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I recently had my first speaking engagement in Knoxville.
As I looked around the lunchroom at the Foundry restaurant, the faces of the Northside Kiwanis members who invited me to talk about journalism and Roane County told me we had much in common.
Many of the members were well past retirement age.
Nationwide, Kiwanis and many similar service organizations, such as Rotary and Lions clubs, are struggling to repopulate their ranks as older members drift away or die.
All of these clubs do good works, but they are struggling to remain relevant and draw new members in a rapidly changing world.
It reminded me of the plight of the news industry. Like everyone else, we have been struggling with an economic downturn that, for us, has greatly reduced advertising revenue.
Not only that, but many others are wanting a piece of the shrinking advertising pie.
There has been good news in our arena, though. Many news organizations, including Roane County News and its sister newspapers, have put up paywalls forcing readers to subscribe to get most of the news and content we produce.
It’s not that we are selfish.
We’d love to be able to give away what we do if we could stay in business and do it.
But we can’t.
The paywall and other changes have stabilized circulation for us and many other news outlets who had been giving away their news online.
Still, the future remains uncertain, even though the need for solid information — and in the case of the service organizations, good works — remains as critical as ever.
My new friends at the Northside Kiwanis listened appreciatively when I discussed our industry’s challenges and asked them about their own.
We agreed to keep reaching out, pushing against apathy and looking for ways to make a difference in our communities — and in the world.
A little faith goes a long way.