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The best bang for your buck

Posted: Thursday, Feb 20th, 2014

When I headed off to college, my dad gave me the newspaper from the day I was born. He tucked my paper away for all those years, knowing that there was something deeper between the lines of that 15-cent, 84-page newspaper from 1976.

Apparently, in the ‘70s you could by Seersucker knit slacks for $7 or a brand new automobile called a Pacer for $3,500. There seemed to be a lot of mustaches back then, too.

A journalism professor once told me, “A newspaper will always be the best bang for your buck.” She was right.

The coupons alone in a newspaper have a better return than almost any investment out there, and who knows, you just might come across the help wanted ad you have been waiting for.

But our forefathers weren’t preoccupied with capitalism dynamics and conversion rates. No, it was about informing the uninformed and making sure the government remembers to wear underwear.

Social media was just as powerful under the flickering light of a candle during the 1700’s as it is now on a smart phone, and that notion became the first amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That group of rebels mentioned the freedom of the press first. With a few scratches from a feather’s quill, they guaranteed the relevance of an industry and created a de facto fourth estate of government, based on the wealth of its virtue.

That same journalism professor once told me, “You will never get rich doing this job.” She was right.

Maybe Ben Franklin knew that television and the internet were coming – he was a newspaper publisher, after all – but I don’t think the rest of those guys realized how mutated the media would become through the evolution of technology.

The fair and balanced bias of the free press offers up information that drives commerce and herds voters at the flicker of a television remote. We are bombarded by large network news entities that kick a dead horse all the way to the finish line.

Internet news has become a pack of wild dogs, spinning in circles and chasing down national and even global issues. And they give it to us for free.

Big-city newspapers are turning into ghost towns and the miners no longer have to dig for the gold because it’s digital and everywhere.

The newspaper industry is drowning in the flash flood of mass media, however, small-town newspapers are the only ones left riding the waves of technology’s wake.

We aren’t Fox News or CNN, we are the Lake Powell Chronicle – a small-town paper connecting the community with far fewer steps than the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, or Mayor Bill Diak for that matter.

And while the events of Page will probably never flash across the scrolling marque of big-box news outlets, the Chronicle is going to cover it all: birth announcements, the first day of school, high school sports, honor rolls, graduations, marriages, new business, old business, obituaries, and so on.

Chronicle: noun \krä-ni-kəl\: a description of events in the order that they happened.

We are the significant record of what goes on in a patch of dirt no bigger than 17 square miles, and as insignificant as that may be to an office jockey in Hollywood, to us it’s who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

The paper my dad gave me when I headed off to college is brittle and yellow. It rips easily. It is a snapshot of the world the day I showed up, and it’s the only tangible item I posses that celebrates the moment I arrived.

You won’t be handing your children a list of website links that documented the state of affairs when they were born. You’ll hand them the newspapers that recorded their existence.

We are the paper you will give your son or daughter when he or she heads off to college, and then it will be your turn to explain what Seersucker knit slacks were.

Blake Tilker takes over as editor of the Chronicle on Feb. 26.

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