Newspapers’ ticktock, ticktock

Youngstown-area residents got together Saturday to help a new neighbor from California who unknowingly bought a dilapidated North Side home. The response was the result of Vindy coverage.

In today’s newspaper, The Vindy explored Trumbull County’s SCOPE organization and the debatable way it spends tax dollars without the public knowing.

The two situations are illustrative of a point that I got to make twice in the past week to two distinct groups.

The daily newspaper showcases things — some good and some not always good — that others never will.

One group I spoke to was Youngstown State University’s Institute for Retired Learning. I was its lecturer last week — joined by Vindy Managing Editor Mark Sweetwood.

(I even brought my own teacher’s apple, thank you very much.)

Sitting in the front row was Roger Jones — known locally for Fireline manufacturing fame and more recently for funding, with his wife, the fabulous Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, downtown.

He heard how the newspaper he grew up with and enjoyed so much is, like many newspapers in the U.S., in sort of an economic free fall.

It’s not necessarily due to a loss of readership. While people are shifting away from many print products — from newspapers to magazines — they are shifting to online readership. The Vindy is like many newspapers in that if you add up the daily print and online readers, we’re respectably close in eyeballs to our peak era of the ’60s and ’70s.

But advertising, not readership, ultimately fuels journalism. In 2005, U.S. newspapers earned more than $44 billion in advertising. In the past couple of years, that number has been halved as retailers shift to Facebook, Google, Yahoo and even such things as swipe cards and my iPhone Scrabble game.

Simultaneously affected has been journalism.

As we listed the effects at the YSU gathering, Roger listened to news he was not thrilled to hear and finally lost his patience, albeit politely.

“All of this is bad news. Do you have any good news to share?”

It’s not good news for newspaper journalism, we said, and it has an effect on all journalism.

But ultimately, the impact is on the community.

And I fear it less for Roger’s group, or even my own job, as I do for the other group I talked to recently — the students of Girard High School who came to visit The Vindy.

They will be my age in 2044, when one expert forecasts that the last newspaper will be printed, based on current trends. Whom will they turn to?

When the California gent arrived to his dilapidated dream, his neighbor called The Vindy for help.

When SCOPE seniors in Cortland did not have proper bathrooms to serve seniors, they called The Vindy.

When earthquakes kept striking the Valley, it was The Vindy teaming up with a concerned citizen that pressed government officials into action against a local business.

Backing away to a U.S. example, when government leaders in a small California city were discovered enriching themselves with upwards of $500,000 in annual salaries, it was a newspaper investigation that crashed that scam. No one else.

The fix? It will take a lot, I told Roger and Co.

We’re working at it as an industry and with caring groups such as foundations and universities.

But one fix for citizens is to make sure that the places they shop and eat are places that are supportive of local journalism. Give the gift of a newspaper subscription to a grandchild.

And be a participant in citizenship issues driven by local journalism. A Californian’s dream here in the Valley was improved by citizenship participation in The Vindy.

Such efforts help us now, like for Roger’s group.

But it’ll also help later — such as for the Girard students.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at He blogs, too, on