Birth notice for new chapter in local media

By Dan Bookham | Apr 04, 2012

CAMDEN — I imagine if the words I am typing are sentient beings right now they are experiencing a sense of déjà vu. The printed page they are appearing on is on the one hand brand new and yet at the same time so familiar and comfortable feeling, like a pair of refurbished Bean boots. And so it should be, given that this is a brand new newspaper venture and yet one that embraces and honors the long tradition of local print journalism in our communities. Welcome back to The Republican Journal, The Courier-Gazette, and The Camden Herald!

It is a remarkable testament to the resiliency, vibrancy, and attractiveness of our communities that just a few short weeks after all seemed lost, our small-town papers are back. What is more, the loss of VillageSoup did more than spark an idea with Reade Brower that led to the return of The Republican Journal, The Courier-Gazette, and The Camden Herald. It shook up the local media marketplace and caused a wide range of print, online, TV, and radio companies and entrepreneurs to look at our stretch of Maine with renewed interest and exciting new products. Even with the launch of these old new newspapers I don’t think we can declare this chapter of change, invention, and competition anywhere near over (and I for one am heartily glad that’s the case).

That said, before we tie everything up in a bow and declare that everything is alright for everybody, we should be mindful that there are still many people in the community who have yet to emerge from the other side of this tunnel. All change — especially abrupt change — creates challenges and adversity for some as it creates opportunities and success for others. We should never forget, even as the good news mounts, that at the heart of this issue there are still people — our friends and neighbors — who are out of work and hurting. To that end, don't assume that all of the former VillageSoup staff are going to be rehired by these papers, or that they all want to be. A situation like this often leads people to look for a change in career direction. Should you have a position and have someone apply, please consider them on their merits and don't assume that they are all set now that the papers have returned.

But at the end of the day I’ve always been an Adam Smith type of man, a believer in the genius of the free market and the power of creative destruction as espoused by economist Joseph Schumpeter. It has been shown time and again that good ideas don’t die, they mutate. I don’t think I have ever seen such an incredible case study play out up close as how the local media landscape transformed in the last few weeks, however. In a very short span of time a business and human tragedy has sparked an intriguing renaissance.

It is quite wonderful that the publication you are holding in your hand right now is back in the marketplace. Because for all the talk about the death of print, we still turn to our local papers (or online facsimiles of the same publications) for our news, for local events, for movie listings, for sports, and more. The arrival of movable type didn't kill the book (as many medieval scribes feared); the telegraph didn't kill the newspaper; radio didn't kill print; movies didn't kill theater; and TV didn't kill movies, even though they were all confidently predicted to do so. Instead, change finds its way through industries the way a river forces its way to the sea.

I am lucky enough to count eight separate magazines as members of the chamber, four of which have entered the marketplace since after the death of print was declared. We have three newspapers on the membership rolls, and we are looking forward to welcoming these newly reborn publications to the chamber fold. Obviously something is at odds with the obituary for print, and I for one couldn’t be happier being part of what is instead a birth notice for a new chapter in local media!

Dan Bookham is the executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. Visit the chamber online at www.penbaychamber.com.

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