For as long as newspapers are alive, support them

Two recent items have me scratching my head about the future of newspapers.

On March 23, I sat in the back row of a conference room at The Poynter Institute to watch an interview with veteran news reporter and anchor Campbell Brown. She has been hired by Facebook to help the company develop standards and practices at the places where social media bump into journalism.

In responses to questions from Poynter’s Kelly McBride, Brown spoke with energy and some wonder at the ways in which the news media landscape continues to change. I don’t have a transcript, but at one point she blurted something like, “I mean, who reads a newspaper anymore?”

Here’s what happens when a rhetorical question is treated like a literal question by the audience: Brown seemed surprised when a significant percentage of the 159 people in the room raised their hands. She failed to calculate that she had asked her question in St. Petersburg, Florida, the town once parodied as “the city of the newly wed and nearly dead,” and “the world’s largest open-air mausoleum.”

That’s the way St. Pete looked 40 years ago when the Clarks rode into town. And while the demographics still skew older than many municipalities — about 30 percent of the population is 55 years or older — the city has developed a much more youthful flair. Just count the funky art murals and microbreweries.

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