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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-12-02

Life Beyond the Newspaper
Baron Sekiya started his own website covering Hawaii after being laid off from his staff job.

By Baron Sekiya, Hawaii247.com

Photo by

http://www.Hawaii247.com
On November 7th like many others in the newspaper industry I was laid-off from my job. They told me that because of the state of the economy my services were no longer needed. The daily newspaper where I had worked for 18 years decided they did not need staff photographers. They chose to go with a variety of photo freelancers, reporters carrying cameras and other staff members filling in the gaps for photo duties. That afternoon I finished editing, toning and filing my photo assignments, then brought in the newspaper's camera gear and packed my things into a cardboard box to carry out to my car.

I couldn't help but feel like one of the many laid-off autoworkers in Detroit who had lost their jobs because their companies had not prepared for the future. You see, the newspaper industry is very much like the auto industry. Automakers sold big, gas guzzling vehicles because they were the cash cow of profit. They should have prepared for the future by building cars that were more efficient like hybrids or electric vehicles but the profit margins are small with the new technologies. They chose to not invest as much into it as they should have. Now automakers are in a crunch since the cost of fuel went up and the country's economy went sour.

Newspapers are the same way. The newspaper's cash cow is print advertising. Most don't make a lot money off their websites and so they continue to count on print ads bringing in revenue to make owners and investors happy. Now with the proliferation of the Internet the print paper product is becoming like a gas-guzzling SUV. Sure, in good times it made a ton of money but the writing is on the wall and newspapers need to change.

Newspapers have reached a dangerous fork in the road. Do they create an advertising model for websites which will destroy the value of their print product? >From what I've seen newspapers have been slow to change and, like the automakers, they are or soon will be in dire trouble.

The day after I lost my job I went out and took photos of a festival happening in town. I figured it would be good to act like it was a normal workday and the routine might be good for me. I tried shooting some photos for stock and possible sales to another publication. But quite quickly it became a depressing exercise as I had no real purpose for the images. I couldn't even tell people where the photos would appear or who I was shooting for.

After two dark days I tried to think rationally about my role as a photojournalist. As an Internet junkie I knew that because of the web I consumed more news than before via stories, photos, graphics and videos. How could an industry that had an audience with such a hunger for content be in such dire trouble and laying people off? A light bulb went off in my head. The problem wasn't the Internet, the problem was the printing press.

Shipping tons of newsprint and ink to Hawaii, operating a printing press, delivering newspaper copies, then customers driving old newspapers to recycle centers to be shipped off somewhere to be recycled into new newsprint or perhaps toilet paper (which can't be replaced by the Internet) seems crazy. This was a lot of fuel burned and trees being added to the mix with recycled paper. It is bad for the environment and especially bad for delivery of news content to a news hungry world. In desperate measures to fund the increasingly costly money pit of a printing press and its product, newspapers shrank news holes, laid-off staff, reduced news department budgets and have put a terrible stress on editorial staffs.

Photo by Carly Forsht

Photo by Carly Forsht

Baron Sekiya
What if a newspaper could be created without the paper product attached to it? Without the waste of natural resources and the delay of content delivery. It was then that I decided the way to go was to create my own product. It took me one week to create a website, one week to stuff some content onto it and turn it on. I didn't do it by myself as I had other journalists and friends who have assisted me and encouraged me when I told them about my idea. Some of these people live thousands of miles away from me, some I've never met in person but all are rooting for me and the idea. On November 21st I flipped the magic switches to turn www.Hawaii247.com on to the world. I've had a bunch of hits from my post on the SportsShooter.com message boards and I thank you all for your interest.

As for newspapers, news isn't dying, it's the 'paper' that's dying. Journalists want to work, consumers want news content and businesses want effective ways to reach consumers. The tipping point has arrived with the proliferation of computers and the Internet. I know the real question everyone wants to know is, can a business model fit the new journalism model? I've thought about this for over 10 years regarding both the editorial and advertising side of an online only model and although I won't give away my whole game plan here I will say that that printing presses will become more of a liability than an asset to news organizations. TheChristian Science Monitor will cease their daily print edition in April 2009. They're preparing for the future, is your company really doing so?

As for me, I'm not 100% certain what the future will hold. I know I've given hope to other journalists and people in the community for delivering news content in a modern, more efficient way. And when you hear about the thousands of autoworkers being laid-off, think about the parallels with the newspaper industry and have some empathy for people who have worked hard at their jobs.

As for that car I loaded with the cardboard box containing 18 years of newspaper work? I drive an SUV. People will always want to buy SUVs just like people will always want to buy newspapers, but the technology needs to be modernized and companies need to change.


(Baron Sekiya is the founder and editor of Hawaii247.com. You can view his new project at: www.hawaii247.com.)

Related Links:
Baron's member page

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