Just Around the Corner: Changes and challenges in the new year

Celinda Hawkins

The face of the newspaper industry across the country has completely changed in the 20 plus years that I have been a reporter and editor. And, technology has been the driving force behind all of the changes that have occurred over the last two decades.

And even more changes are on the horizon in the coming new year. The Ballinger Ledger and the Winters Enterprise newspapers have been in existence in some form, for well over a century, and these two publications have a great, long history of serving their prospective communities. And as 2017 unfolds, there will be changes on the horizon, and it will all be to make the publications better for our readers and that is our New Year's resolution!

As we move forward in another year, I cannot help but to look back over the past 20 years to marvel at the changes that have come about in the newspaper business.

The other day I saw a Facebook post that asked whether or not the viewer knew what a little plastic canister with a black lid was. It was a film canister and this tells you everything you need to know

about the gargantuan changes that have occurred in media and


I knew about this little item first hand because back in the day, during my first gig at the Monahans News, I spent many hours a week in a dark room, developing the film inside those canisters. It was a

tedious process. First , you had to break the film out of its metal canister in complete darkness, roll it up and put it in another canister with chemicals - all in the dark. Once the film was safely in the sealed canister, the red light came on in the dark room and you could see what you were doing. Once the film developed, the photos were printed on black and white paper (in those days, we rarely used

color). Then the photos are hung up to dry in the red light. A few hours later and voila! Photos for the weekly paper.

In those early days, very few folks had Internet. I remember the day in 1996 when the Brownwood Bulletin put Internet on one computer in the newsroom. There was always a line of reporters waiting to get on the IMac  - and it was dial up - remember that? Slow as molasses.

And, by the time I got to the Bulletin, the standard was color film, which we had developed at a photo place. We had a negative scanner, which was at the time, state of the art - and thanks to Photoshop - we were able to make the photos look awesome.

But within a year, digital cameras were all the rage - and newspapers were enjoying not having to fork over mega bucks for film and developing supplies. Dark rooms became relics and were no longer used.

Meanwhile, newspapers across the country were in a race - to see who could have an online presence the quickest. In my opinion, the stampede to put newspapers online for free - was not very well thought out, a topic which has been debated for 20 years.

Some have referred to the aftermath as the demise of the newspaper industry. Many papers scampered to repair the financial damage to their bottom lines by putting up pay walls. When a reader goes to the news site, they are met with about three paragraphs from a story and

when they click to read more, they are asked to pay for a subscription, for a day, a week, a month or a year. This process has deterred many readers, who just hunt for the rest of the story


Today, the industry is still struggling to make sure that community newspapers like the Ballinger Ledger and the Winters Enterprise, maintain a viable business. I 2014, GateHouse Media purchased the two papers along with other papers in Brownwood, Waxahachie and Glen Rose. GateHouse Media owns more newspapers than any company in the country and so that shows that the company believes in community journalism and so far, no pay walls.

And moving forward, we want to evolve and improve even more. All of that said, it is very important that the community newspaper is supported by the community or communities it serves.

In 2017, we want to continue to provide more news with better content, more local sports and more opportunities to improve our readership.

And as we end 2016, I would like to thank all of the folks in both communities for helping me and my assistant Linda and our sales staff and page designers in Brownwood to make these publications what they are. We appreciate you all!

Here's to a wonderful and prosperous new year for everyone in Runnels County and beyond.

Celinda Hawkins is the managing editor of the Ballinger Ledger and the

Winters Enterprise. She can be reached by phone at 325-365-3501 or via

email at