The Friends of the Albuquerque Tribune met on Thursday to discuss possibilities of salvaging the 86 year old Albuquerque daily. The meeting itself seemed to mirror the changing media landscape and the obstacles and opportunities that arise when a demographic is faced with a regional media monopoly. The overwhelming majority of the audience was over the age of fifty. One woman quipped towards the end of the meeting "Lets face it, the majority of us here are tired activists". Her statement spurred something that had been on my mind since the beginning of the meeting... where are the hungry youth? The meeting was held at the UNM Law School only minutes from the rejuvinated department of Communication and Journalism, yet seemingly not a single interested professor or journalism student was present at the meeting. Albuquerque was on the verge of not only losing a bastion of quality journalism, it was the eve of complete print news monopoly in the largest city in the state and yet only about 40 concerned citizens were present. To be fair, Wednesday's announcement that the paper would cease to exist past Saturday most likely contributed to a low turnout.
After getting over my own initial prejudices of what a room of 50, 60 and 70-something's could come up with to save a fading media outlet, something hit me. As I listened to the brainstorming, the openness, the willingness to adapt to a new way of getting the news out, I realized something. These were not "tired activists" trying to hold on to a dying relic. These white haired folks with tired eyes were not trying to save the good-'ol-days. I was witnessing seasoned innovators, frightened for the very youth that were not present. Frightened because they knew that the integrity of our democracy depends on a variety of voices in the national as well as the local dialogue.
And while our city's future journalists were most likely scouring their favorite blogs, I couldn't help but notice the frail, white haired lady sitting a couple of seats away from me. She was knitting. Its as if she had seen it all before. Occasionally she'd blurt out an assertion or a suggestion, she didn't need to raise her hand. She'd most likely witnessed the various impacts of radio, television and cable on the print medium. Her restrained tenacity came out of many a whithered storm.
As I looked around at all the concerned faces that filled the room, one word came to my mind to describe the overall sense that these people conveyed... duty. It was not simple concern for their favorite paper that brought them out that evening, it was a sense of duty. A basic obligation as citizens to make sure there would be more than one news source in their town.
As I read through the variety of heartfelt goodbyes in the last edition of The Albuquerque Tribune on Saturday afternoon there was an overwhelming sense of commitment that came through all those nostalgic anecdotes. A seasoned commitment that had also weathered many a storm, but couldn't quite lick this one.
In this transitional period of print to digital media, I wonder if the new media journalists will have that same sense of commitment. I also wonder if the consumers and the readers will have the same sense of duty as those that were present at the FOAT meeting. Perhaps the best way to honor the legacy The Albuquerque Tribune is to keep its mantra close to one's heart... "Give light and people will find their way". Here's hoping for the light bearers and the light seekers of a new day.