Where were you on 9/11? I was on the Avis rental car shuttle in Kansas City riding to the rental lot. I was confused because I thought I heard the World Trade Center had fallen. I got into my car and realized the world had changed. We were under attack. I learned they grounded all flights. The skies were closed and I was on a day trip expecting to fly back that evening.
People were panicking. Rental cars were being snapped up. That morning was full of unknowns. Was the Sears Tower next? I had to go home, back to Chicago, to protect my home and family.
I jumped in the rental car and looped back to the terminal and cruised through looking for people from my flight that might want a lift back to Chicago. I spent 10 minutes looking for folks from that flight. No takers. So I split.
For the next several hours I listened to live coverage from NPR as I left Kansas City, headed to Quincy, to Springfield and finally back, now listening to WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago, the station that was part of my community, my daily life.
Every Saturday morning, I’d go into my garage and clean it up – as an excuse to listen to “Car Talk,” “Wait Wait,” and then “This American Life” at noon.
My friend and colleague in Chicago, Nic Covey, had a similar schedule and appreciation for NPR. To this day, when I hear the theme song to “A Prairie Home Companion,” I immediately think of him. We had a shared experience. I knew exactly what he heard – and when he heard it – and we could talk and joke about it.
Fast forward to 2020 and things are very different. No, not because of the global pandemic (well maybe). It’s because friendships have been destroyed due to political differences.
Facebook and Twitter, among other social media, created and exploited these rifts. These are not engagement platforms. They are enragement platforms. They are driven by algorithms programmed to present anger and outrage, because outrage is great for “page views.” And page views drive advertising revenues.
Social media has ripped our society apart. We lack a shared experience.
Facebook presents a curated news feed just for you – and only for you. The chances of your group or peers seeing and sharing the same thing are slim. And even if you see and share the same individual meme, it’s presented in a different context all the way around – above and below in the feed.
Everyone has a customized news feed – or better yet – an echo chamber. Before, it was so much easier to interface with people from different perspectives. The differences were not front and center in our face – shoved in (exploited in) our news feed.
There is, however, hope. Newspapers and print products are the last shared experience we have as a broader community. That’s why we call this newspaper, The Business Journal, “the definitive record of market transformation.”
Newspapers are finite products. Laid out, pages selected by hand by the editor to convey the news. We all see exactly the same thing. We all know exactly what we’re being presented and can respond accordingly.
It’s an immersive experience not full of alerts and interruptions. Even the digital replica of the newspaper means something. It marks time. It’s linear. Marketers get involved to make an impact statement, to show their support.
A printed publication is a key tool in changing the narrative and driving economic growth and development. Transformation.
More Facebook posts won’t do it. They’re ephemeral and do not bring people holding different perspectives together in a common cause to support each other and drive change.
A print publication, backed up by consistent updates and reinforcement every day, is the best way to move the community and the conversation forward. So we’re all on the same page, literally.
That’s why we need your support, both in subscriptions and advertising. It drives our community forward.
Jeff Herrmann is CEO of The Youngstown Publishing Co., parent of The Business Journal.