March 18 • 12:04 PM

Are we the woolly mammoths of the information age?

February 18, 2009
Karl Bayer is still newspapering. Some of you will remember Karl, former editor of the Tri-City Times. He and his wife, Anne were familiar faces in this area.

Karl and Anne left for Watervliet to run their own newspaper in 1984. A little math tells me that is 25 years, a quarter century. A milestone in the newspaper business.

Karl is what I would describe as a small town community newspaperman. And to me, being a small town community newspaperman is an honor. There are not many left.

The small town newspaper industry has changed, I suppose it was bound to. Karl, I know, understands this.

There has been a turn in our media universe, a turn in the future of small town newspapering. There used to be reporters and editors. Now there is something called online producers and multi-media coordinators. Bloggers, froggers and twitters.

What the heck!

A newspaperman was a writer. An author. They composed on copy paper, with typewriters and edited with pencils.

A newspaperman smoked at his desk. In Karl's case it was a pipe. Our office was smoky and it smelled. But it was expected to. It's what editors did, like all the others before him.

The production room and newsroom, as we liked to call them, were loud, the clattering of typewriters and real phones rang loudly.

Karl and Anne Bayer receive a State Resolution in honor of their newspaper’s 125th anniversary. Karl and Anne were former editorial staff members of the Tri-City Times before buying their own community newspaper in Watervliet. The honor was presented by State Representative, John Proos.

The newspaperman wrote the truth, chronicled life in our communities and lived to right wrongs. The newspaperman loved to challenged authority. And knew the meaning of a deadline. A newspaperman worked hard and played hard.

It was also understood, not all newspapermen, were in fact men. Don't tell Karl's wife, Anne, she isn't a our world, it was the newspaper that defined them, not gender.

The newspaperman was respected in the community. There was a mystique, a glamour that really didn't exist but that the newspaperman happily cultivated.

The newspaperman is aging, some are dying. The new media moguls have a shiny new way, providing information merely disguised as newspapering. They, I suspect, see the passing of newspapermen as both timely and just.

Karl and Anne were recently presented with a copy of a State Resolution commemorating the 125th anniversary of their newspaper, the Tri-City Record. They have owned it as I mentioned 25 years. The honor was presented to them by State Representative John Proos (D-St. Joseph). The resolution was signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, State Senator Ron Jelenek and Congressman Fred Upton.

I congratulate my friends with whom I share a love of local newspapering. It's nice to see their work be recognized. I know the dues they have paid.

My hope is we will never lose people like Karl and Anne from our small town ranks of newspapering. For there is more to be lost than warm, rosy recollections. It's not all about nostalgia you know. Community newspapers serve a valuable service to an area. No instrument will ever serve the public interest so relentlessly as the community newspaper.

Oh sure, it has its troubles, but if we pass on the ideals we were taught, the future won't be as bleak as some lead us to believe.

Community newspapering is after all, listening to readers and recording the events and thoughts of a community. Merely a mirror.

I don't think community newspapering will become the woolly mammoth of the information age. Only those who don't pay attention to the basic principles of good community newspapering.

Readers will be where the information is. And not just any information, it has to be information about the very place people live, work and play. Hometown USA.

Editor's Note: If you would like to comment on Randy's column email him at:

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