I’m not sure how to do this. I’ve never done it before — say good-bye to a newspaper that is closing.
That’s what is happening this week. The Press is publishing its last edition. It has been said that newspapers are the first draft of history. Now the Rantoul Press is history.
That’s not to say area residents still won’t be able to get their news in print. The News-Gazette will expand its coverage of the county and will aggressively cover Rantoul, and I will be right in the middle of doing that.
We’ve been sensing the Press closure for some time. Let’s just say 2020 has been rough on a lot of businesses, and newspapers aren’t immune. The COVID-19 pandemic has left businesses, individuals and families shaken AND stirred. It’s changed the way people have done business and lived their lives.
Newspapers have been an endangered species for years. The virus just helped things along for the Rantoul Press. We’ve seen our ad inches decline as people found other uses for their money. Some advertise in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not that is known as Facebook and other social media. Others rely on word of mouth. Others just hope for the best.
Even so, it’s difficult for a newspaper to survive when expenses surpass revenue, and that’s what has happened. Ownership has cut back as far as it can and finally had to pull the plug.
The internet hasn’t helped. Just the opposite. I’ve said many times to anyone who will listen: I don’t understand why newspapers started giving away their product (their stories on the web) and yet still expected people to continue to buy the newspaper. Of course, many people still prefer to hold a newspaper and get the news, not look at a computer or phone, but evidently not enough of them.
I’ve covered many memorable stories since I started at the Press in 2006 — from the 2013 Gifford tornado, to the local man who rode up to a Rantoul bank in a taxi, went in and robbed the place, to the announcement of the building of the Rantoul Family Sports Complex.
What’s happening to the Press, sadly, is happening all over the country.
An old fart of 66, I have always enjoyed the challenge of putting out a newspaper — the challenge of getting everything done; the challenge of finding something to write about when little is going on or finding the time and space to cover everything when there’s too much going on.
I’ve always preferred covering small town news and have had no desire to cover the goings-on of a metropolitan area, where there’s too much concrete, too much crime, too many people. Maybe it’s my upbringing on a farm coming through, I don’t know.
That’s why I’ve found working at the Rantoul Press a joy. Sure it hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve met a lot of good people doing this job, and I want to take the time to thank all of those who have helped along the way — those who have taken their time to talk on the phone or in person or via email to answer a reporter’s questions. Also to the many present and former co-workers and correspondents.
I’m looking forward to what lies ahead and hope I can contribute to covering the area. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs, but since it’s newspaper work, I’m sure I will enjoy it.
2020 will be remembered for many bad things. One thing I will remember it for is the year a newspaper that started 145 years ago breathed its last.
Turn out the lights; the party’s over for the Press.