Things change in this old world — that’s just a given. The print journalism industry has taken some knocks and changed a lot over the past 10 to 15 years. I don’t think newspapers suffered right when the Internet became “a thing.” But definitely after the introduction of Facebook and Twitter and the whole social media aspect, newspapers have suffered some.
When I first began working at the Planet, we printed out our news copy on the printer, trimmed it a little bit and waxed the paper and cut it as closely as possible around the news copy. I found out quickly the hard way that if I cut around my copy and sent it through the waxer there was a good chance that it might get caught in the machine and not make it out. Along about 2000 is when the Planet first began paginating pages on the computer. We initially started with the front page of the Planet and Southern Scene and the Opinion page in the Planet. As time went on, the entire page layout shifted to the computer, and eventually the waxer became history.
I remember when I started, each week, we would publish the hospital’s discharged patients. But of course, at some point, healthcare privacy laws put an end to the publication of the patients’ names in the local paper.
The thing I have noticed is I have not seen many people coming in to fill out birth announcements. Meanwhile, my newsfeed on Facebook over the past six-months has blown up with people I know who have had a baby.
Whether people really believe it or not, or realize it, newspapers are extremely important. And, you’re probably thinking I’m just a reporter trying to be a cheerleader for newspapers, but a recent real-life situation was resolved with three Planet employees and two newspapers.
My cousin Larry Robinson’s wife, Brandy Robinson, called me to see if the Planet might have some back issues of the newspaper from 1943. Her mother-in-law, Pat Bakehouse Robinson, had sent in an application for a passport for an upcoming cruise. But, she didn’t get her passport because of a problem with her birth certificate.
She has quite an unusual story. Pat was born in August of 1943, and just two days after she was born, her mother passed away. Her father, Fred, was distraught and didn’t actually file Pat’s birth certificate until five years after she was born.
Fred eventually re-married Hazel, who raised Pat.
It wasn’t until the 1980s Hazel realized if she were to pass away, Pat would not be entitled to any of her belongings, so she filed for an adoptive birth certificate. That birth certificate read as though Pat was born in the 1980s and did not even list Fred as her father. Pat found it very ironic her mother had managed to mess up the birth certificate, because Hazel was very much into genealogy.
So, when I got the phone call from Brandy about the whole situation, basically Pat was trying to find proof that she was actually born in 1943.
I told my co-workers about the dilemma Pat was in, and Linda Kennedy and Julie Holley helped me drag out the bound issues of the Metropolis News and the Republican Herald.
The Metropolis News’ Hospital Notes from Aug. 12, 1943 says on Aug. 8 a baby girl was born to Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bakehouse.
We also found an obituary notice from Aug. 18 for Thelma Frances Bakehouse and in the obituary it mentions an infant daughter, Thelma Patsy Dianne.
We had the newspapers in the bound books but no easy way to copy the information so that’s when our Editor Emeritus Clyde Wills assisted by bringing his fancy hand-held scanner to the office so we could scan both articles. Eventually, I got both of them printed out, and Pat sent them back in to the passport people and finally, she got her passport and will be able to enjoy her cruise.
We never did find a birth announcement, but just think if the hospital notes had not been published in 1943 or the obituary had not been ran, well then Pat might have had a much harder time trying to prove she actually exists.
If you’ve ever heard the term “on the record,” well that is exactly what a newspaper is. It is public record, much more so than social media ever will be. I mean sure, parents can post hundreds of thousands of photos of their precious bundle of joy, but is that really “on the record?” Parents of those proud bundles of joy can easily fill out a birth announcement on the Planet’s website by clicking on “forms,” and then on “birth announcement.” Birth announcements are free of charge, as they are considered news items. Now, if parents want to show off the bouncing baby with a photo, that’s where it would be considered a paid advertisement and there would be a charge.
Our main product is the Metropolis Planet, the printed newspaper. But we do have our e-edition available. As I mentioned things change. Over the recent years the postal service has undergone a lot of changes in how mail is delivered. Often times it may take a week or two for our long distance print subscribers to receive their print subscriptions, and while each week we get the Planets to the local post office when they are supposed to be there, after we drop them off, it is out of our hands.
Sometimes when I’m posting links to our news articles on our Facebook page, people often make a comment about how on our website the stories are only about 150 characters long, and they don’t have access to the entire article.
If anyone has ever been to a big box store where there are people handing out samples of products, then it shouldn’t be hard to understand the news stories on our website are the equivalent to the samples in the store.
We want people to read the sample of the news article and hopefully enjoy what they have read so much they will want to subscribe to the Planet’s e-edition so they can have full access to everything we have online. Although it seems a lot of the time newspapers are competing with the internet, having our e-ddition online makes our paper much more accessible to those people who are tech savvy.
Even though changes are inevitable and will happen, the Planet is still here, still in the community, still reporting about events, feature stories and news happening right here. We’re still here and we’re still plugging along, and I hope everyone realizes how important newspapers really are.