This is my last week at Metro Pulse, and it’s not a happy time. It’s a product of stresses on Metro Pulse’s budget and priorities in a period where publications all over America are under duress blamed on the drizzly climate that’s befallen the overall economy. A lot of other people are losing jobs they’ve loved. No matter how it’s explainable, and however I’m able to rationalize it, it’s sad.
I’ve been here on and off, mostly on, for 15 years, watching Metro Pulse grow on the Knoxville community. Though it only rarely prospered, the paper’s owners soldiered on, making up shortages from their own pockets to insure its continuity and keep a staff and a stable of freelancers compensated for their work.
The reasoning behind the paper, and the motivation to keep it publishing, has been to provide this community with an alternative to the daily News Sentinel. Ironically, though the Sentinel’s parent company, Scripps, now owns Metro Pulse, its reason for being remains the same.
I hope that holds true for another 15 years, and I suspect that by that time news publications such as this will be produced almost solely on the Internet, rather than on paper, which is too expensive, consumes too much in the way of resources, and is outmoded already. Having grown up in the news industry when it was labor-intensive, noisy, and smelly, the conversion to computer generation and delivery of news and information has its own air of sadness in terms of personal nostalgia.
There is no cause to believe the reading public will be short-changed in the long run, though, just because news consumption will not be as tactile a process in the future. The information contained in newspapers is readily available online now, and the chances are it will become better refined and more easily accessible to more people as time goes on.
Refinement is a key, with much of what’s now amassed on the Internet user-generated, and quite a bit of it unreliable. But it is not up to the government to refine it. There is a place on the ’net for rumor, belief, and opinion, however founded. These are free-speech and free-press issues we’re looking at, and they can’t be resolved by censorship in a free country. They must be resolved by users, meaning in this case the consumers of Internet “content.”
A good sign that such a round of refinement has begun was proffered by Newsweek last week, in an article titled “Revenge of the Experts.” The piece proclaimed that trained and skilled editors are being hired by search engines such as Google to meet a growing demand for more reliable information on the Web. People are beginning to recognize, according to one expert quoted in the article, that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information.
We in journalism knew that all along. Consumers of information are often obsessed with a vain search for truth. Most journalists come to respect the notion that truth is not attainable. Facts as we see them can be reported on their own or blended with opinion to form more or less authoritative information, and that’s the best we can do. Still, it’s a better source of knowledge than the wide-open Web, unfiltered by careful thought and unchallenged by fact-checkers.
Metro Pulse has performed its fact-finding function pretty faithfully over the years, and I’m confident it will continue to do so as its own Web presence grows. It will keep correcting its factual mistakes and will offer its readers the most reliable information source it can. With or without me, it will have a place in that pantheon of news and information providers where discerning people look to be enlightened.
I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to work with the group of staffers and contributors, young and old, who’ve made Metro Pulse what it is today, and I’m often amazed at the sheer talent they’ve shown in expressing themselves to make informative material entertaining to read. It’s been enjoyable to edit and to write for Metro Pulse, too. I have plenty more to write about, and since I don’t have other skills, that’s what I’ll be doing somewhere else.
It’s been fun working here. I’ve always said so. So long for now.