Friday, October 23, 2009

News publisher Palmer '69 recalls past, looks to future

The editor and publisher of the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune, Clarksville Times and Little River (Ashdown, Ark.) News, Bob Palmer '69, had a column in the Tribune this past weekend reminiscing about a slightly unusual t.u.-OU weekend:
I may actually be able to claim some notoriety or at least historical quirk. After all, how many Aggies have been to a t.u.-o.u. game - in uniform?

I'll let him tell that tale! But I did get to chat (via e-mail) a bit with him about his work.

Bob Palmer: I'm third generation with the Tribune. My grandfather, J. Frank Palmer, bought it in 1941 when it was a weekly. My father, R.B. Palmer, rejoined the paper after service in World War II. Similarly, I returned to Mount Pleasant after my service in Vietnam. I am one of the truly lucky people in this life who gets to do what he wants to do where he wants to do it. Community journalism can get very real and very personal, but I wouldn't trade my beat for any one else's.

We've been putting copy on line for more than 10 years. Still trying to get accustomed to having my roommate my senior year at A&M read last Sunday's column in Chicago before my copy was delivered at home On the whole we are surviving the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression.

More than 10 years of online copy! What pushed you to get in that early? What did you post online originally? And do you still print a "dead-tree" edition? (I'm assuming so, but you know what they say about assuming)

Palmer: We have a tradition of being innovative. My father was the second publisher in East Texas to go offset. In the '90s we had a production manager who was very techno-savvy and he created a basic page where we would post a few stories each day.

We still publish a print edition, which I believe still has a strong future. In fact we are installing a new (used) press this year. The chicken littles running around the room screaming, "Print is dead," sound a lot like earlier doomsayers who proclaimed our demise with the advent of radio and television.

Newspapers must evolve and change, but I think there will still be adequate numbers who will prefer a print edition delivered to their home at a predictable time to be attractive to advertisers. This core print base will be supplemented by on-line efforts, texting and e-mail bursts and who knows what in the future.

We live in interesting times. It remains to be seen if that is a blessing or a curse.