By Christine Bellini
It was a small, innocuous happenstance that but for Twitter following types would have come and gone without record and yet, there it was, like a small bit of gravel in the shoe that gnaws at your comfort zone.
‘Jimmy Fallon Plays Ring Toss at Murf’s’ – the danshamptons.com posting on May 3rd in the South ‘o The Highway… and north, too column read. In is entirety:
Hamptons resident Jimmy Fallon pitched in at Murf’s in Sag Harbor last Saturday night, offering up tips on how to win at the ring toss.
As any Murf’s regular will tell you, it’s all about swinging the ring to the side. They’ll also tell you, “Murf’s” ain’t spelled with a “PH.”
Let’s see if Fallon returns this weekend and tries his hand at some darts…
And so, the itching under the skin of any local editor worth his/her salt begins.
Is that news? Did I miss something? Should I have a reporter or photographer staked out in the side alley ready to catch the affable Fallon’s return to Murf’s? And the ring toss! – legendary in its own right by any right-of-passage standard for locals this side of the canal can attest – right here in our back yard. Say it isn’t so.
Oh – yes it is and it’s on your tablet, on your mobile device of choice, in your morning e-brief and on your laptop screen – but more than likely it won’t make the weekly paper. What’s big news in the über-immediate world of mobile “real time” phone tiles and tablet talk is a tiger of another stripe and it’s wagging the media at breakneck speed. Forget about beating the papers, you’ve got to get up awfully early, Jimmy Olsen, to even try and beat this cat who’s out prowling, handheld in hand, willing to send you the scoop. Enter the resurgent era of the newspaper stringer gone wild.
But seriously folks, the writing is on the wall and not just at Murf’s. Newspapers as we know and love them are facing a sunset date which inches ever closer with every turn of the daily and weekly page. Getting out ahead of the death knell and taking command of their fully digital future is the only evolutionary option.
The era of hybrid online/print models is fast fading. Everybody in the know, of course, knows this; but as regional and national publishers continue to row their boats in search of solid footing, nobody is willing to jump ship first and embrace the great digital wide open. Hence, the big dilemma.
The problem is how to monetize and corral the digital stallion now that it’s bolted from the barn. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors, they are just too tempting.) If every newspaper in the region agreed to “go digital” in its entirety at the same time, digital advertising would reach monetary stability and gain its sea legs within a short period of time. But that kind of wholesale conversion is highly unlikely because newspapers are first and foremost money-making free enterprises and local competition is fierce.
Once digital, publishers should democratize their pay walls and go about the business of regaining lost ground ‘the old fashioned way’ — by earning it with solid, credible reporting.
Locally print advertising has commanded a premium, but not unlike the real estate market which of late has adjusted to new realities, print media has altered its broad view to more modest scale. But this just isn’t enough as Jimmy Fallon’s ring toss headline proves. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see intermediary cost-saving steps are doing little to ward off the eventuality of becoming irrelevant as real-time reporting, be it silly or serious, continues to gain traction. Even the powers that be at ‘The Grey Lady’ see a sunset date fast approaching and are busy turning nytimes.com into a digital news powerhouse.
Now, if we could just get a few courageous local publishers to move bravely toward the light at the end of the tunnel.
A former news editor, essay writer Christine Bellini is an editorial consultant who spends a good deal of her time pondering the cultural curiosities of The Hamptons from her Sag Harbor tree house.