Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

My Wyoming: A close-up look at the past (and the future) of the newspaper industry

 


My, how things have changed in my wonderful newspaper business over the past 45 years!

A week ago at this time, I was mingling with young, earnest reporters and gray-haired publishers. Plus even a few of the retired silver-haired mossback curmudgeons (like myself) who could still manage to drive across the state in the dead of winter to show up.

Cheyenne hosted the annual Wyoming Press Association convention and, as near as I could tell, it was a big success.

What struck me the most is not so much about what has changed in the 45 years that I have been attending this event, but what has stayed the same.

Back in 1970, I was a 24-year old publisher eager to prove that we knew how to practice solid journalism in our little town of Lander.

Back then I was one of the youngest people there. This year, I may have been the oldest.

The big dogs back in 1970 were Russ Stout of Rawlins, Hugh Knoefel of Worland, Bernie Horton of Cheyenne, Bob and Roy Peck of Riverton, Dave Bonner of Powell, Ron Lytle and Pat Schmidt of Lovell, Phil McAuley at the Casper Star Tribune, Milton Chilcott of Sheridan, Fred McCabe of Jackson, Jim Hicks of Buffalo, Bruce Kennedy of Greybull, Russ Allbaugh of Laramie, Chuck Richardson of Rock Springs, Mel Baldwin of Evanston, Adrian Reynolds of Green River, Gerry Bardo of Lusk, Dick Perue of Saratoga, Jack Nisselius of Gillette and Joe McGowan of the AP.

The press association was run by Nancy Shelton out of her home in Laramie.

I was so young and so new to Wyoming, it was impossible to try to figure out who owned what and where exactly their towns were.

Then there was a group of good old boys who worked for various state government outfits who invited me to join them for drinks.

So, in the bar at Little America the kid from Iowa got a lesson on how Wyoming folks drank at their annual press convention. Thanks to Ray Savage, Randy Wagner, Gene Bryan, Clyde Douglass and others, I spent the next 12 hours holed up in my room suffering from the worst hangover of my life.

I barely emerged in time for the big awards banquet Saturday night when that same foursome inquired: “Bill, where have you been?”

Never again, I vowed.

So now, four and a half decades later, many things have also remained the same as they were back in those old days. The reporters are just as inquisitive and the goal of trying to sell more advertising is just as important as it was way back when.

The need of having a strong Internet presence is a huge topic today along with the corresponding question of how in the heck can we make any money giving our product away on the net? Most progressive outfits sell advertising on their web sites and have figured out ways to sell subscriptions over the Internet.

Another big change is dealing with the constant (but incorrect) assumption that newspapers are dinosaurs.

Despite obstacles and hurdles, Wyoming‘s newspapers are strong, profitable and serving their communities well. Just about everyone that I talked with felt business was just fine, thank-you.

President of the WPA this year has been Anne McGowan of the Lander Journal. Former Associated Press writer Jim Angell is the executive who runs the WPA from its office in Cheyenne.

A staple at the annual convention is the appearance by the governor. At this venue, I have asked questions of Stan Hathaway, Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Jim Geringer, Dave Freudenthal and now, Matt Mead. Well, sometimes it still does feel the same.

Outside of the Internet issues, the biggest change in the press meeting is now that it seems like two-thirds of the participants are women. Four decades ago, I doubt if it were 20 percent.

There used to be clouds of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke everywhere in those bad old good old days. Not any more, thankfully.

I have never missed a press convention and always felt that it provided both a chance to learn new skills but most importantly, renew old acquaintances and make new ones.

Like so many statewide organizations, the WPA serves a group of like-minded and energetic people. These are folks who literally work hundreds of miles away from each other, but end up providing that similarly important product to their communities – the hometown community newspaper.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at http://www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written five books. His most recent book is “MY WYOMING 101 Special Places,” is now available for purchase.

 

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