On Thursday, the World announced a metered model — not a paywall, all the web folks have told me — will go up on April 4. We’ve known it was coming in the newsroom, but we just announced it after some kinks were worked out.
Of course, this brought on tons of newspaper-bashing, which is to be expected, especially from bloggers and smaller papers who don’t bring in the kind of advertising volume that we do. The family who owns the World has owned it since 1917. That family has resisted the urge — like so many other newspapers couldn’t — to sell out to corporate newspaper conglomerates. They’ve remained in Tulsa. Yes, they’ve prospered, succeeded, but they’re an Oklahoma-based company, still in Oklahoma, still keeping our tax dollars in Tulsa.
Isn’t that the mission, the core, the foundation, for “Shop Local?” Isn’t that truly what “I Heart Tulsa” is all about?
Yet here come the haters. The same hippies (and I’m not bashing hippies, I spent 10 years in Tahlequah with REAL hippies) who print “I Heart Tulsa” on their foreign-made T-shirts and coffee cups are now calling for the World’s head because we have the audacity to try to make some money off of what we do. Let me ask you this — would you give your hemp bracelets away for free? Your objets d’art? Your vinyl collection? Your concert tickets? Your pointy-eyed glasses frames? Your skinny jeans? Your vitriol?
OK, backing off a bit — I understand, it’s hard to give something away for free for five years and then say, “Sorry, you gotta pay for this now.” But truly, it’s a quality product. It’s not the same as it was in 2005, and those who run the paper know it. We were part of the Wild West of the Web in 2005, scuttling around like tumbleweeds, trying to find our place. We learned a lot, and now we’re getting somewhere. We’re not perfect.
And the management of the World have made some strides within to ensure that it gets better. Our new news editor is probably the most committed, dedicated, progressive thinker I’ve ever known. We’re all operating under new guidelines, and it’s not the same World that it was even a month ago. Sure, I hate layoffs. I hate saying goodbye to friends and colleagues. But I have to hope — for the sake of my college degree, my future, the love of my career — that something’s going to work. I have to believe that people will realize that the printed word, printed either on paper or on a webpage, is necessary for quelling graft and corruption, giving parents something to be proud of when their kid is featured on a Scene or Sports page, or following up on business and commerce. I have to believe that what I went to college for, the craft I’ve spent all these years perfecting, is worth something.
If that makes me non-progressive in your mind, I’ll stay here in my rut. I’m getting older, and as much as I love free enterprise, peace and love and organic gardening, I know there are more important things in the world. That’s why I got into journalism. I also know that money is supposed to be earned, that what you do isn’t supposed to be given away for free. That’s capitalism. And it’s NOT why I got into journalism. It’s why people start newspapers. I can’t discredit them that.
Reading over blogs and comments on Facebook and our still-free site, you’d think we publish a high school newspaper. Someone on Facebook even said that (on the wall for This Land Press’s Facebook page, a really cool little publication that’s now just showing it hates the World… sad. I thought you were going to keep some credibility) high school newspapers were better.
Thanks, my college degree from Northeastern — another place that keeps its tax dollars in Oklahoma — thanks you for that. My 15 years experience thanks you for that. My 100 co-workers, many of whom have tons more experience, families, part-time jobs and mortgages — thank you for that. The minutes I wasted this week perfecting every sentence I came in contact with — guess that was a waste of time, since it’s not better than a high-school newspaper, eh? I wish you folks were a minority of thinkers. It’s really, really easy to bash a newspaper when you don’t even read it, isn’t it? When was the last time you actually read our product, dissenters? You get mad about something you read, or deem it “too hard” or “too time-consuming” and turn your back on a product that’s been around for 106 years? Who’s fault is that?
Do you realize when you’re insulting a newspaper, you’re insulting everyone in it? All those who’ve worked all these years to report the news, print the sections, ensure the color pictures look glossy and perfect every morning? Run the presses, sweep the floors, sell the ads, write the classifieds — A lot of people go into making a newspaper. And most of us are pretty blue-collar.
Guess what? It’s not an easy job. I’ve worked in news, sports and Scene. Sports is by far the hardest job. Because of our new strategies, my hours have changed again. We’re short-handed because of illness, the layoffs and other issues. I’ve worked the 4:30-1 a.m. shift the last two days, helping sports and news. Last night, I remembered the thrill of late-night deadline as I watched the final minutes of an Oklahoma City Thunder game. I was telling the guy in charge of sports, “You’re going to have to go without it. They’re going to take more than we have to finish this game.” It comes down to decisions made in 30 seconds. And you know why we waited? Because we wanted all our readers to know the final score. We pushed until the last moment we absolutely could, then when the game didn’t end, found another story, laid it onto the page, read it, cut it, put a headline on it, and a note apologizing for the Thunder score not being in the paper and to go to our website to find the score. In less than a minute.
If you don’t think we love our readers, you don’t know how hard we work. I don’t claim overtime at the World. Some weeks are slow, and the grind isn’t as hard. I go home early some days. But mostly, I don’t. For example, during the NCAA Tournament, you bet I worked an 10 extra hours. That was a drop in the bucket compared to some.
I’m not saying, “Pity us for working hard.” I’m not saying you have to agree with the metered model. But you do have to understand that my newspaper is a Tulsa-based business, one that’s been around a lot longer than the current crop of downtown businesses, the ones who are finger-pointing the most. We have the potential of being partners with the younger crowd, if they’d get off their soapboxes and high horses long enough to play nice.
My question is this: Why wouldn’t you pay $12 or so to know what’s going on in your city? You say you want to make such an investment in it, help out one of its largest employers. Practice what you preach.
And get educated before you start saying everyone else isn’t as smart as you. Read the paper. See what we have to offer. If you have comments, want to tell us what we can do, CALL US. Let us know. We can’t make it better without some feedback. Get onto the World’s Facebook page and leave a comment. Don’t hide behind someone else’s page or anonymity. Ask for what you want, and we’ll try to give it to you. Don’t complain about the content if you haven’t made your voice heard.