Changes are coming at the Express

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As a kid I read the Express every week. Most of it didn’t apply to me, but before smartphones the local paper was a great way to procrastinate. My favorite sections were Years Ago and the police report.

With my first child due in the coming weeks, I’m thinking of the future in a way I’ve never had to before. In my teens and early twenties I would envision the future with me as an individual. When I met my now husband I looked to a future that had us a matched pair. Now I’m looking at a future that involves myself, Ben and a human I’ve never met before but is currently kicking my ribs from the inside. If Charley has a “permanent tenant,” I have a sublessee who’s due to be evicted.

I’m also thinking about the future of the Express.

The immediate future is straightforward. I will take my generous-for-American-standards maternity leave, and Crystal will become Editor-in-Chief. I couldn’t be happier with this arrangement. Crystal has been an invaluable teammate as Assistant Editor, and she will lead the Express with excellence.

But what about the next few years or decades at the Express? Will the Express be around for my son to read, like it was for me?

I think so, but I bet it won’t look like it does today. There are no current plans to kill the print edition of the paper, but looking into the future the writing is on the Facebook wall.

If you went back in time to tell one of the Express’ earliest publishers that in the future we would be able to deliver a newspaper without ever involving a printing press, newsprint, ink or a paperboy, do you think he would have lamented the loss of paper?

Probably not. I think his eyes would have turned into literal cartoon dollar signs, because he just saw the bulk of his business expenses disappear. This would last until you told him that a lot of other people will have figured this technology out before him, including a young man named Mark Zuckerberg, who now has most of your business, a nice house in Palo Alto and more money than God.

A reader once asked me why there weren’t as many classifieds in the paper any more. I told her Craigslist took a lot of them, and Facebook Marketplace took the rest. In the past the Express could count on the classifieds to provide pages of content and ad payments. Now they take up roughly a page, and Taylor doesn’t even charge subscribers for placing them. Who would pay the paper for something they can do online for free?

The Express also used to publish columns of engagement, wedding and birth announcements every week. Nowadays if we have more than one “Future Subscriber” a month it looks like Winters is having a baby boom. Winters residents and their families are still engaged, wedded and birthed, but they’re announcing it on social media, not the front page.

Another reader once requested that the Express bring back personal ads, because they would feel more comfortable meeting a date through the newspaper than online. That concept was totally foreign to me, and the man with whom I share a bed, bank account and future baby was a stranger I met through the internet. As weird as that sounds, it still seems less weird than meeting someone through a few sentences in a classifieds section.

When I told said bedfellow about this column he asked why I would leave my post as editor on a column about how newspapers are dying. I didn’t think I was saying that at all, but maybe that’s because I studied Russian literature. In a lot of Russian poetry the true meaning of the poem is in the words the author doesn’t say. It’s like jazz, but depressing.

So here are the words I’m saying by not saying them: Despite all these changes, the Express is still here and going strong.

Local newspapers have taken a beating in the last decades, but some of them are still here. They’re like the brick-and-mortar bookstore that stayed strong through the Borders Era. Eventually that seemingly unbeatable giant fell to Amazon, and people still wanted a place where they could flip through a book before buying it.

It took adaptation, but we did it and we’ll keep doing it.

I like to think that my future roommate-who-won’t-pay-any-bills will be reading the Express when he’s old enough. He might even like it for the same reasons I do: Because it’s good to be informed, and it can be fun to see a familiar name in the news.

Time will tell.

For now, look for a few new titles in the staff box and keep an eye out for a Future Subscriber with a familiar last name. I’d like it to be noted that, even in the delivery room, I will be creating content for the Express.

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