By M.E. Sprengelmeyer
The Communicator, Santa Rosa, NM
The future of print is in print.
Maybe you’ve heard that before, because I’ve only said it a few thousand times – each time somebody has tried to tell me that printed newspapers are dead in the internet age.
They say we’re an anachronism, that owning a newspaper these days is like owning a buggy whip factory in the era of the horseless carriage.
I still believe, so I’ll say it again. The future of print is in print.
To this day, newspapers have a community-building power that the fractured, scattershot, virtual online media never will have.
Online, there’s such a multitude of distractions, such an amusing hodge-podge of different websites, different voices, different rabbit holes, that no two people – not even next-door neighbors – are likely to start the week with the same set of information. Online readers make their own choices about what to see and what not to see.
Choices are a good thing, but it does lead to self-segregation in the virtual world, with liberals hanging out with liberals, conservatives hanging out with conservatives, sports fans hanging out with sports fans, cat fetishists hanging out with cat fetishists. And even if people are next-door neighbors in the real world, they don’t necessarily speak the same language when they start talking about the state of the world.
Stodgy as some of them are, local newspapers connect one neighbor to another, giving folks a common set of information, ideas, images, opinions and terminology to begin their conversations and debates. Next door neighbors still can — and definitely do — disagree over what it all means, whether this column or that column was full of aforementioned bunk. But at least they’re starting in the same place, speaking the same language about that thing they saw when their fingers were getting stained by the ink on page B2.
Newspapers have a strong place in the future, around the world and here in Guadalupe County, too. But they must be in strong hands.
That is why, eight years, three months and one week since I took over as the third publisher of The Communicator, I’ve decided that the best way to preserve this community institution well into the future is to step aside at the end of this month and proudly turn over this newspaper to a seasoned pro with a great mind for journalism and the business side, too.
Starting in December, Tom McDonald will become the fourth owner in the nearly 35-year history of the newspaper, following in the footsteps of founding publisher Silver Chavez, Yolanda and Jesus Roybal, and yours truly (who secretly refers to himself as Michael E. Sprengelmeyer, not M.E.).
Tom is well known in New Mexico newspaper circles. An Arkansas native, his long journalism career includes eight years as editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic, a stint leading the Roswell Daily Record as editor and service to newspapers around the state as the founder of Gazette Media Services and its Community News Exchange.
Tom didn’t answer some “for sale” ad. I specifically sought him out when I reached a few humbling realizations about myself.
For starters, I am a journalist first, second, third and fourth. The business side is a distant fifth. And in an era when even some loyal, longstanding advertisers have been making decisions (which I fully respect) to take their ad dollars elsewhere, it takes someone with the know-how and energy for the business side to keep the paper on solid ground.
I’ve never been the perfect person for that role. I’m more journalist than capitalist. I’d rather be covering a big story up the block. What’s more, I’ve been hobbled by health issues and except for two weeks off for hip surgery have not had a proper vacation in 430 weeks. I’m running out of gas.
The biggest reason is a family reason. About a month ago, when the newspaper’s revenue picture was looking cloudiest, when I was feeling worn out from a tough deadline, when nothing seemed to be going so well, my mom called to say that, oh, by the way, she might need a very serious surgery. My heart sank. I had already missed out from her last big medical scare. Now this? No. What’s more important than a newspaper folly? Family is a whole lot more important. A couple weeks passed and mom found out she could put off the surgery. But it was a wake-up call that I can’t continue putting this awesome adventure in community journalism ahead of my mother, my two sisters, my uncles, my aunts and all those friends who’ve stopped inviting me to visit because I never have time.
I am so proud of everything that our little team has accomplished together at The Communicator. But now the same crew – Michael, Davy, Sara, Adria, Drew, Hogan, Sonny, Aric and more – will get to break in a new publisher and teach him how we’ve won three straight General Excellence Awards in state competition.
Maybe the paper won’t be exactly the same. Tom will have his own vision, his own direction starting the first week in December – when he’s hoping to pull me out of retirement to cover a Santa Rosa Lions football championship. He’ll have a lot to learn, just like I did, and over time his paper will get better and better, following the expectations of the opinionated community that it serves.
He needs your help. He needs the support of advertisers who are smart enough to realize that only a newspaper can boast of touching the vast majority of households within its coverage area – and former residents who want to stay plugged in to their hometown, too.
Get ready to meet Tom next month. He’s a good friend, a great guy, and he is absolutely committed to keeping this newspaper as Guadalupe County’s conversation starter well into the ink-stained future.
The future of print is in print.
Author: M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Originally printed in Santa Rosa Communicator,
Reprinted here by permission of:
Gazette Media Services
Community News Exchange
ORP Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Tom McDonald in this new venture/adventure. He is a journalist to the core. We wish for him the greatest success!