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Posted: June 26, 2011 12:00 a.m.

News industry continues to evolve

This year marks a half-century for me in the newspaper business.

I started out at age 13 as a news carrier, and I was probably the worst one the old Evening Capital ever had.
I was saved by a grizzled and kindly old circulation manager who put me to work at 14 inserting and delivering papers and walking the publishers big Chesapeake Retriever.

In my 50 years I have seen our industry undergo more changes than it experienced in a whole century before.
In the 60s, printing changed from hot metal to cold type. Hot metal is what many of you still think of when it comes to producing a newspaper. It was a noisy, labor-intensive process that involved using plates that weighed at least 20 pounds each, linotype machines, metal type that was set backwards and upside down and big lead pots to melt down all the lead for reuse. Cold type involved thin aluminum plates and a new type of press that laid the ink on newsprint instead of beating it in.

If we still used the hot metal process, a paper like USA Today, which is read worldwide by millions, wouldn't be in existence because the process to change out plates took hours instead of minutes and even seconds as it does today.

Later, the fax machine came along and many predicted it would mark the doom of print newspapers.

Obviously, that didn't happen.

And then came the most radical change in our lives, the move of computers from the office into the home.
Some people in our industry (I suppose some of the same ones who said we never went to the moon or swore that Michael Dukakis was robbed in his election bid for president) swore that the use of computers would go the way of faxes.

Actually, there are still some of these people around.

I think they might be the ones in charge of the editorial policy of the New York Times or the Washington Post.
I am sure I don't have to explain to you that computers have changed our life at the Covington News through social media and the just plain speed of doing things. For folks like me it's been hard at times to adapt to this new technology.

I have been fortunate over my 50 years in this business. I have published papers, owned one and for the past three years I have had the opportunity to work with a group of young people at the Covington News who believe that the future of community newspapers is good and will get even better as we continue to develop and change with the ever-changing technology that is available today.

During that period I have watched our web site, covnews.com, grow to the point that in fact it is like a daily newspaper.

Now, we do videos and commercials, we notify people instantly when news happens in our area, and I suppose we will soon be posting live streams of happenings in our community.

I still look at this with wonderment.

We reach more than 50,000 unique visitors a month and we have hundreds of thousands of casual visitors each month.
When we post stories of interest, that news travels around the world in minutes.

Amazing.

On July 6, we are going to take the next step on the growth of the Covington News, possibly the most significant to date in our 146-year history. On that date we are going to integrate our website with print edition.

That means in order to access every story on the website, you will need to be a subscriber.

For a small monthly fee, you will have full access online and a copy of the print paper if you choose.
See the column above from our publisher, Charles Hill Morris, for more on our plan.

As for me, I have learned a lot about this new world communication thing, but I still am like a baby first learning to crawl.

I don't know if I will be around for the next 50 years to see the changes in our industry and in communication in general, but I know for sure that some days, it feels that Peter Pan has gone back to Neverland, but I am going to keep trying to walk and then to run, as far as learning this new world-changing stuff.

Who knows, I might even end up as an adviser on these matters to Charles Hill's son, Charles, when he takes over things in 30 more years or so, but only if I can get Peter to stay home.

Pat Cavanaugh is general manager of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5012, or at pcavanaugh@covnews.com.

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