Here's the Scoop: March 18, 2009

All over the world
Many of you are probably aware that the Catskill Mountain News is now available to anyone who has access to the World Wide Web. I’m sure that some of you are reading this column on a cold, hard computer screen.
As a longtime newspaper guy, I have mixed emotions about this whole thing. Some people might think the News was kind of late getting into the Web game. That may be true, but honestly, we were just sitting back to determine if this whole Internet craze was going to stick around. We have now taken the gamble that it will.
You may have read recently (most likely on the Internet) that many newspapers are — How should I phrase this delicately? — dropping like flies. There are many factors that are contributing to this problem, with the rise of the Internet among the largest. Ironic, huh?

On the bright side
The good news is that weekly newspapers, by nature, aren’t hit as hard by this technological information. By definition, weeklies often carry “old” news, so the Internet isn’t really a competitor. Weeklies, while not immune from Internet competition, often have “timeless” features that help them withstand Internet competition.
In fact, a Web site for a weekly is an added bonus. For years at the News we struggled to get election results into the paper, given the fact that we come out on Wednesday and elections are usually on Tuesday.
In the olden days, I would sometimes stay up and wait for election results so we could drop them into the paper at the last minute. Now, we have a tougher print schedule and anyone who knows a pressman knows that the term “flexible” is not often used to describe these folks. And even if the pressman would hold up printing, I just can’t stay up that late anymore.
So, the Internet will put an end to these problems for this “paper.” The results of this week’s village elections will be online almost as soon as the ballots are counted. Maybe earlier.
Another problem that the online version of the News will help eliminate is what we like to call “the delivery issue.” Anyone who has ever had the experience of being treated like a “second-class citizen” can imagine how it is for a newspaper to be mailed as “periodicals postage.” Sometimes it feels like we need a dedicated phone line to explain to subscribers why their paper didn’t show up. Now, we can have a standard response like: “Look on the Internet. Duh!”
In addition, the ability to “circulate” the News around the world is pretty cool. It’s easy for me to imagine some dude in a foreign country visiting our site, reading my column and telling co-workers: “Hey, I wonder if this is the same Brian Sweeney who called us really bad names when he kept phoning to complain about his satellite radio bill? I doubt it, there were no swear words in this column.”
— Brian Sweeney