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FROM THE EDITOR: More industry doldrums force a rethink at your PVT

My computer at the office sits right up against a corner. Posted on the two walls to my left and right are memorabilia, mementos if you will, of my more than three years here at the Pahrump Valley Times.

Some of these things I really cherish. There’s the five plaques I’ve received from the Nevada Press Association, first place awards for all kinds of different stories I’ve written since I got here. There’s the 1940s-50s era cartoon wood block relief of Rex Bell, a movie star-turned Nevada politician; the cartoon ran in the Tonopah Times-Bonanza, where I got it from, way back when, criticizing Bell for being an awful lieutenant governor.

There’s funny stuff, too. The photo of Judge Kimberly Wanker I have tacked to my wall shows her conversing with brothel owner Dennis Hof and one of his ladies of the evening. It’s awesome.

I once sent our photographer to go get a photo of local bicyclists when one was hit and killed here. Horace Langford Jr. came back with a shot of a man sporting a back pack and a 10-speed — the man’s pose included flipping the camera off with both hands while perfectly balanced on his bike. Instant memento, instant classic.

Of course, there’s also copies of columns from that tiny tabloid that barely survives in the PVT’s shadow, whackadoodles spouting off about something I’d supposedly done or written, or about the newspaper or something one of my reporters did. I don’t ever like to become the story, but if I do, I save it, just for fun.

Letters from jail inmates, copies of a tale about us that appeared in an expensive coffee table book, knick knacks of all sorts, calendars and books, a stack of two-dollar bills given to me by two wonderful people and a shadow box of naval knots to remind me of the sometimes rough seas I have to navigate.

I should probably clean up a bit, actually.

Cool mementos. But one I have tacked to the wall is up there because I need it as a reminder. It reminds me that all good things come to an end — or at least change, sometimes more than we wish. It’s the one memento I hate to look at, but I do occasionally.

It’s a copy of a chart crafted by the Newspaper Association of America a few years ago. The title above the chart reads: “Print Newspaper Advertising Revenue Adjusted for Inflation, 1950-2011.”

What it shows is that starting in the 1950s newspaper advertising revenue was about $20 billion. From 1950, the chart shows a steady increase in revenues in the industry from about $30 billion in 1960 to $40 billion by the mid 1970s. Revenues kept climbing into the 1980s, reaching $60 billion by the later part of that decade, but dipping a bit into the 1990s. Revenues rebounded strong in 2000 to more than $60 billion.

But then the chart turns ominous. Starting sometime in 2000-2001, revenues from advertising started to decline precipitously. This occurred just as the Internet really took hold.

By 2011, newspaper revenues were back to where they were in 1950. Astonishing.

My whole career and those of many of my colleagues have been spent waiting for pink slips.

The results of all this are generally smaller newspapers, smaller editorial staffs, shorter stories, less in-depth coverage of some issues, more focus on online reporting and social media, etc. Technology was supposed to save the newspaper once we figured out how to monetize it in a way that funded good journalism.

That hasn’t happened yet. In fact, print losses have consistently outpaced digital gains by 10 to 1 the last few years.

I’m not terribly confident those numbers will improve greatly in the next few years. When the recession hit and reporters were being laid off in droves, a few started their own companies hoping to translate their long newspaper careers into new media ventures. After a few years, many of them folded or became part-time blogs because they were simply not profitable enough to provide a living.

The PVT is not immune to these industry doldrums. We’ve shrunk pages, lost staff members just last year — we’re not a big operation anyway, so losing someone is like losing a family member — and we are about to make some changes again that will not go unnoticed by you readers.

We’re doing a few things to cut costs so that we don’t have to cut more people and so that we can continue to deliver top-notch news coverage of your community while sacrificing as little as possible. It’s inevitable. It’s sad. But it’s reality.

A few ideas we have that we think will make the PVT a leaner operation without sacrificing news content include shifting some regular features online. For instance we publish an announcements page with lists of local meetings and organizations. Those can go on our website. That space we can use for news. Another change will be this space right here. Instead of writing an editorial every week — I know some of my die-hard fans (there’s at least three of you) will miss me — I will only write an editorial once a month or so, mostly only when I find a subject I really feel strongly about and have the time to do the research necessary to craft a good piece. The whackadoodles will love that!

So we will reduce Friday’s opinion pages from two to one, get rid of the Washington, D.C. columnists (go online if you want those) and run strictly local viewpoints. We will be nixing the Word on the Web feature and the Quotables that appear on Fridays, too.

The Community section will be getting leaner on Fridays as well. We are shaving two pages out of it, reducing the size of the Kid’s page and killing the gigantic crossword puzzle that runs. Some of the teasers will go and the obituaries and anniversary announcements will go into the A section. Community itself will follow Sports in the B section starting soon, too.

A few other tweaks will be made and hopefully we’ll settle in with a tighter, leaner, but no less enjoyable and informative PVT.

Don’t fret. If you don’t like something, let us know. If you love something, let us know that, too.

I wish we could add pages. Wish we could add staff. As Pahrump grows up and more people discover that this is one of the best places to live in the Southwest, the PVT should get bigger alongside the community. Until then, we’ll just have to manage with the resources we have.

In the meantime, I hope to remain here, collecting my mementos and being the proud editor of a proud institution.

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