Don’t ask how many columns and blogs have been churned out in between the one you’re reading right now and the first one I wrote for pay 35 years ago. The only honest answer I can offer is “a lot.”
All I can remember about that first column in late October, 1978, was that I had just been hired by my hometown newspaper, the weekly Newmarket Era, north of Toronto and it was about the local tier two junior hockey team.
I can say this now without fear of repercussion, but in order to land the job, I had been sent out to cover a football game. With considerably more hair, less lines on the face and a bushy moustache, I wrote the story afterwards and submitted it to the publisher and editor and they liked it.
What I didn’t tell them was that I found out afterwards that I had gotten the score wrong, a cardinal sin that thankfully went unnoticed.
Other than that, covering events and writing about them was what I cherished, but that first Monday on the job became a rather scary evening when somebody came in and dropped “dummy” pages on my desk.
No, they weren’t calling me a dummy, but might have been tempted when they had to explain that these were the sheets that indicated where the advertisements were located and I had to fit my stories and photos around them when I laid out the sports section.
I didn’t realize at the time that writing headlines and laying out the pages was part of the job, although I should have clued in that the title “sports editor” involved more than writing.
So, I picked the minds of those around me, even though they were on deadline too, and somehow managed to get through it, even though I was there until 2 a.m. The late nights would ease up, or so I thought, once I got better at layout, but would soon realize this was far from a 9-to-5 job.
Back then, stories were hammered out using a typewriter on two pieces of paper separated by a carbon page to duplicate the original. Once it was copy edited, it was sent to typesetting and went from there to the paste-up department, which used the dummy sheet you provided as a guide.
By comparison, I’m writing this blog on a lightweight laptop allows me to post it immediately on GNN once it’s finished and copy edited. It’s faster, more convenient, but at the same time, sad due to the number of typesetters and paste-up artists who lost their jobs over the years.
Over the years, technology changed things as quickly as I changed positions. Over the years, I covered the CFL, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and golf, both on a part-time basis earlier in my career and in the full-time capacity in which I currently work.
In the late 1980s, faxes were important pieces of equipment, but how often does somebody ask you to fax them something anymore in a world where the Internet, e-mail, texting and social media have become so prevalent?
The way we communicate has changed dramatically over the past 35 years and it’s no secret that traditional media for which that first column was written is challenged these days, with the future of newspapers and magazines in question.
Who knows? Something new might come along and test what we’re doing now. Let’s not forget that faxes seemed so irreplaceable at one time, but not now, so change is a certainty and moving with that change is a matter of survival.
On the other hand, there can be panic as a media outlet cuts its budgets to the bone, cutting the heart out of a product that did work at one time in an attempt to figure out the future and how to build a business in changing times.
One lesson that we can learn from days gone by is that a business needs to invest in its product, go on offence instead of defence, be aggressive and not passive.
Profits are an important goal, but unattainable if a business is stale and without good ideas. That’s where people who aren’t traditionally thought of as revenue generators can be just that if you let them, even if you haven’t thought of them as direct money-makers.
Golf is at the same crossroads as media, floundering in many cases in a changing world that is hard-pressed to justify the time and the expense to play the game.
Add in the cost of homes, kids’ tuitions, the overall economy and unemployment, among other things, and it’s a scary world, especially with the next generation of potential golfers already hard-pressed to find work.
And, just like the media, who knows what else is coming down the pike in an ever-changing society? The question is do we shrink from the challenge or go at it head-on by investing not only in people, but programs, facilities and the message you’re getting out to the general public?
All we know is there isn’t one remedy and while financial responsibility is important, at what point do you cut the heart out of the product that you’ve worked so hard to build? It’s a fine line to be sure, but one that needs constant consideration.
The past indicates that many golf operations have a product that has been marketable over the decades, but as times change, are you willing to roll over and let that slip away by maintaining the status quo, or go beyond the traditional with the objective of appealing to a new way of thinking?