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Our factory

Oct 13, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The community newspaper is a triumph of American manufacturing

Americans often profess worry that this country "doesn't make anything anymore." That topic came up in the first presidential debate, and it's a common expression of the changes in the modern economy and dissatisfaction with those changes.

In that vein, here at the tail end of National Newspaper Week, we invite you to consider the local newspaper. If you are holding a copy of this newspaper, then you are holding a manufactured item.

In most states, Wyoming among them, the production of the newspaper is classified as a manufacturing enterprise.

We assemble raw materials (ink and paper), refine them to our specifications (news, photographs, columns, advertising, comics, puzzles, horoscopes), and then use a big machine to produce thousands of copies of that product, which is packaged and delivered.

And, unlike the factory that makes the same yogurt cup or fan belt for months or years at a time, we manufacture a new version of our product every day, or every few days.

Those of us who produce your newspaper work in a factory. The newspaper, in fact, is a triumph of American manufacturing, and it has been for 400 years.

That's not to say the means of production haven't advanced. Some of the world's most ingenious and innovative technology has been devised to meet the desires and challenges of newspaper production. Getting ink on paper is technology. Never forget it. And it's a darned good system that has stood some remarkable tests of time and economics.

Here's another thing to think about: Community newspapers usually are significant employers. Our newspaper publishing company provides 38 full-time jobs in Fremont County and half again that many part time, not to mention work for more than 100 daily or weekly newspaper carriers. If a new employer arrived in town promising that many jobs, all would rejoice. If an existing one shut down and put that many people out of work, all would mourn.

Newspapers always have faced competition, and they always will. For many generations, however, they have proved more than up to the task, either outlasting, outperforming or thriving in coexistence with newer arrivals.

An amusing economic analysis from 1860 predicted that the latest exciting method of sharing information was sure to spell doom for the newspaper. That breakthrough technology was the horse, being employed at the time by the Pony Express.

That is an extreme example of the familiar miscalculation of the end of newspapers, and an old one. But our human history tends to have been one of accumulation rather than extinction. Fast food didn't sink the prime rib dinner, just as fancy $4 coffee hasn't sunk the 50-cent cuppa at the local diner.

Our manufacturing enterprise has been around for a long time, and for a very good reason. It works.

We're betting on it to keep right on working, and so should you.

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