In September, I hunted pheasants in South Dakota with a group of Arkansans that included a contingent from northeast Arkansas.
All were middle-age to elderly men representing many professions.
That was the weekend of the Arkansas Razorbacks football debacle against North Texas. On Sunday, before the morning hunt, the men all sat at the lodge table reading Wally Hall's column on their iPads. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had discontinued delivering printed newspapers to their communities, but gave them iPads so they could read the "paper" electronically.
David Burnett of Osceola, a former judge and former member of the Arkansas Senate, said that he initially resented losing his printed newspaper, but he quickly came to appreciate the replica version on the iPad.
For starters, he and his companions could get their "Wally fix" before breakfast in South Dakota instead of waiting until they got back home.
For me, it also created a bit of awkwardness. The group wanted to know why I hadn't yet posted a story about a hunt still in progress.
More on that later, but the group's opinions were revelatory. If this stereotypically hidebound demographic so quickly adapted to a revolutionary change in the way it receives and digests news, then the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's digital conversion has great potential for success.
When I entered the newspaper business in 1986, it was a transitional time. We put newspapers together manually. We wrote and typeset copy on clunky MS-DOS workstations with a grainy green font that looked like something out of 2001, A Space Odyssey. We waxed typeset copy onto dummy sheets and arranged it with X-Acto knives.
We sized photographs with proportion wheels and designed pages on dummy sheets with pica poles. We all kept our relics, you know, in case the power goes out.
The Morning News in Springdale got a single Apple computer in 1993. It had its own special cubicle, but only a select few got to use it.
In 1995, the Southwest Times Record converted to Macintosh computers. Editors composed pages electronically, which streamlined the process exponentially.
Email, and the internet in general, streamlined it even more. It unburdened writers from the stress of filing stories from pay phones with horrible Radio Shack TRS-80 laptops and Mickey Mouse ear modems. We now file stories from anywhere if we have a cell signal and a laptop to create a personal hot spot. I have filed stories from deer stands, boats and kayaks. When that wasn't possible, I have written columns on my cellphone, texted them to my daughter and had her file them from home.
Technology especially benefited freelance writers. They previously pitched ideas to editors by mail. It might take months to get a response, if editors deigned to respond at all.
Email enabled us to establish relationships with editors and query them directly. They usually respond the same day.
Before email, you had to send an article via FedEx at least three days before deadline, which took a bite out of a freelancer's modest pay.
Electronics allow us to research, write, proof and deliver an article and photos in a much more compressed time span, at far less expense.
As a photographer, I used to shoot at least 20 rolls of slide film per assignment and ship it to a lab in Phoenix. When they came back, I spent half a day examining hundreds of slides with a loupe to find a dozen that were suitable for publication.
Digital cameras enable me to evaluate my images instantly and email them to editors as digital files.
All of these advances modernized the way we assemble content for a physical print product that largely remained static through the ages.
The electronic age does not tolerate stasis. It compels us to redefine the entire product.
For readers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Outdoors section, the iPad version is better than the print. Instead of one to three black-and-white outdoors photos, the digital version gives you an entire color photo gallery and videos that accompany my outdoors articles. An outdoors podcast is also in the making. For events in progress, such as South Dakota pheasant hunts, I can provide updates and teasers on Twitter and other platforms.
Professionally, the digital revolution has enabled me to thrive in a highly competitive business. Rivals that didn't or couldn't adapt left the business, leaving more business for me.
The newspaper industry is at that crossroads, and I'm excited to be a part of a great newspaper that will not just endure, but flourish.
Sports on 06/02/2019
Print Headline: IPad 'newspaper' better for Outdoors readers