Newspapering is a great career

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the New Ulm Civic Center, talking to 10th grade students from the area about careers in newspapers.

Actually, most of the time I waved to the kids as they rushed over to the Citizens Bank booth to play Plinko, or lined up at the BIC?booth to put on funny costumes and get their pictures taken for posters, or waited to try out the heavy equipment simulator at the MR Paving Booth, or the robotic display at South Central College.

There are a lot of exciting careers to look at around New Ulm. A lot of them, at first glance, look a lot more exciting than newspapers when you’re 16.

But that’s where you’re wrong, kids!

What can be more exciting than telling someone’s story to thousands of people every day? The stories may be good or bad, but they are important. They may inspire people, amuse them, or draw sympathy. They may rouse community spirit and pride, or community action.

They may put the reader in someone else’s shoes for a bit, which should create understanding.

I’ve been in the newspaper business a long time, and all that time there have been people predicting that the end of newspapers was near. Back in the early 1970s, when I was studying journalism at the College of St. Thomas. (It was only a college then, not a university. That came later, along with admitting women. This was only a couple of years removed from the days of room-sized computers that couldn’t do nearly anything that a modern cell phone can do.

But there were predictions then that some day – some day – people were going to have computers IN?THEIR?OWN?HOMES! And they would be able to read the news RIGHT ON THE SCREEN!

Yeah, right, we all said.

Well, over the years technology finally caught up with those predictions, and then some. No one predicted the internet, the abilities of smart phones, or the use of social media to spread news virally through the blogosphere. It took a long time, but we are past the point that was predicted when I?was in college.

Newspapers are changing in their delivery systems. You won’t find many papers these days that don’t have online versions, that don’t offer breaking news as it happens. Many larger papers have video studios where reporters and editors can sit and talk about issues, or do interviews.

But one thing that isn’t going to change is the need for story telling and good, solid reporting. Whether it is on a printed page, or a computer screen, whether it is text or video, people are going to want to know what’s going on, and know that the source of the information they see is reliable. Newspapers are continuing to do that, and will do it in the future, whether the stories are printed on pages or uploaded to a server.

Any kid who is looking for a career that impacts the lives of people and makes a difference in their community could do a lot worse than newspapering.

I did talk to several students on Wednesday, and had a good time doing it. I hope some of them will look into the prospect of journalism and communications, be it papers or magazines or broadcast. There will always be a need for it.