The chairman of Morris Communications, The Avalanche-Journal’s parent company, spoke about the future of the newspaper industry to a crowded room full of local business leaders Monday.
Billy Morris assured the Lubbock community their hometown newspaper is profitable and would be around for years to come, despite changes in the industry that have forced media companies to make many changes.
From a lectern at the National Ranching Heritage Center, Morris explained the financial situation that forced at least 180 media companies into bankruptcy since 2009.
He vowed to continue to find “new, creative, innovative and different ways to serve customers,” while maintaining a strong emphasis on editorial content.
“In a free society, we have to have information,” Morris said. “That’s what we do, and it’s a very important mission.”
Morris, whose Augusta, Ga.-based company has published The Avalanche-Journal for 38 years, said he anticipated the industry would find ways to utilize new technology such as iPads and personal digital assistants to remain viable to advertisers, as well as younger information seekers who are less likely to read the physical newspaper.
However, Morris emphasized the fact that more than 100 million adults read a paper each day in America.
“I look for newspapers to be around a while,” Morris said.
Joseph Rapier, chairman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, said he was impressed by Morris’ response to changes in the industry and echoed Morris’ sentiments on the importance of the paper.
“I absolutely agree the local community needs a strong newspaper,” Rapier said.
Jerry Hudson, Ph.D., dean of Texas Tech’s College of Mass Communication, said Morris’ speech was in line with what he has read in trade publications and heard from others in the industry.
Hudson said he’s noticed a shift in local coverage away from national stories to more localized content and said that’s what a community wants from its newspaper.
He said papers are essential because they provide an “objective and open form of communication to the public.”
As for Morris’ prediction that the hard copy of the newspaper would continue to be a mainstay:
“I hope he’s right,” Hudson said.
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