The past several weeks have been truly exciting here at our office. Because of the success of my previous book “The Best of Jim Davidson,” which is a collection of favorite radio shows as determined by a panel of award-winning journalists, I have made the decision to publish another book this year. It will be a collection of my favorite newspaper columns from the 1,300 that I have written.
The title for this book will be “Better than the Best,” and it’s been an exciting process going through the titles and writing the acknowledgements, introduction, dedication, and something very special at the end of the book – a tribute to my friends in the newspaper industry. I am also listing the 365 papers in 35 states that have run my column since its inception at the Log Cabin Democrat back in 1995.
If you are a regular reader of my column, you know that in the past I have talked about the demise of the newspaper industry through no fault of their own. Due to the Internet and electronic media, newspapers have had a sharp decline in revenue from advertising, which is the bulk of their income. It fact it’s so serious that since 2004, 1,800 newspapers in our country have gone out of business. Of course, those remaining have lost a good deal of their circulation as well. What many people do not realize is the true value of the community newspaper, as it delivers local news and information that you can’t get anywhere else.
Perhaps the most important thing is the fact that the local paper is the “community watch-dog,” as reporters fan out across the community and cover various meetings where tax money is being spent. They shine the light where it needs to be shone, and keep us informed about what is going on. In addition to some of them running my column for almost 25 years, I am truly grateful for this fact. This is why I pay tribute to them and do my best to let people know how very important they are.
Over the years one of the things I have done is to keep a scrapbook for the mastheads of many of the papers that have run my column. When a paper first begins, they run a nice front-page article to announce the column and tell where it will appear in the paper, usually on the Opinion Page. Soon after it begins they are kind enough to send me a copy of the paper and, as noted, I clip out the masthead and keep it in my scrapbook. As I went through this scrapbook recently, I was thrilled to see many of the papers that I had completely forgotten about, like The Southern Illinoisan, Enid News & Eagle, Duncan Banner, Altus Times, Canon City Daily Record, Dodge City Daily Globe, Juneau Empire, Lenoir News-Topic and so many more.
Back in the late 1990s, when newspapers as an industry were at the pinnacle of their success, they tell me that I had a million readers who read my column each week. Of course, since those days as their revenue declined I have lost most of my papers.
In addition to the decline in newspapers, in 2003 I made the decision to cease marketing so I could devote most of my time to the Conway Bookcase Project. I founded this project in 2005 to provide quality, personalized bookcases to pre-school children being reared in low-income families. We are just about ready to have our 15th annual awards ceremony to give 50 more bookcases to our children, and I have another exciting project that I will be telling you about. To God be the glory.