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Views: Ramblin' Man takes a dive

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

I’m about to embark on a life-changing venture. I’m equally excited and scared.

Just after Christmas, I signed a contract to buy a newspaper. It’s a small, community newspaper in southern Illinois, and no, it’s not one that you’re holding in your hands today. I can’t say where yet because the newspaper I’m buying hasn’t announced the sale yet. I think it would be bad form to spill the news before the newspaper does.

Why would anyone buy a newspaper? Aren’t newspapers going the way of the dinosaur? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.

It’s true, the way news is delivered is changing and even small, hometown papers have to adapt to new media. And I will, too. But I think the need for news and the desire for news is stronger than it ever has been. What is news but information, and people still want information.

I won’t go into all the reasons why newspapers, in general, have been struggling for the past several years. The Internet is only part of it. But small, community newspapers provide information that is not easily found on the Internet. Where else do you find out when the Lion’s Club in your town is having a fish fry? Where else do you find pictures of your Little League champ? Where else do you find the local police report, a listing of church services, birth, wedding and death announcements – all in one,convenient location? Where else do you find a wide array of advertisements to help you decide where to buy your next vehicle?

A good, community newspaper is the voice of the community and a place where everyone in town can learn about local government and share their ideas and opinions. As corrupt as government seems to be at times, can you imagine what politics would be like if there were not independent news providers maintaining some semblance of transparency? Newspapers are as vital to our democracy today as they were when the Constitution was written.

Owning a newspaper for the sake of doing it never has been my priority. It’s not something that I particularly want to do. It’s something that I have to do.

Why? I’m a newspaper guy. It’s really about all I know how to do. And while my children now are grown, my goals have not really changed.

I approached the newspaper publisher, whose family has held the business for 75 years. I knew he had turned down other offers to sell his paper, so I convinced myself that he was just waiting for the right person to come along. And I’m the right person. That might sound like ego talking, but one has to be confident in his abilities.

Well, I may be a dinosaur – because we love metaphors. But there’s a thing about dinosaurs – we might be old and bulky, but we have very sharp teeth and ferocious attitudes.

So, starting next week, I’ll be operating without a safety net. But I’ve been in this business for 30 years now; it’s not my first rodeo. Failure is neither likely nor an option. I just hope there’s plenty of water in that pool.

• David Porter can be reached at porter@ramblinman.us.

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