A sad sign of the times

I just said goodbye to Tracy Ringolsby, one of the true legends of the sportswriting biz and a guy who taught me almost everything I know about covering baseball back when I worked alongside him at the Rocky Mountain News. Tracy is hanging around here in Tucson tonight, then he’ll get on a plane tomorrow and fly back home to Cheyenne, Wyo. No sense sticking around spring training when you don’t have a newspaper to work for. The Rocky Mountain News, Colorado’s oldest newspaper and the place that basically launched my career (I spent five years there), published its final edition on Friday. Being stuck as I have been these past few days in all-Manny-all-the-time mode, it didn’t really hit me until I arrived this morning at the Rockies’ complex and saw Tracy. In a way, and by extension, this was a victory for OUR side, as the lone surviving Denver paper, the Denver Post, is owned by the same Dean Singleton who owns your good ol’ Los Angeles Daily News. But on the other hand, it’s a loss for the industry as a whole, and the inevitable folding of a handful of other newspapers in the coming months/years will be a big blow, as well. Perhaps I’m delusional, but I’m holding out a sliver of hope (the key word being sliver) that our industry will find some way to survive. But the more likely scenario is that a decade from now, newspapers will have gone the way of rotary-dial phones and push-button cash registers. It’s funny, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in journalism school back at the University of Arkansas, listening to tweed-jacket-and-bowtie wearing professors make us wide-eyed pupils feel self-important by talking about our future profession in such romantic terms — the gatekeepers, the watchdogs, the Fourth Estate (never really figured out what that last one meant). Now, sadly, we may become as obsolete as those tweed jackets and bow ties. But I still love it, and I’m going to keep doing it as long as it’s here to be done. … By the way, shed no tears for Tracy. He is a multi-media star in Colorado and already has more than enough work lined up. If you want to shed tears, shed them for future generations, who will be blessed with increasingly superior technology but at the same time will probably never know the pleasure of sitting at the breakfast table or out on the front porch or on the porcelain throne or wherever and holding in their hands a big, bulky, cumbersome piece of newsprint that leaves ink stains all over their fingers and reading all about what happened the day before.

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  • chukpark

    I share your sadness and nostalgia for the Rocky. By the way, the first three estates are the three branches of the federal government. So, calling journalism the fourth estate is a way of saying that an aggressive, competitive, and free press is as essential to our democracy as a branch of the federal government. But the kind of press that the term the “fourth estate” describes is something that has largely vanished from the land like the buffalo.

  • Tony Jackson

    chuk, I agree that that kind of journalism is long gone. What I never understood was why it was the Fourth “Estate.” Why not the Fourth BRANCH? We don’t refer to the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court as the three ESTATES. We call them the three BRANCHES.

  • El Lay Dave

    It’s an estate because journalism is where you can earn the really big bucks. ;)

    Newspapers as a medium may disappear, but journalism will continue. Since we’re in analogy mode, think of it like the music business. Once there was only live performance, like getting your news from the town crier. Then music could be recorded, but the industry medium changed from brittle 78s to vinyl LPs to CDs, and now here we are with digital streaming and such things. Journalism will adapt to the technology. The real question is will there be the same variety of sources to read? (I think so.)

    BTW, as a lifelong L.A. resident, I know of Tracy Ringolsby’s writing, and recognize the name, solely because of the internet. (If he’s a regular talking head on those ubiquitous sports “news” shows, I wouldn’t know it as I tend not to watch those things.)

  • chukpark

    I thought that was how they talked in the old days.

  • El Lay Dave
  • b.h. blue point,l.i.

    Tony, I do hope your wrong. There is nothing more enjoyable then sitting down with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. Coffee and a laptop is not quite the same as you quickly open the sports section as opposed to browsing thru the entire paper. In addition you do not have to be worried about spilling your coffee on a newspaper!!. I write this from my condo in Vero Beach where you would be amazed at the number of Dodger fans who still have come here. We will probably outnumber those who have gone to Glendale. Originally from Brooklyn I have been abandoned twice by the Dodgers but I am still a diehard fan. We adjust and do the best we can!! First it was O’Malley and now McCourt.

  • bryboiblue

    The original estates were actually the French Estates General, which prior the the French Revolution were essentially their Parliament — except the Kings of France rarely convened it. The First Estate was the clergy, the second the nobles and the third the commoners. The term “the fourth estate” for the media was seemingly first used off-the-cuff by Edmund Burke to refer to the British media covering British parliamentary debate, and it got picked up by British authors writing about the French Revolution shortly after and has been synonymous with the press ever since.

    The idea is that it’s not only the elected (or appointed) representatives who look out for the well-being of the people and help shape laws, but that the press also plays a vital, and (one hopes) honorable role as well.

  • bryboiblue

    Of course, a history lesson wasn’t why I was intending on commenting here. The loss of such a respected newspaper to a woeful economy and an industry that is on uncertain grounds is sad, both for those whom reading a newspaper is a way of life and for those who’ve worked so hard to get the news to the readers every day.

    I don’t know where the industry is going. I doubt media that uses the written word rather than video will go away anytime soon, but I do think printing presses may indeed be doomed to the dustheaps of history over the next few decades.

    Let us hope that there is always gainful employment for reporters who go about their jobs diligently, day after day, and we aren’t left to the half-informed (at best) musings of commentators 1,000s of miles away for news and analysis of our favorite teams, local politics and whatever else it is we care about.

  • Mario DiLeo

    My recollection of the major metropolitan daily goes back to when newspaper ink really DID come off on your hands and yesterday’s headlines lined tomorrow’s bird cage. Back then, the L.A. Times Sunday edition became known as “the dog killer” because of an unfortunate incident back in the mid 1970s that pitted the then-bulky tome of newsprint against a small canine…the dog lost.

    But just as the download replaced the compact disc which replaced the vinyl record and as long as there are good writers, there will always be some form of journalism. Indeed, blogs have replaced columns and Twitter has replaced Letters to the Editor but the need for expressing one’s opinion continues. Let us mourn for the next five minutes for the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and pray that those displaced land on their collective feet.