By Brett Wallace, Chronicle-Tribune
bwallace@chronicle-tribune.com
Publisher Neal Ronquist thinks the recent talk about the imminent demise of newspapers has been mostly disingenuous and agenda-driven.

While admitting the Chronicle-Tribune has been affected by the recession like other businesses, he said most newspapers, especially those that are debt-averse, have fared well.

"The situation in a market the size of Marion is a lot different than the situation involving major metros," he said.

Not to say times aren't tough in the newspaper business.


"There's no question we're being hit from all sides," Ronquist said.

But Ronquist said, despite the recession, this is a very exciting time for newspapers.

"Just in the last 10 years, you've gone from labor-intensive processes all the way to the use of computers and automated processes," he said. "Printing newspapers was extremely labor-intensive. Through the use of technology, now just a few people are necessary to print the newspaper. Technology has allowed us to consolidate things we'd never thought we'd be able to do."

Now the printing press in Marion also produces the daily newspapers for Huntington, Wabash, Peru and Frankfort.

"No one would've thought that possible," he said.

Brent Folkner, the newspaper's IT manager for the past seven years, said technology is driving the industry these days.

The Internet has sources of potential revenue streams that newspapers have not yet been able to access, he said.

"As Generation X and everyone else grows up, they're more adapted to the Internet and technology," he said. "I believe there's potential there."

Editor David Penticuff agreed the technology is also changing the way his department operates as well.

"Certainly technology has made a huge difference in the way we go about doing our jobs," he said. "But the fundamentals of going out, getting the story and reporting things that are relevant in an accessible way remains the same. I don't expect that will ever change."

David Stamps, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, said the non-metro newspapers in this state have been particularly adept at avoiding what's happening in the industry across the country.

"Nationally, some of the bad news really doesn't apply here," he said. "Most of our papers (in Indiana) are smaller."

Of the 70 daily newspapers in the state, he said 40 have a daily circulation of 10,000 or less.

Stamps said those types of newspapers are usually focused very intensely on their local areas.

The stress he does see for these businesses is a smaller pool of advertisers.

"The big box stores have decimated the ranks of smaller retailers," he said.

The Marion Chronicle published its first issue 1867 and became a daily newspaper in 1885. It competed for years against the Leader-Tribune until Chronicle owner George D. Lindsay purchased the other paper in 1930.

Both papers continued to publish until 1968 when the operations, which by then were owned by Federal Publications, merged.

The Chronicle-Tribune was also owned by Gannett Co. for 36 years and has been owned by Paxton Media Group since July 2007.

Going forward, Ronquist said the potential will only be limited by imagination.

"You can be scared by what's going on, or you can accept the challenge and be energized and excited by it," he said. "We're reporting on news that is impactful on people's lives every day."
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