fulltime editor there. It has on occasion been strained since I left the newspaper in 1988. Apparently it was more strained than I thought. But it's his newspaper now, and I hold no grudge.

The Weekly News came to Rapid City, a child of Seaton Publications. They produced a competitive and lively publication for several years and I was proud of the association. Advertisers did not support the paper, in spite of its delivery of 23,000 papers weekly. I'll open a discussion on this later.

I used to not believe the old adage that journalists get into the business because they like to see their name in the paper.

William Allen White, the small town editor from Emporia, Kansas influenced everyone from the shoe salesman across the street (my dad) to several United States Presidents, with his acerbic look at life in America from the perspective of the prairie. In the 1920s he lamented that technology was killing the newspaper business. It had become too expensive to start up a paper and try to sell a news product. I can't find the exact quote, but it went something like: It used to be that all a man needed to get into the news business was a shirttail full of type and something to get off his chest.

White's wisdom of the 1920s and 1930s rings true today. Big corporations own newspapers and those guys with something to get off their chests are opening blogs. The weird thing is that back in White's time, the big corporations were pushing the little guys out of the business. Today, it's the little guys' blogs pushing the big corporate news organizations off the porch and attracting a new generation of news seekers into cyber space.

I have some discomfort with it still. But I believe that there is room in the 55 gallon media drum for a morsel of respectful debate, honest reportage and thoughtful criticism or satire, written in English.


Bill Fleming said...

Maybe a little larger point size on the text type Mike? (1. Type is always smaller on Macs, 2. I'm getting old.) Looking forward to the flavor of your new venture here. I assume you will set the tone you're after, and that this won't always be strictly tea and crumpets, yes? (i.e. would the style of the old Blogmore character "Big Daddy's Back" be welcome here?

Dan Daly said...

Glad to see you're back in print, or something that resembles print. Liked your stuff in the Weekly -- shame they didn't keep it going. I'll keep reading.

-- Dan Daly

Michael Sanborn said...


Type's bigger (or should be). I know it's tea and crumpets now. Plan on whisky on ice soon.