A couple questions we often get: Will there be newspapers for much longer? Will there be an Appeal-Democrat for much longer?

1. I'm not sure there will always be newspapers. But I'm starting to think there might be.

To be sure, I think there will always be news services. I'm not sure how their product (news and feature reporting obtained through enterprise rather than by copying what someone else has published) will be delivered and marketed.

Surely news operations will continue to transition to digital formats.

But then again, 15 or 20 years ago, when we were really starting to mess around with this Worldwide Web thing (and back when I was younger and knew more than I know now) I predicted that we'd be shutting down printing operations pretty quickly. I gave it about 20 years and we'd be delivering the news solely via the Internet.

Well ... there have been some major newspapers that switched to digital-only format. But it's far from a trend. In fact, there seems to be some resurgence of interest in paper and the vast majority of newspaper outfits are still publishing on paper. It's not just because it's the traditional and entrenched mode.

It's because customers like it that way.

The newspaper business has never stopped evolving. It will continue. It's been driven largely by technology. I'm not sure why, and I'm not unhappy about it, but the technology hasn't driven us as far as fast as we thought it would.

So, news services? Yup, always. Newspapers (emphasis on paper)? For a good long while, yet, I'm sure. Despite all our bragging about how connected we are, a lot of us still like the crinkle of paper in the morning with our coffee. News on paper isn't really broken ... so it will be around a while, yet.

2. Yup, I think there will be an Appeal-Democrat for a long time to come. There will be more changes. This news service, like all others, will go through some more reorganizing.

The industry as a whole is sort of clawing and clinging until the right combination is struck and we really hit stride again. But that's OK -- it makes us think and adjust. Some papers are starting to see growth again.

I'm confident in our operation and in our market. Our citizens are very interested in participating in the community, and information is one of the keys to success. We have an important role to fill and we intend to do so.

Coming up: We're investing a good deal in new computer hardware and software. The gear has been delivered. The guy with the technical expertise will be here next week to start setting it all up. It's an exciting development for us in the newsroom, the advertising department, the business office, and the creative services department. We'll have more computing capacity and we'll be able to do more with a lot less fuss.

Stick around. We intend to.

Bonus Point: One other thing. I've never been more sure that there's an important role for news services such as ours to play.

Without a news service, organizations, institutions, boards, politicians, businesses, and legal systems ... they'll all ask themselves, "what should we tell people?" And most of the time they'll decide "nothing."

A news service will ask "what do people need to know?" And we'll do what we can to get the answers.

That's a big difference. An important one. We're on a mission. Always will be.

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