May 7, 2020
I know I wrote about attending virtual meetings last week, but I’m so amazed by the technology I want to write about this week’s experiences.
While seated in this newspaper’s front office on Saturday afternoon, I attended the first electronic meeting of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper editors.
Sandra George, a former manager of the Nebraska Press Association, introduced me to the group a couple of decades ago. Others I know who belong to the association have twisted my arm and tried to get me to attend the society’s annual conferences but those meetings are never within my travel boundaries. They may be in places like Australia, Africa or Europe. Even the ones in the United States are beyond where my bicycle will take me.
But Saturday I was able to see and visit with weekly editors who live and work on three continents in four countries. While we were seated in front of computers equipped with cameras, microphones and speakers, all of our pictures were shown on a bar across the top of the computer screen. When one of us decided to speak, our computers featured a larger picture of that person. We could see the facial expressions of all participants.
Earlier Saturday I joined with members of my high school class for our weekly pandemic reunion. When classmates were talking about face masks, I slipped the one on I had taken off before the meeting began. I had hardly gotten it on when a classmate commented, “Look at Bill! He has his mask on.”
Since the Saturday session with the editors, I have gotten emails from some of my new friends.
There wasn’t a special topic other than COVID-19. The organizers wanted to provide an opportunity for people around the world who share a common work interest to get together and talk during this stressful time.
Attendees came from the United States, Canada, England and Australia.
It was interesting to learn how other countries and states are responding to the crisis. There were similarities but also differences.
While we didn’t have a participant from France, the representatives from England did reference how the French are responding to the crisis.
In this country, some people were surprised when liquor stores were classified as essential and allowed to stay open. In France smoke shops were deemed essential and allowed to stay open.
Financially the Australian newspapers seemed to be the hardest hit by the crisis, The number of newspapers in that country that have closed because of the crisis was said to be in the hundreds.
Here in Nebraska and Kansas, it appears there may be some consolidations but thus far no newspaper has totally closed though for a time it appeared this would be the final week for the Stanton Register. The owners of that Northeast Nebraska newspaper have had it on the market for several months and with no buyer stepping up a closing plan was announced. Since the announcement, a buyer has apparently stepped forward. I expect the sale will be finalized and the new owner revealed in this week’s issue.
The Stanton Register is Stanton County’s only newspaper. Stanton is a town of about 1,500 people located east of Norfolk. With a circulation of fewer than 600 copies, it is obvious the newspaper had a problem before the arrival of the pandemic. Healthy weekly newspapers generally have circulations equal to or greater than the population of the communities in which they are published.
This week the Kansas Press Association has scheduled two computer aided conversations. One was held Tuesday afternoon and another will be held Friday morning.
In this week’s Express, we are publishing a story about Deshler High School’s plan to hold a commencement service on Saturday. With the assistance of a computer program, graduates and friends will be able to attend the virtual service. Monday night the Superior Red Caps annual awards night was held via computer connections.
This afternoon (Thursday) Rita plans to lead her Bible study group while seated in front of her iPad positioned in the living room of our house. This will be the second time the group has met with the assistance of the Zoom computer program.
Sunday afternoon one of Rita’s high school friends reported her family had honored her with a birthday party. Family members had ice cream, cake and flowers delivered to her home. Then they all linked up via the internet and ate ice cream and cake and shared stories much like they would have done had they been with the honoree in person.
Those of us who participated in the editors’ meeting, were so impressed we indicated a desire to meet again. We don’t plan to limit the meeting topics to the pandemic but will expand to other topics of interest.
While there is general agreement the pandemic has added much stress to our lives. It looks it is bringing new opportunities..
When I was away from Superior attending college, my mother wrote me almost daily letters reporting on activities at the gasoline station. She reported on sales and deliveries made, bills paid, etc., so I would be up-to-date when I worked there on the weekends and vacation periods. I enjoyed her letters and they kept me current, but it would have been great to have seen my father’s face and heard his voice.
My grandparents expected regular letters from family members. If the letter was not received on the appointed day they began to worry something was wrong. They would invited family members living here to gather in their living room and listen to one side of a telephone call placed to the home of distant relative. If the call brought them bad news, I suspect they didn’t want to be alone. Having seen the introduction of the telephone, they marveled at being able to talk via telephone with someone more than 100 miles away. They would have enjoyed the modern services like Skype and Zoom.
In my early years in this business, I belonged to the National Press Photographers Association, the Society for Professional Journalists and the Mid-America Direct Marketers Association, I belonged to the first two group’s college organizations while attending Kansas State University. One of the groups even elected me as a Nebraska chapter officer. But their meetings were held in either Lincoln or Omaha. Most years I made only one of two meetings. If they could have held at least some of their meetings electronically I may not have dropped by membership.
Earlier today, I responded to a question submitted by a fellow publisher to the Nebraska Press Association. A member of the association’s Lincoln office staff was easily able to poll publishers all across the state and we could offer our advice on how to handle the problem.
Yes, siree, times are changing. Not all is for the better but I changes are.