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Woster: The news is worth your while, in whatever form it's delivered

In digital times, news is, well, always. If it happens, there’s a good chance you’ll know about it almost immediately, depending on how discerning you are about choosing your news sources.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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After I left the Sioux Falls newspaper and a 40-year reporting career, I applied at a state department, where an interview question caught me by surprise.

“Why should we hire an old dog like you?’’ the department head asked. The question, touching on age, is the sort of thing people don’t ask these days. But I’d known the guy interviewing me for a long time. We’d always had a cordial relationship — as cordial as can exist between a news reporter and a news source. Besides, the fact was, I was going on 65 years old. I wasn’t offended.

I said something like, “Because I can put together concise, accurate, understandable communications as quickly as anyone you’ll ever find. And I can learn new tricks.’’ I might have been bragging a bit. I still needed a paycheck and health care insurance, you know?

I got the job. I wrote a lot of messages quickly, and I learned new stuff, including a bunch of social media things I hadn’t known existed. Eventually, I got to hire a younger person who actually understood digital communications and online platforms. Until I did, I sometimes joked that I was the “face of social media’’ for my department.

I thought about that job interview and those days with state government the other day when I read a column by Luke Hagen, editor of this Mitchell Republic. He talked about the newspaper’s drive to expand its digital-first approach to news. That’s the future, he said, and it’s a growing future at the Mitchell Republic. The traditional print paper comes out twice a week for the fossils like me. The news shows up online in digital form whenever it happens, as soon as it happens.

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One of the things Luke wrote was: “Not everyone likes to hear it. The traditional readers especially want us to go back to six days a week of print. It’s been more than two years since making our change, and we’re not looking back. Each day, we’re talking about and finding, new ways to get news online faster and more creatively.’’

Well, he kind of was talking to me. All my life, I’ve been as traditional a reader of newspapers as you’ll find. I read The Daily Republic (now-named Mitchell Republic) when it came in the mail a day late on the farm. I read it in the evenings in town. I’ve read three or four daily papers most of my life. I love the feel of newsprint in my hands and the musty smell of fresh ink on a paper straight off the press. I’ll go to my grave appreciating those things.

But, as I told the guy hiring for the state agency, I may be an old dog, but I can change – when it’s worth my while. And news is worth my while, in whatever form it is delivered. I learned new tricks with the state. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, new tricks in how I access my news. Digital is the future of news, and the future has been here for a while now.

Looking back over the years, I can’t imagine how we functioned without online delivery. With The Associated Press, we sent news out all the time, but most of it went into papers that had two, maybe three press runs a day. Urgent news sometimes broke into radio and television broadcasts, but usually it was top-of-the-hour for radio and morning, noon and evening for TV news, which appeared on one of three major networks.

In digital times, news is, well, always. If it happens, there’s a good chance you’ll know about it almost immediately, depending on how discerning you are about choosing your news sources. In my early career, I spent entire legislative days gathering notes and then writing the stories at the end of the day. Now, I’d be writing and delivering stories throughout the day, as soon as I had the information.

And, while sources of information abound, I’d recommend choosing news organization-based platforms. I know they’ll try to give you straight, accurate and complete stories, virtually every minute of the day.

Even old dogs can learn to appreciate that.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTERCOMMENTARY
Opinion by Terry Woster
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